Talking Movies: Commando: Director’s Cut

Talking Movies

Released: 4 October 1985 (Hey! That’s my actual birthday!)
Director: Mark L. Lester
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Budget: $50 to 60 million
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong, Alyssa Milano, Vernon Wells, David Patrick Kelly, Bill Duke, and Dan Hedaya

The Plot:
Retired United States Special Forces Colonel John Matrix’s (Schwarzenegger) attempt to live a normal, quiet life with his young daughter, Jenny (Milano), are shattered when she is kidnapped by a former member of his unit, the psychotic Captain Bennett (Wells), on behalf of would-be-dictator President Arius (Hedaya). Defying Arius’ demands, Matrix is left with just eleven hours to track Jenny down and works his way through Arius’ henchmen using his untouchable military skills and abilities.

The Background:
Thanks to the success of The Terminator (Cameron, 1984), Arnold Schwarzenegger was on the cusp of superstar greatness and about to enter the peak of his career as an action movie star. Writer Steven de Souza once explained that Commando came about when Barry Diller, then-head of 20th Century Fox, stated that he would greenlight any Schwarzenegger project that was under $12 million. The original draft, as penned by Joseph Loeb III, was actually very different and about an Israeli soldier who had turned his back on violence but de Souza revamped the story to suit Arnold’s larger-than-life persona and even performed the story for the Austrian Oak at his house! To oppose Schwarzenegger, the filmmakers had only one choice in mind: Vernon Wells, who brought an intense, psychopathic quality to the character, who was both enamoured by, and driven to kill, his former commander. With a worldwide gross of just over $57 million, Commando was a big success for Fox and was met with relatively positive reviews that veered towards highlighting the film’s more ridiculous aspects. Commando has always been a personal favourite of mine; when the Director’s Cut was released, I went out of my way to pick it up and, considering today is Arnold’s birthday, this seems like the perfect time to revisit this bombastic action classic.

The Review:
I once made the bold claim that Predator (McTiernan, 1987) is probably the manliest film an action movie fan could ever ask for but, if we’re being brutally honest, Commando has it beat in that regard. This is the kind of over the top excess that I absolutely adore about action films and yet, amidst all the mindless action and over the top set pieces, it manages to tell a decently heartfelt story of betrayal and a father’s devotion to his child while also being incredibly amusing and entertaining throughout.

When Matrix’s men are targeted, his quiet, normal life is disrupted by his violent past.

The stakes of the film are relayed to us before the opening credits even roll as three men are killed seemingly at random, with two of the murders perpetrated by Cooke (Duke). These assassinations are enough to convince Major General Franklin Kirby (James Olson) to seek out Matrix since the men killed were once part of John’s elite special unit back when he was a soldier under Kirby’s command. Matrix, however, has no interest in returning to war and is perfectly content living out in the woods with his daughter, Jenny. The Director’s Cut reveals that Jenny’s mother died during child birth and that Matrix has missed a great deal of his daughter’s life due to his years of travelling and black ops missions; as a result, he’s trying to make up for that lost time and the two have a very close and loving relationship and spend their days together swimming, adventuring, and playing in the wilds around their home and the nearby town. However, both Kirby and Matrix quickly surmise that the murders are most likely part of a co-ordinated effort to track him down and flush him out of hiding and Kirby posts guards at Matrix’s house to try and keep him safe.

Bennett relishes the opportunity to enact revenge on his former commanding officer.

However, the two are immediately killed in the ensuing firefight and, while Matrix busies himself picking off the intruders, Jenny is kidnapped and held as a bargaining chip by Arius, the vindictive former president of the fictional nation of Val Verde whom Matrix ousted from power back in his glory days. Eager for revenge, and to reclaim his vaulted position, Arius has hired former soldiers like Cooke, Sully (Kelly), and even Bennett to force Matrix into killing Val Verde’s current president or lose his daughter. Matrix is shocked to see Bennett alive (despite having only just learnt of his apparent demise…) and an intense rivalry is immediately stoked between the two since Bennett harbours a deep resentment after being kicked out of John’s unit and takes a perverse pleasure in having the opportunity to enact revenge on his former commander. Much more than just a sadistic thug, Bennett is a dangerous, unpredictable, and formidable foe since he was trained by Matrix and thus knows exactly how capable he is, what his play will be, and how to push his buttons. Furthermore, while Matrix dispatches his enemies with a cold, stoic efficiency in a single-minded quest to rescue his daughter, Bennett actually enjoys killing and is obsessed with proving himself Matrix’s physical and mental superior.

To track down Jenny, Matrix has to work his way through some colourful goons.

Thanks to Bennett and Arius spiriting Jenny away to Arius’ secret island base, Matrix has to work his way up the food chain before he can complete his mission. The first victim of his reprisals is Henriques (Charles Meshack), who is dispatching in one smooth, sudden movement by Matrix before he escapes from his plane during take-off. With just eleven hours before the plane lands and his ruse is discovered, Matrix tracks down Sully, a creepy little weasel whose arrogant taunting of Matrix soon turns to abject terror when he sees the titular commando tracking him down in the local shopping mall. Although Sully makes a valiant escape attempt, he’s left begging and bargaining for his life after Matrix runs him off the road and is ultimately dropped to his death after underestimating Matrix’s detective skills. Thanks to a key in Sully’s car, Matrix tracks down Cooke at a seedy motel and a brutal fist fight breaks out between the two big men that sees Cooke beaten senseless and impaled on a piece of wood. From there, Matrix is finally able to track Jenny to the island and gear up for his spectacular final assault on Arius’ main base.

Although in overwhelmed, Cindy proves a valuable ally while Kirby is always one step behind Matrix.

Of course, Matrix isn’t alone in his mission; while tailing Sully, he crosses paths with Cindy (Chong), an off-duty flight attendant who attracts Sully’s unwanted attention and who he coerces into helping him. Though feisty, Cindy is also initially terrified and driven to near hysteria by the chaotic events surrounding her and smartly takes the first opportunity to try and rid herself of the crazy hulk who has effectively kidnapped her but, after seeing Matrix fight off the mall’s security single-handedly and saving him from being shot, she becomes invested in his mission after learning about his plight. A lively and adaptable young woman, Cindy ends up being invaluable to Matrix’s cause when she rescues him from the back of a police van using a rocket launcher (once she turns it the right way around…) and then successfully pilots him to Arius’ island. Though she lacks confidence and is clearly in over her head, Matrix’s stoic assurances and pragmatic demeanour push her into going out of her comfort zone and to break the law in order to assist him. Once Matrix is on the island and laying waste to Arius’ private army, Cindy again helps by sending a distress call to Kirby, who is basically the Colonel Samuel Trautman (Richard Crenna) of the film. Like Trautman, Kirby is Matrix’s former commander officer and mentor; he goes out of his way to bend the rules and clear Matrix’s actions with the local authorities but is laughably ineffectual. In the end, Kirby is pretty much useless as Matrix simply takes the most direct and blunt approach to his goal and Kirby is left trailing behind and cleaning up the mess (and bodies) in his wake (something he does willingly considering the righteousness of Matrix’s mission and how highly Kirby regards him).

The Nitty-Gritty:
In addition to the hard-hitting action and massive explosions that permeate the film, Commando is bolstered by a rousing score composed by James Horner that adds an extra punch to the film but also knows when to cut out to let the sound of punches and explosions tell the story. Another aspect that really helps Commando stand out from the competition is its tongue-in-cheek humour; Matrix is a surprisingly complex character in that, while he’s clearly affected by his military days, he’s not haunted by them and is a doting and loving father who reacts so well to pressure that he’s able to drop dry witticisms all over the place. Instantly adaptable, Matrix goes right to his gun shed to arm up against the intruders and is smart enough to play along with his captors until he’s on the plane. Once he gets off, he immediately switches to “mission mode” and sets out tracking down his one lead, Sully, to begin tracking Jenny down. However, as he works his way through Arius’ goons, he always has time for a quip, catchphrase, and other “macho bullshit” to showcase his supreme confidence. Indeed, I feel Commando often gets overlooked in Arnold’s filmography as it was basically the first chance he got to showcase that he was much more than just a stoic muscleman; he’s got great comedic timing and his delivery of Matrix’s dry quips makes for a film full of amusing quotes and one-liners (“This is my weak arm!”, “I eat Green Beret’s for breakfast!”, “I let him go”, and “Let off some steam, Bennett!” are all classic Arnold-isms).

Matrix’s skill with weapons and physical strength make him a veritable one-man army!

Indeed, Matrix is the ultimate super soldier; he’s “silent and smooth”, able to sneak up on even a veteran like Kirby without being detected, and his senses and spatial awareness are especially keen (he hears Kirby’s helicopter long before it actually comes into range, can detect approaching enemies using the “downwind”, and is constantly aware of what’s happening around him at all times). Of course, in addition to his unmatched proficiency with all kinds of weapons (from pistols to machine guns to rocket launchers and remote explosives), his greatest strength is the fact that he’s a walking mountain of a man! Easily handling tree trunks, manually pushing and flipping cars and trucks, and fully capable of beating a man to death, Matrix rips a telephone booth from its mooring, tears the passenger side seat from Cindy’s car, and easily hefts around heavy ordinance like it was nothing. Yet, at the same time, Matrix isn’t invulnerable; he takes a great deal of punishment throughout the film, especially in the many car crashes he survives and in his fist fight with Cooke and Bennett, leaving him a sweaty, bloodied mess by the end of the film.

Matrix single-handedly lays waste to an entire army and overcomes the psychotic Bennett.

And let’s talk about the finale, where Matrix loads himself up from head to toe with guns, ammo, and weaponry and storms Arius’ private army single-handedly; once again, Arnold rarely if ever, reloads and Matrix instead simply casts aside his weapons once his ammo is spent and switches to another on his person (he even slices up a few unfortunate souls with saw blades, an axe, and a machete after briefly being cornered in a tool shed). If you’re looking for bombastic excess, this is where you’ll find it as Arius’ soldiers literally run into Matrix’s bullets while he’s standing still, cannot seem to hit him despite having the numbers advantage, high ground, and several hundred guns firing at him, and Matrix blows barracks and buildings (and dummies…) apart from the inside using explosives placed on the outside! After laying waste to an untold number of nameless, faceless soldiers and coming out of it with just a few cuts, Matrix makes short work of Arius as he searches the would-be-dictator’s mansion for his daughter. This leads him into a final confrontation with Bennett; while Bennett is much shorter and smaller than Matrix, he is more than able to hold his own thanks to taking Matrix by surprise, Matrix’s obvious fatigue, and the fact that Matrix is distracted by his daughter’s plight. However, Bennett is psychotic and his mental state only becomes more unhinged as the fight progresses; Matrix easily take advantage of this, goading and taunting Bennett into giving up his advantages (Jenny and his gun) and coming for him with a knife. Ultimately, despite taking a severe beating and a bullet in the arm, Matrix’s will proves too strong for his former protégé and he’s able to skewer Bennett with a pipe he wrenches off the wall! Having left a trail of bodies and wreckage in his wake, Matrix has more than proved that he remains the best of the best but, despite Kirby’s insistence that he has to return to the fight, Matrix is concerned only with returning to his peaceful life with his daughter (and, presumably, Cindy).

The Summary:
Commando may very well be the quintessential action film of the 1980s; a perfect balance of action and humour, the film is just mindless, unapologetic fun from start to finish. It’s paced beautifully, with very few lulls in the action and, even when the film is going a little slower, it’s all used to great effect to build tension regarding Matrix’s ticking clock, the relationship between him and Cindy, and even showing how Bennett is mentally preparing for Matrix’s inevitable counterattack. This film is Arnold at his action best, showcasing all of his strengths and giving him the rare opportunity to show his range as an actor and to turn even the most mundane lines into memorable one-liners. And the action! Jesus! Like I said, this film is excess to the nines and features a car chase, a massive brawl in a shopping mall, a brutal bare-knuckle fight between two beefy guys, and a one-man ground assault against an entire army filled with disposable goons getting wrecked by blood squibs! Rambo III (MacDonald, 1988) wishes it could be this film, which is probably the last great action film of the eighties before things started skewing towards science-fiction and superheroes. Obviously, I’m biased but I just find this film tremendous fun and one of Arnold’s very best; it’s dumb and stupid at times but that’s not a negative and just adds to the entertainment value, and it’s a definite must-watch for fans of the genre.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

What are your thoughts on Commando? How do you think the film holds up to others in the same genre and what would you rank it against Arnold’s other films? What did you think to Schwarzenegger’s dry wit and portrayal of an untouchable super soldier? Which of the underlings, one-liners, and action scenes was your favourite? What did you think to his rivalry with Bennett and who do you think made for the better mentor, Trautman or Kirby? Would you have liked to see a sequel to this film back in the day? How are you celebrating Schwarzenegger’s birthday today and what is your favourite Schwarzenegger film? Whatever your thoughts, go ahead and leave a comment down below or on my social media.

10FTW: Bad-Ass Movie Dads

10FTW

Being a dad in a movie is tough; often, dads are portrayed as slovenly, uncaring, even abusive individuals who care more about drinking beer, watching football, cheating on their spouses, or work than their kids. It’s a bit of a cliché at this point and also quite a bum rap, to be honest, and often seems like a case of lazy writing to have the dad be the cause of all the problems and negativity in a child’s life in a film.

I suppose it makes sense, in a way; many movies involve a story about a child, son, or daughter standing up to adversity or challenging, even confronting, their neglectful parents to say nothing of the myriad of stories out there of fathers more concerned with work than the well-being of their child. Still, good movie dads do exist, even while being flawed characters in their own right, and so, seeing as today is Father’s Day, I’m going to run through ten that I consider to be amongst the most bad-ass of all movie dads…

10FTW: Badass Movie Dads
10 Steven Freeling – Poltergeist (Hooper, 1982)

If I’m being completely honest, Poltergeist is more the story of a bad-ass mother as, throughout the film, it is Diane (JoBeth Williams) who eventually steps up after the demonic force inhabiting their house kidnaps her daughter, Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke). Diane is the one who first feels and alerts her family to the presence in their house, she’s also far more emotionally stable despite her exhaustion and grief, and of course there’s the fact that she leaps into the “other side” to rescue Carol Anne and then has to suffer through a veritable horror show as their house is torn inside and out.

Though often second fiddle to his wife, Steven is a reliable and useful supporting character.

Yet Steven (Craig T. Nelson) is the ever-reliable rock of the household; a bit of a goofball and perhaps (even by his own admission) too soft on his kids, he is the one who contacts a group of parapsychologists to assist them (despite his scepticism) and let’s not forget that Diane and Carol Anne never would have made it to back to the real world had Steven not been holding their literal lifeline. Despite his will weakening, Steven steps up even more in the sequel, Poltergeist II: The Other Side (Gibson, 1989), even landing what appears to be a killing blow to the malevolent Reverend Henry Kane (Julian Beck) who has been terrorising them, but, while reliability is an admirable quality, he takes the lowest spot for largely just being a supporting player (and for him and Diane sending Carol Anne away out of fear by the third film).

9 Frank – 28 Days Later (Boyle, 2002)

Here’s a shocking revelation for you: I’m not actually that big a fan of 28 Days Later. It starts off with such promise and with all those eerie shots of London but it’s a slow, plodding, miserable little film and the only thing I really like about it is that it made zombies faster, more aggressive, and ferocious as, for me, it otherwise wastes its potential. Still, amidst all of this we have Frank (Brendan Gleeson), a former cab driver and one of the few survivors of the infection.

Even as Frank succumbs to the Rage virus, his priority is to keep his daughter safe.

Initially hostile and a largely grouchy character, to say the least, Frank’s sole concern (beyond survival) is the safety of his daughter, Hannah (Megan Burns) but he soon bonds with Jim (Cillian Murphy) and Selena (Naomie Harris). Sadly, though, Frank can’t place much higher as, despite his capability as a father and a combatant, he grows complacent; in a world where the highly contagious Rage plague has turned the majority of the population into ravenous, zombie-like creatures, characters must constantly be on their guard and, for a split second, Frank lowers his. However, even while the Rage quickly overwhelms his body, his first thought is to warn Hannah back for her own safety before he is summarily put down.

8 Rick O’Connell – The Mummy Returns (Sommers, 2001)

I miss Brendan Fraser; whatever happened to him? Arguably best known for his appearances in the Mummy trilogy (ibid/Cohen, 1999 to 2008), in which he portrayed a quick-witted and capable Indiana Jones-style adventurer, Fraser’s Rick O’Connell undergoes an interesting character arc throughout the trilogy, beginning as a disillusioned soldier and transforming from a reluctant hero motivated only by his libido to a doting father and content family man who was happy to put his adventuring days behind him.

Though happy to be a simple family man, Rick braves any foe to safeguard his family.

In The Mummy Returns, Rick is mortified when Imhotep’s (Arnold Vosloo) minions kidnap his smart-alecky little git of a son, Alex (Freddie Boath), and relentlessly uses every resource at his command to track Imhotep across the globe to rescue his son. Encouraging of the boy’s mischievous nature, one could argue that Alex only gets himself into a position to be kidnapped thanks to his father’s influence and their relationship has soured somewhat by the start of the third movie but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Rick travels across the world braving sea, air, and all manner of mummified atrocities to rescue his boy. When his beloved Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) is temporarily killed, we see a heartbreaking vulnerability to Rick’s usual bravado and his first action is to shield Alex from watching his mother suffer and die. Fuelled by rage and vengeance, he then takes on a now-mortal Imhotep in a fist-fight and rapidly accepts his destiny as a Medjai to deliver a killing blow to the monstrous Scorpion King (The Rock) to not only avenge his fallen wife but also as payback for putting his son in danger.

7 John McClane – Die Hard 4.0 (Wiseman, 2007)

In my experience, Die Hard 4.0 (also known by the far better title, Live Free or Die Hard) is generally not as highly regarded as its predecessors and I will always take issue with this; sure, it’s massively over the top and essentially turns the wise-cracking John McClane (Bruce Willis) into a superhero but that doesn’t make it bad. For me, it’s easily in the top three of the Die Hard films (Various, 1988 to 2013) thanks to Willis’ portrayal of McClane as weary, out of touch, and hiding a lot of his emotions behind a snarky attitude and grouchy demeanour.

McClane really puts himself through the wringer to rescue his gorgeous daughter.

Now, to be fair, McClane doesn’t start the film as the greatest father; his daughter, Lucy (the always appealing Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is initially hostile towards him, refusing to call him “Dad” and preferring to take her mother’s last name. However, when she is kidnapped by Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) as payback for McClane interfering in his “fire sale”, McClane doesn’t hesitate to throw himself into danger to rescue her, accumulating numerous injuries, enduring shots from a F-35B Lightning II, and even shooting himself in the shoulder at point-blank range to kill Gabriel. When taken by Gabriel, Lucy not only fights back at every opportunity but knows full well that her father will stop at nothing to rescue her, defiantly taking his last name and ultimately reconciling with him after seeing the lengths he would go to for her safety.

6 Darren McCord – Sudden Death (Hyams, 1995)

I feel like people don’t talk about Sudden Death enough; sure, it’s just “Die Hard on a boat” but it’s pretty decent for the most part, even with Jean-Claude Van Damme’s characteristically awkward acting and line delivery. McCord is very much like McClane, being a normal, average fire-fighter-turned-fire-inspector who has the odds against him. Though he’s much less cynical and grouchy compared to McClane, he is tormented by his failure to save a young girl from a house fire and has an extremely strained relationship with his ex wife.

McCord has only his wits and impressive kicks to take down an group of armed terrorists.

Similar to McClane, McCord’s relationship with his kids is a little shaky at the start of the film; Emily (Whittni Wright) views him with a heroic awe, believing him to still be a fire-fighter, while Tyler (Ross Malinger) is slightly more antagonistic and resentful. Still, he does obediently stay in his seat even as the hockey arena falls into chaos around him and Emily bravely stands up to terrorist Joshua Foss (Powers Boothe) after she is kidnapped, never faltering in her belief that her father will come to rescue her. For his part, McCord is slightly irresponsible as he leaves his young kids alone at the hockey game but more than makes up for it by taking it upon himself to disarm as many of Foss’s bombs as he can and take out the terrorists with little more than his wits, ingenuity, and some impressive kicks.

5 Damon Macready / Big Daddy – Kick-Ass (Vaughn, 2010)

Although his look and the specifics of his motivations were wildly different from his comic book counterpart, Nicolas Cage really stole the show for this awesome adaptation of the comic book of the same name (Mark Millar, John Romita Jr, et al, 2008 to 2014). Channelling the spirit of Adam West while wearing a particularly Tim Burton-esque “Bat-Suit”, Cage channelled his usual manic energy into a far more nuanced, complex performance that showed Macready to be both slightly unhinged and eerily logical.

He might have trained his daughter to be a relentless killer but Macready was still a doting father.

To be fair, you could argue that Macready is a pretty awful father since he pulled his daughter, Mindy (Chloë Grace Moretz) out of school and trained her to be his crimefighting partner, Hit-Girl, causing her to be more interested in elaborate knives and skewering criminals than…whatever it is pre-teen girls are into these days. However, you’d be forgetting the fact that Macready is tough but fair on Mindy, always encouraging her and pushing her to test her limits. Thanks to his training, she’s fully capable of taking out entire rooms full of armed men with ease; not only that, he also does cool stuff like purchase a whole bunch of weapons, toys, and even a jetpack. When’s the last time your dad bought you a jet pack!? Plus, there’s the fact that he continues to encourage and help his daughter even while burning to death before her eyes.

4 Harry Tasker – True Lies (Cameron, 1994)

Arnold Schwarzenegger has a bit of an iffy record when it comes to portraying dads, as we’ll see; sometimes he’s the career-obsessed type, other times he’s the overly protective type. In True Lies, he lies to his wife, Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) and daughter, Dana (Eliza Dushku), on a daily basis to keep his true identity as a secret agent just that: a secret. As a result, and because she’s in that moody teenage phase of her life, his relationship with Dana is somewhat strained at the start of the film in that she sees him as dull and unreliable, unappreciative of the token gifts he brings her, casually stealing from his partner, Albert Gibson (Tom Arnold), and running off with her boyfriend or to her room to escape from him.

Moody teen Dana is overwhelmed when her unassuming father turns out to be a super spy!

However, like her mother, Dana’s entire perception of Harry is changed after she is kidnapped by terrorist Salim Abu Aziz (Art Malik) and it is her unassuming father who comes to her rescue…in a Harrier Jump Jet, no less! What makes Harry a bad-ass dad is that, when the chips are down, he drops all pretenses and shows his family exactly what he is capable of, gunning down countless terrorists and flying through city airspace just to rescue his daughter and shouldering the burden of keeping his true life from them in order to protect them. Once the secret is out, though, his relationships with both alter dramatically and they become a much more stable, contented, and united family.

3 Cameron Poe – Con Air (West, 1997)

Aaah, yes, Con Air; a ridiculously over-the-top action film, to be sure, featuring Nicolas Cage not only with an absolutely gorgeous head of hair and henched up to the nines but also sporting possibly the worst Southern draw I’ve ever heard outside of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (Morgan, 2006). Still, as ridiculous as Cage sounds (and as ludicrous as it is that his character, a decorated Army Ranger, would be sent to prison for ten years for what amounted to a clear case of self defense, at best, and manslaughter, at worst), the film is full of equally bombastic action and performances, with John Malkovich, especially, stealing the show (and, presumably, all that scenery he chewed) as the malicious Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom.

Though imprisoned for his daughter’s entire life, there’s nothing Poe won’t do to get back to her.

Poe stands out from the other dads on this list as he doesn’t actually meet his daughter, Casey (Landry Allbright), until the film’s conclusion; however, through his numerous correspondences with Casey, he encourages her to stay in school and listen to her mother and builds the best, loving relationship he can given his position. His entire motivation throughout the film is to get back to his daughter and, while he’s tempted to simply let things play out in order to meet that goal, his morals won’t let him stand idly by and he fights through overwhelming odds and explosions galore to not only finally meet Casey but also to teach her valuable lessons about paying for your sins and standing up against injustice.

So, I said early that Schwarzenegger has a bit of an iffy reputation as a movie dad. Well, Commando, in addition to being, perhaps, the quintessential action movie of the eighties, also showcases Arnie as one of the most devoted and bad-ass dads ever put to film. A retired Colonel, Matrix (a gloriously ridiculous name if there ever was one) is perfectly content to have put down his guns and to live peacefully amidst nature with his young daughter, Jenny (Alyssa Milano). However, when Matrix’s past (or, more specifically, the fantastically sadistic Bennett (Vernon Wells)) catches up with him and Jenny is taken as a hostage, Matrix has only around twelve hours to track Bennett down to recover his daughter.

Matrix is a nigh-unstoppable one-man army who goes to any lengths to rescue his daughter.

Like Poe, Matrix’s entire motivation is geared towards rescuing Jenny but, while Poe (and many of the dads on this list), must use subterfuge to meet this end, Matrix instead literally moves Heaven and Earth to find Jenny, violently dispatching of all of Bennett’s henchmen and literally walking right into a camp full of seemingly-endless, fully armed soldiers, mowing them down with such reckless abandon that he barely needs to aim or reload. Witty, determined, and possessing a razor-sharp focus, Matrix is a veritable one-man army, capable of besting anyone who stands in his way, and yet still vulnerable and human enough to be injured when dramatically appropriate and fully prepared to go to any lengths to rescue her since, as he puts it: “All that matters to [him] now is Jenny”.

1 Bryan Mills – Taken (Morel, 2008)

I mean, honestly, could it really be any other dad? Who else but Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) could make the top of a list like this? Like a lot of the other dads I’ve talked about, Mills is a devoted father who has left behind a violent life to focus on building a relationship with his daughter (Kim (Maggie Grace), in this instance) despite having a frosty relationship with his ex-wife, Lenore Mills-St John (Famke Janssen). Having lost his marriage, and many years of bonding with Kim, due to his work as a “preventer” for the government, Mills is a loyal, if somewhat overprotective, father who just wants to be there for Kim and to encourage her dreams of being a singer.

If there’s a dad more efficient and committed than Bryan Mills then I’ve yet to see him.

However, when she is taken by Albanian sex traffickers, Mills puts his unique set of skills to good use; like Matrix, his entire motivation revolves around finding his daughter but Mills has even less to go on and yet, within twenty-four hours, manages to track down enough of a lead to bring him within arm’s reach of Kim’s location. Along the way, Mills dispatches anyone who opposes him with a cold, calculating efficiency; age, clearly, hasn’t dwindled his skills or resources and, for the most part, he’s still able to function at peak efficiency with very little sleep or food. Of all the dad’s on this list, Mills is the most determined and competent; every movement is premeditated, meticulously thought through, and executed with alarming proficiency and yet Mills is still humble and vulnerable enough to show real pain, fatigue, and to deliver Kim back into the arms of her mother and stepfather.

Do you agree with my list? Perhaps you have another favourite movie dad who you think should have made the cut; if so, who is it and who are some of your favourite (or least favourite) movie dads? What are you doing this year for Father’s Day? Do you have any particularly fond memories of your dad? If so, feel free to share them, and any other comments, below.