The task of the governor’s re-election campaign came into clearer focus last week–not just thanks to Phil Angelides’ victory in the primary, but also because Fox released The Arnold Schwarzenegger Celebrity Pack, an illuminating trinity of action-movie schlock.
1985’s Commando concerns a good-hearted commando (ours truly), rescuing his kidnapped daughter (Alyssa Milano, not yet trashy) from an evil-hearted commando (a paunchy, Village Personish Vernon Wells). Peerless for its ammo-exhausting, practically genocidal climax, Commando is also the movie that officially sanctioned the cultivation of Schwarzenegger’s now-famous zingers, by reiterating memorable utterances from The Terminator (not included in the pack, alas). Inevitably, “I’ll be back” was co-opted as a political slogan; “Fuck you, asshole” — not to mention the point-blank-rifle-blast-accented “Wrong!” — might yet become one.
In 1987, Predator peeked into the future of America’s political leadership: Among Schwarzenegger’s co-stars is Jesse Ventura, as a Gatling-gun-wielding, self-described “sexual tyrannosaurus.” Together they battle an invisible extra-terrestrial who summers in the South American jungle, skinning and disemboweling the local humans. Mr. Universe prevails, naturally, and to watch him let out the mother of all war cries is to worry for Mr. Angelides.
James Cameron’s True Lies (1994) is a sort of steroidal James Bond adventure and a dicey fusion of FX-intensive spy thriller and light romantic comedy (Schwarzenegger plays an agent so secret even his wife doesn’t know), yet it’s somehow the least ridiculous of this lot — and therefore the least fun. It was Cameron who gave us The Terminator, and he, like the star, has never been known for a light touch. Put True Lies next to Commando and Predator, though, and you’ll yearn for a heavier hand. Historically, we’ve always found it most satisfying to come away from our Schwarzenegger experiences in an incredulous stupor, thinking, to borrow a line from Commando, “I can’t believe this macho bullshit!”