Before I go on, I have to say that I am almost having trouble thinking of how I want to review this, as this movie is so out-of-this-world, that it deserves not a single spoiler, and that you should make it your job to find a bootleg copy immediately. Find it and revel in one of the most insane experiences that shouldn't be legal to enjoy. For everyone else, read on.
If you know Mattei, you'll know that this movie steals quite shamelessly from bigger Hollywood titles, and getting knocked off this time around is Rambo: First Blood Part 2 (as well as a bit of Mad Max 3). The Strike Commandos, led by Michael Ransom as played by the blond juggernaut Reb Brown, are trying to get rid of a camp in Vietnam. Unfortunately, the operation goes belly-up when commanding officer Col. Radek (Christopher Connelly) sets off the detonators too quickly because he just wants results, so the Commandos die, save for Ransom, who at the last minute was blown into a lake. Ransom gets washed up at a Vietnamese village led by a French man named Le Due (Luciano Pegozzi, who has played alongside Reb before, most notably in Yor: The Hunter from the Future). There, Ransom befriends a Vietnamese boy called Lao, who has dreams of seeing the wonderland that is America, where ice cream and pop corn grow on trees (if Reb Brown says it, it must be true, Micahael Ransom could never be cold enough to build up a child's hopes). The only thing is, these Vietnamese are beset by the communists, so Ransom volunteers to off them all until he can get back to America, while promising to take the Vietnamese with him. Le Due is killed by an ENORMOUS Russian meathead named Jakoda (Alex Vitale) during the scuffle though, and his body is found by Ransom.
From here it enters into Rambo 2 territory (though that's not to say half the action in this isn't already from Rambo 2, just get sight of Ransom hiding camouflaged against a tree to knife someone); Radek tells Ransom to go back into Vietnam with proof of the communists there (even though Ransom has just dropped a communist badge into his hand that Le Due stole from Jadoka just before he died) and is given a camera, in exchange Ransom wants Radek to liberate the Vietnamese who helped him. Much of this though is immediately tossed aside as Radek is revealed to be in league with the communists and is just trying to off Ramson, what follows is a blood-pumping spectacle of Reb Brown going batshit insane and killing communists left and right for how they murdered Lao and his dream. Ransom's fury is interspersed with drama told through unforgettably funny performances, and some stock footage of helicopters here and there.
Strike Commando is definitive schlock material, but it actually feels like it knows it is. This movie is almost a parody of the many "remakesploitation" movies that so many directors like Mattei were notorious for, especially with villains like Jakoda speaking with a stereotypical Russian accent and spitting "Americanski" at puny red, white and blue-blooded Michael Ransom. Reb gratuitously stabs, blows up and breaks the necks of every commie he comes across, while riddling the rest with bullets and popping one-liners like crazy. Reb is also fucking superhuman in this, being able to swim away from boats a second before they've exploded, not to mention, yelling like a beast after bashing in communist skull. As if the buckets of action weren't enough, the movie ends on an unashamedly funny climax; enjoy a split second of an action man doll being blown up for someone's death before Reb walks off into the sunset, basically laughing at the ridiculousness you've just seen. You can't help but feel everyone walked away from this with a smile on their faces.
While Christopher Connolley's acting skills are the only ones worth a damn, the likes of Reb, Vitale and various others are GOLDEN; you have never seen anguish as handled by a cuddly brick shithouse who is scrunching his face up while holding a dying boy in his hands who is smiling, while telling him about Disneyland. Claudio Fragasso's script is rich with hilarious lines and other dialogue that no one in their right mind should find entertaining. Neither Reb, Vitale or any of the blank-round-firing extras have lines in which the delivery of them fail to amuse. Also, Ransom using a pair of infrared goggles that appear to do nothing but still let him see where the enemy is, bizarre, of course it just leads to him riddling a load of huts with bullets while screaming. You've also got to love him saying goodbye in German when he thinks it's Russian, intentional or not? Who knows.
Production values are fairly middle-of-the-road for Mattei here, there's some decent cinematography but a definite overcharge of stock footage, especially when it seems they were able to get a real helicopter, it's cheap without being too cheap though (see Robowar). Speaking of which, several lines in this re-appear in Robowar, as if part of some running gag, there's also no scarcity of explosions in this, be them huts, miniatures, pools of water or people blowing up.
This is first-hand proof of the entertainment Mattei and his crew were capable of, what's certain is that there is nothing else quite like it. Be sure to check it out, it's an unforgettable ride.
- Explosions: 5/5
- Italy being nice enough to show the world America kicks ass: 5/5
- Reb Brown: Oh god it's off the scale
-James, 17 October 2009 (original date)