|Vernon Wells, punk rock warlord?|
When he enlists the help of Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong), a flight attendant, the nurturing nature of Matrix is evident. At first, she is terrified of him, but later she realizes that his intensity is only due to his desperation to retrieve his daughter. There is no sexual tension between Cindy and Matrix because Matrix is, of course, concerned only with finding Jenny. Yet he also is seemingly above sex. Matrix is the ultimate good guy. Though he may sometimes employ violent means, he only does so to rescue those in trouble. Matrix is masculine from a purely powerful and courageous standpoint. That he is presented as uninterested in sex further reveals his heroic nature. In many ways, Matrix is a modern day iteration of a knight. Consider that "knighthood is a series of masculine performances,--saving ladies in distress, wearing armor, fighting with a lance" and it seems clear that Matrix is operating in a knight-like way. He takes on the role as a kind of guide and protector, even teaching Cindy to fly a plane. He is wholly good, whereas the bad guys in this film are thoroughly and irretrievably evil.
Speaking of bad guys, I'd like to focus a bit on Arius, Bennett and Cooke (Bill Duke). I've written about Sully (David Patrick Kelly) already so I think I'll leave him out of this one. Bennett is the metal mesh (armor worn by a corrupt knight, perhaps) vest wearer. He is a killing machine too, but he operates on the wrong side. Arius calls all the shots, while using a remarkably bad and very comical pseudo South American accent, while Bennett carries them out. They are the complete opposite of Matrix and they seem to thrive on being villains. Again, their presence in the film is uncomplicated. They are the enemy, the one the viewer is waiting for Matrix to come and destroy. As is common in films of this genre, they have no redeeming qualities. When Matrix does arrive, he kills them in the most over-the-top fashion imaginable. Arius, the leader, is lucky in that his death is pretty easy. He is simply shot by Matrix and then falls dramatically off a building. For Bennett, it is murder by metal pipe (lance). Matrix is so strong he rips a pipe from a wall and impales Bennett with it. It is impossible to ignore the sexual implications of this moment. Of course, Matrix eliminates any tension with a one-liner. Impalement seems to be the method of choice for Matrix, as he also uses it to kill Cooke-- punching him so hard he flies into the air and lands on the jutting points of broken wooden furniture. The asexual Matrix seems to get off using large phallus shaped objects to kill people.
The impalement imagery is interesting. The scenes in which the impalements occur are obviously throughly violent. They seem to be deliberately presented as a means for Matrix to channel his sexual energies. This is odd considering that Commando is clearly a film about protective masculinity. It's almost difficult to reconcile the contradictions running rampant through this film. However, the strange blend of incredible violence and nurturing in this film is curious, compelling and most importantly, endlessly entertaining.
Reeser, Todd. W. Masculinities in Theory