Director: Bruno Mattei
Starring: Reb Brown, Christopher Connelly
This so-called film critic was never the biggest fan of the Rambo series. Yet the funny thing about those films was that in their wake came a gazillion remake/ripoff/imitations, many of which came to us from places like Italy and the Far East. The majority of these low budget wonders were pretty listless affairs. However if you dig around long enough in this sub-genre and enjoy a large dose of cheese in your over the top action, there are some real prizes to be had. The grand prize here is this action packed, laugh riot from Italy's notorious hack, Bruno Mattei.
The son of a film editor, Mattei found himself initially following in his father's footsteps before eventually learning to direct under Jess Franco and then quickly striking out on his own. He tackled many genres (w.i.p., zombie, cannibal, action) always with the same reckless enthusiasm combined with his trademark bad dialogue, bad acting, fast pacing and a genuine air of "anything goes"(which includes stolen soundtracks, scenes lifted from other films and often scenes that just don't make much sense in the context of the story) that has made him a top cult schlock figure both at home and abroad. During the latter part of his career, he made a habit of ripping off American blockbuster hits, usually on one/one hundreth of the budget. Amongst these are "Cruel Jaws", "Robowar" (a Predator ripoff) and "Terminator 2" (which despite the title, is a take on Aliens; I don't get it either). His most entertaining feature just may be Strike Commando, his first of several Rambo clones and one of the most deliriously entertaining low budget action films ever made.
Much of the credit for the film's popularity has to be attributed to it's star, Reb Brown. Reb Brown is an American actor who made a habit out of starring in many low budget Euro action flicks throughout the 80s. He has been immortalized in the minds of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans for his waaay over the top portrayal of "Big McLarge Huge" in Space Mutiny. Fans of that film will find more of the same from their hero here. MUCH more in fact as he yells, screeches and bellows his way into the record books. When it comes to high pitched macho antics, Brown has few peers. Mattei could not have found a better star for his er, unique brand of filmmaking.
The film is truly a giddy wonder to behold as Brown plays Sgt. Michael Ransom, THE best soldier ever (of course, he is) who while on assignment for the devious Col. Raddek, finds himself behind enemy lines, helping a small Vietnamese village. Unfortunately, he runs afoul of the crazed evil Russian, Jakoda (who continuously refers to Ransom as the Amerikanski). Jakoda lays waste to the village, killing everyone. Ransom happens upon the aftermath and (in a scene that's both moving and extremely awkward) comforts a dying child he earlier befriended by telling him of the wonders of America's Disney land ("popcorn that grows on trees..."). Then in a fit of rage ("Jakoda!!!!!!!") Ransom decides it's massacre time.
Despite the nearly constant over the top (and completely looney tunes) guns ablazing on display, the highlight of the film has to be the one on one, hand to hand duel between Ransom and Jakoda. This is easily one of the most hilariously choreographed fights I have ever seen. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard during a fight scene (and this includes Leslie Nielson's epic 'battles' in the Naked Gun series). And despite the way it ends, it truly ain't over 'till it's over. The final shot in this film is so insanely ridiculous that it actually dwarfs the madness that came before it. You will not believe it. In fact the entire final sequence (where Ransom returns home to settle the score with the ones who left him behind to die; a VERY different resolution to the one found in Rambo) is sheer bonkers filmmaking.
Strike Commando is absolutely essential viewing for cheesy action fans and bad movie buffs alike.
**** / ****