6.4/10
74
4 user 3 critic

Commander (1988)

Commander and his small band of freedom fighters make life difficult for the VC after the Vietnam War is over. They free Vietnamese prisoners, and destroy enemy convoys every chance they ... See full summary »

Director:

(as Paul D. Robinson)

Writers:

(as Paul D. Robinson),
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Cast

Credited cast:
Craig Alan ...
David Light ...
Vlassov
Max Laurel ...
Warrior
...
Buffalo
...
Cho Lin
Mike Monty
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
James Clevenger
Ken Watanabe
Michael Welborn

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Storyline

Commander and his small band of freedom fighters make life difficult for the VC after the Vietnam War is over. They free Vietnamese prisoners, and destroy enemy convoys every chance they can get. This severely upsets the evil Russian Vlasov, who is working with the VC in various nefarious enterprises. An ultra-violent, Rambo style movie filmed in the Philippines.

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Genres:

Action | War

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Release Date:

18 June 1988 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

The Last American Soldier  »

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User Reviews

 
Either a 10/10 or a 1/10 depending on what you're looking for
21 July 2013 | by (Los Angeles, CA) – See all my reviews

Comically blank and uncharismatic actor Craig Alan leads a mercenary squad in Southeast Asia battling communists in this otherwise humorless clone equal parts RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II, MISSING IN ACTION, and most importantly COMMANDO. Quite awkwardly, his character goes through most of the film simply referred to as "Commander" which doesn't even really make sense until you take into account the film's constant attempt to dupe audiences into thinking this was really an original American mainstream crowd-pleaser like the Schwarzenegger movie was. Just look at the Anglicized credits for further evidence (and frustratingly so at that as I have no idea who the very gifted director of photography on this film really was).

What these Italian and Filipino action movies fail to understand is that the unrealistic nature in the American movies was played off largely for the darkly comedic or cathartic factor, whereas these ripoffs are totally straight-faced and one-dimensional in execution. Combined with the much lower production values, bad acting, and banal dialog, this all sling-shots these films so far in the other direction that it's really hard to look at them seriously as anything more than another pathetic cash-in, so addle-brained and juvenile yet so much as to create a fun viewing experience in different ways altogether.

Ignazio Dolce made several careers in the Italian film industry, first as an actor and then later largely as an assistant director. Like a few of his peers, he got his chance to direct in the late 80's with a series of low budget Vietnam-set actioners shot in the Philippines, mainly starring American expatriates and slumming B-vets like Richard Hatch and James Mitchum. Of all of those films this one easily has the most effort and energy put into it and therefore it's the most fun of the bunch, yet at the same time the strikingly least-intelligent.

Much like the B-movie REVENGE OF THE WILD BUNCH, this film puts about 90% of it's resources into the action scenes (particularly the climactic celebration of violence near the end) and barely anything into the rest of the movie. I've seen this movie a few times and am still not entirely sure why the hero allows himself to get captured and tortured other than to just make the movie longer. While the dialog and acting are quite terrible, it's undeniable that COMMANDER's action scenes must be seen to be believed! In what must have been an effort to outdo the slam-bang finale COMMANDO, there's more exploding huts, bloody squibs, dangerous stunts, dummies on fire, and impressive pyrotechnics involved than most of the actual wars which ripped through Southeast Asia during the 70's and 80's.

Much of the violence is lovingly captured and edited with a certain energy absent from most others in the Italian/Filippino jungle action/war genre, matched only perhaps by Ferdinando Baldi's WARBUS and some of Antonio Margheriti's slightly more original efforts such as THE LAST HUNTER, THE COMMANDER (not to be mistaken with this film even though they were done the same year), and COMMANDO LEOPARD. Simon Boswell provides the simple synth score which bounces back and forth from goofy Nintendo game to being genuinely moving and exciting.

So is this rare little movie worth hunting down? If you're even reading this review you've likely made up your mind on the merits of such a film long before viewing it. This movie has a lot of bad and a lot of good – it's definitely best for those not expecting too much or with a hunger for cinematic violence and easy access to a Fast-Forward button. One point just cannot be argued, and that is that there are few movies out there with this nearly pornographic level of violent and explosive Action (capitalized for a reason), and the bulk of it truly is Action well-done. I'm sad that the rest of the films on the cast and crew's resume just doesn't quite measure up.


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