Who wants to watch some bottom-feeding trash? I do! And we all should. Films like Strike Commando, the 1987 shitfest from Italian filmmaker Bruno Mattei, make serious film and art house fodder all the better. How would we be able to gauge excellence were it not for films like Strike Commando giving us a baseline of inferiority?
When I was a kid, I used to write stories that borrowed heavily from popular movies. But then I grew up. Bruno Mattei was either channeling his inner child with this film, or he was shamelessly ripping off successful films to try and make a little cash. Strike Commando came out during a time when senseless action flicks, and Vietnam War movies, were all the rage. As such, Mattei ripped plot elements from the Rambo and Missing in Action franchises, AND Apocalypse Now. I bet if it had been filmed just a little bit later, Mattei would have found a way to cram in some plot elements from Platoon and Full Metal Jacket, as well.
Strike Commando tells the story of Sgt. Michael Ransom (Reb Brown), a commando in the United States Army. It’s wartime Vietnam, and Ransom’s team has been sent into the jungle to blow up an enemy base. Things go south, and the team is left to its fate on the orders of the dastardly American Colonel Radek (b-movie stalwart Christopher Connelly, whose name was misspelled in the credits — always a sure sign of film shittiness). Now Ransom, the sole survivor, is on the run from the enemy.
Ransom is almost blown to smithereens, but this film’s hero is indestructible, so instead of being dead, he just drifts downriver until he reaches a remote village. The villagers just about worship the American, because they need him to repel attacks from local Viet Cong forces who regularly raid the village for supplies, Seven Samurai-style. As if that weren’t enough plot, the Soviets show up!
Alex Vitale plays Jakoda, a heavily muscled Russian soldier leading a contingent of North Vietnamese. Mattei really played up Jakoda’s Russian credentials. He always refers to Ransom as ‘Americanski,’ which I find to be very precious, especially in a film like this.
The Soviets aren’t supposed to be in Vietnam, so it’s a big deal they are there. Ransom has to get solid evidence back to the Army so the bigwigs in Washington will be made aware of this new threat.
But wait, there’s more.
Remember those villagers from earlier? Ransom thought he had left them in relative safety for the time being, but it turns out they all got slaughtered, so now Ransom has to take his revenge for the killings. Whatever. This film finds about a million ways for Ransom to get fired up enough to kill some Vietnamese, and it really doesn’t matter what the underlying reasons are. The point of this film is its action, and it has loads of it.
There are firefights galore, and violent death is an almost nonstop presence, but there’s nary a drop of blood. It doesn’t seem blood effects were in Mattei’s narrow budget. Until I saw this film, I didn’t think it was possible for an ’80s action flick to have this many bullets fired and there not be a single squib shot. But there are a lot of hilarious moments to make up for the lack of realism. There are multiple instances when the nameless enemy bad guys all stand in a line, helpfully, for Ransom to mow them down with a machine gun. Sometimes these shots were back to back in the same scene.
As for Reb Brown, he went full Stallone in his performance. His muscles are tense and glistening, he fires from the hip, and always gives a classic action film war cry while he wastes those dirty commies. It’s action film absurdity writ large. But the strangest thing about the whole deal is that the film has the quality of satire, and yet it’s not. This is a serious film — it’s just so inept that it plays like a joke. Bruno Mattei, ladies and gentlemen.
Everything in this flick is bad, bad, bad. The acting, the film stock, the sound engineering, the plot, the direction. The soundtrack even contributes to the overall hilariousness of the movie, Luigi Ceccarelli’s synthesized music sounding like a higher quality version of what gamers of the era could expect from NES games.
Strike Commando is silly and stupid, and I enjoyed watching it quite a lot. Of course it’s a worse film than Alien: Resurrection, but I don’t care. Strike Commando may be a pile of trash, but it sure was fun to wallow in it.