Retired Special Forces Colonel John Matrix is informed by his former superior Major General Franklin Kirby that all the other members of his former unit have been killed by unknown mercenaries. The mercenaries, among them Bennett, an Australian ex-member of Matrix's team fired for excessive violence, attack Matrix's secluded mountain home and kidnap Matrix's young daughter Jenny. While trying to intercept them, Matrix is also overpowered and abducted by the mercenaries. He is taken before their leader, Arius, a South American former dictator who needs Matrix to carry out a political assassination in his home country of Val Verde, where Arius wishes to lead a military coup. Matrix previously led a United States-backed revolution that deposed Arius, who has chosen Matrix because the new US-puppet president trusts him implicitly. With Jenny's life on the line, Matrix reluctantly accepts the demand.
After boarding a plane to Val Verde, Matrix manages to kill his guard, Henriques, and jumps from the plane just as it is taking off. With approximately 11 hours, he sets out after another of Arius' men, Sully. He enlists the aid of an off-duty flight attendant, Cindy, and instructs her to follow Sully to a shopping mall. Cindy first assumes that Matrix is a maniac, but after she sees Sully pull a gun on Matrix in the ensuing fight, she has a change of heart and henceforth assists him in his endeavor. After a lengthy car chase, Matrix catches up with Sully and drops him off a cliff to his death. Taking a motel key from Sully's jacket, Matrix tracks down and confronts Cooke, a former Green Beret in Arius' employ. He kills Cooke after a lengthy fight and learns where Jenny is being held after searching Cooke's car.
Matrix breaks into a surplus store to equip himself with military weaponry, but is immediately arrested by the police. Cindy helps him escape with a rocket launcher and, after commandeering a seaplane from a nearby marina controlled by Arius, Matrix and Cindy land the plane off the coast of Arius' island hideout. Matrix instructs Cindy to contact General Kirby and then proceeds to Arius' villa, killing the leader as well as his men on the way. Jenny escapes her confinement to the villa's basement, but is captured by Bennett. Matrix tracks them and faces Bennett in a fierce struggle until Matrix fatally impales Bennett with a steam pipe, killing him. Kirby arrives with a military detachment and asks Matrix to rejoin the Special Forces Unit, but Matrix declines and departs the island aboard the seaplane with Jenny and Cindy.Arnold Schwarzenegger as Col. John Matrix
Rae Dawn Chong as Cindy
Alyssa Milano as Jenny Matrix
Vernon Wells as Bennett
James Olson as Maj Gen. Franklin Kirby
David Patrick Kelly as Sully
Bill Duke as Cooke
Dan Hedaya as Arius
Bill Paxton as Interceptor
Drew Snyder as Lawson
Principal photography commenced on April 22, 1985 and lasted for 45 days. The film was shot on location in California. San Nicolas Island off the coast of Santa Barbara, to which Matrix flies to rescue his daughter, was filmed on the Pacific coast at San Simeon. The barracks that are "attacked" are actually beach properties belonging to the Hearst Castle Estate. The house that Matrix storms at the film's climax was actually the former main residence of the Harold Lloyd Estate in the Benedict Canyon district of Beverly Hills. The car chase scene between Sully and Matrix starts on Ventura Blvd and moves into the hills on Benedict Canyon.
Diamond Toymakers released a line of action figures in 1986 in an attempt to cash in on the success of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. Matrix now leads an elite special forces unit (which replaced his old deceased unit from the original film) called C-Team, made up of Spex, Blaster, and Chopper, against the forces of F.E.A.R., led by Psycho (who is based on the character of Bennett) and consisting of Lead-Head, Stalker, and Sawbones. There was an assortment of 4" figures, containing all of the above, a series of 8" figures, consisting of Matrix, Spex, Blaster, Psycho, Lead-Head, and Stalker. Chopper and Sawbones are absent. Finally, there was an 18" John Matrix that came with a pistol, an M16, and a grenade.
The first DVD of Commando was released in region 1 in the United States on May 25, 1999. Common with early DVD releases, the disc featured a non-anamorphic video transfer, a basic 2.0 surround track, and only the US theatrical trailer as an extra. DVDs released in other regions soon followed, some with anamorphic transfers, but the 2001 United Kingdom region 2 DVD was censored by the BBFC, with 12 seconds of cuts to an arm severing and closeups of the impaled Bennett. These cuts were brought over from the 1985 original theatrical release. However, a German master was used for the UK DVD, meaning the film was cut even more than it should have been, leading to 56 seconds of cuts instead of the BBFC's 12 seconds. If the film had been resubmitted to the BBFC, it would be passed uncut under the BBFC's new, more liberal rules. This has proven to be the case as the BBFC's website indicates that both versions of the film (the U.S. theatrical cut and the unrated edition) for the DVD were passed on June 11, 2007. With the unrated edition released, the film is in its entirety, a first for the UK.
On June 5, 2007, 20th Century Fox officially announced that a completely unedited and unrated director's cut of the film would be released on region 1 DVD on September 18, 2007. Through seamless branching, this disc not only features an unrated cut (which was claimed to run at 95 minutes, but is only 91 minutes, with 92 seconds of extra footage), but as a bonus, also contains the original 90-minute, R-rated US theatrical version. Aside from this, the DVD is a special edition, featuring an audio commentary from director Mark L. Lester (only on the theatrical cut), additional deleted scenes, a Pure Action featurette, a Let Off Some Steam featurette, and four photo galleries with over 150 photos. The transfer is anamorphically enhanced and features a 5.1 audio mix.
In April 2008, the 90-minute theatrical version of the film was released to consumers on the high definition Blu-ray disc format.
On May 5, 2015, as part of the film's 30th anniversary, the director's cut of Commando was released on Blu-ray Disc in a limited edition, collectible metalpak as a Best Buy exclusive. It contains all of the special features that were included in the 2007 DVD release, including the 90-minute theatrical version of the film.
Commando was a box office success grossing over $57.5 million against a $10 million budget. The film debuted at number one on October 6, 1985 in the United States and spent three consecutive weeks at the top position.
The film maintains a 70% on Rotten Tomatoes (based on 32 reviews), indicating generally positive reviews. Reviews from Kevin N. Laforest, Scott Weinberg, Dave Kehr and Luke Thomson acknowledge the film's tongue-in-cheek humor as well as its status as a cult classic.
A soundtrack album was released by Varèse Sarabande on December 2, 2003 as part of the label's CD Club and was limited to 3000 copies. The score, composed by James Horner, is notable for its prominent use of steel drums.
A song titled "We Fight for Love", featured in the film and recorded by the Power Station, wasn't included in the official soundtrack. The song featured founder Robert Palmer's replacement, Michael Des Barres, and was the band's only song with Des Barres singing lead. It would appear on the 2006 remaster of The Power Station under the title "Somewhere, Somehow, Someone's Gotta Pay".
- "Prologue/Main Title" – 3:58
- "Ambush and Kidnapping" – 2:35
- "Captured" – 2:14
- "Surprise" – 8:19
- "Sully Runs" – 4:34
- "Moving Jenny" – 3:44
- "Matrix Breaks In" – 3:30
- "Infiltration, Showdown and Finale" – 14:32
La-La Land Records released a limited edition of James Horner's score in August 2011. The release features approximately 62 minutes of music across 24 tracks and includes "We Fight for Love".
In 2008, a Russian remake (День Д) was made. It was produced and directed by Mikhail Porechenkov (who stars as John Matrix's equivalent) and also features Barbara Porechenkova, Mikhail Trukhin, Alexandra Ursulyak, and Bob Schrijber.
In 2010, it was announced that Fox would begin filming a remake of the film with David Ayer in negotiations to direct. Sam Worthington was attached to play the new lead role, which would reportedly have a more realistic approach.