Tuesday, 30 December 2008
COMMANDER (aka The Last American Soldier)
By Fred Adelman
COMMANDER (1987) - Overlong, but violent, Italian Rambo clone filmed in the Philippines. Commander (Craig Alan; GET THE TERRORISTS - 1987) and his small band of freedom fighters make life difficult for the VC after the Vietnam War is over. They free friendly Vietnamese prisoners and destroy enemy convoys every chance they get, which severely pisses-off evil Russian asshole Vlassov (David Light; EYE OF THE EAGLE - 1987), who is working with the VC in various nefarious enterprises. Vlassov vows to kill Commander no matter what it takes and, after torturing a VC traitor who was working with Commander, he may finally get his wish. Commander, whose real name is Roger King, lives in a tiny village across the Thailand border with his pregnant wife Cho Lin (Tania Gomez; MAGIC OF THE UNIVERSE - 1987) and dreams of moving his wife back to the United States before the baby is born. Roger strikes up a deal with his old Commanding Officer to steal some top-secret Russian electronic equipment in exchange for two passports and relocation back to the States. Roger and his cohorts, Buffalo (Larry Brand) and Warrior (Max Laurel; COP GAME - 1988), sneak on-board the Russian ship containing the electronic equipment and steal it (after killing half the ship's crew), but Vlassov and his Russian commandos attack Roger's village a short time later, slaughtering nearly everyone, including women, children and Cho Lin's mother and father (it's a well-executed sequence with lots of pyrotechnics and exploding bodies). After Roger delivers the payload and returns to his village to find nothing but death and destruction, he discovers that Vlassov has kidnapped Cho Lin and Vlassov wants the electronic equipment returned in exchange for Cho Lin's life. Roger and his two buddies retrieve the top-secret equipment and begin a long, arduous trek through the jungle, where they will meet the enemy and suffer many hardships, including torture and the death of Cho Lin and her unborn baby. Roger goes Rambo (after tricking the Russians and gooks into thinking he's dead, thanks to some "death pills" given to him by Cho Lin's father just before he died) and proves that old adage "Revenge is a dish best served piping hot" by killing everyone responsible for Cho Lin's death. At 110 minutes, this war actioner may seem a little long in the tooth, but the violence is so over-the-top, you'll forgive the dead patches. Director/co-scripter Ignazio Dolce (LEATHERNECKS - 1988; LAST FLIGHT TO HELL - 1990), using the pseudonym "Paul D. Robinson", offers much violent depravity, including a really uncomfortable-to-watch torture session where Vlassov ties a plastic bag around Roger's head and pours filthy water through the top of the bag until the water is at Roger's eye level, slowly drowning Roger, and then opening the bag at Roger's neck to release the water. This is repeated several times and lead actor Craig Alan looks genuinely distressed, which is disturbing because it's the best acting he does in the entire film. He's actually the film's weakest asset throughout the rest of the film (his acting is simply awful), as all he does is look glum and give the same vacant stare throughout, not to mention he dresses exactly like Stallone does in his RAMBO films. Still, we don't watch these films for their acting finesse and COMMANDER (also known as THE LAST AMERICAN SOLDIER) contains all the violence, blood, gunplay and explosions anyone could ask for in an action flick, including multiple exploding bodies, throat slittings, knifings and plenty of bloody bullet squibs. The action set-pieces are well choreographed, as the gun battles are brutal and the explosions immense. What more could you ask for? This is a winner in my book because it has no other aspirations than being an entertaining war actioner. Also starring James Clevenger, Ho Tchan Chi, Ken Watanabe, Mary San and Mike Monty. Never legitimately available on home video in the U.S., the print I viewed was sourced from a widescreen Japanese-subtitled VHS tape that has all the Russian and Vietnamese dialogue translated into Japanese, but not into English, which makes me wonder if the Japanese took the time to translate dialogue that wasn't meant to be translated. In any case, it doesn't hurt the film one bit. Not Rated.
[first published on Fred's eMag Critcon]