Bruno Mattei’s ‘Namsploitation actioner Strike Commando receives an impressive Blu-ray release from Severin Films. When Sgt. Michael Ransom (Reb Brown) is betrayed by a superior officer and left for dead he’ll stop at nothing to seek vengeance and stop anyone that stands in his way. Severin’s Blu-ray of this Italian Rambo: First Blood Part II ripoff arrives with a new 2k scan of the film with a middling 2.0 audio mix. Special features are minimal but interesting enough for fans of Mattei’s films. Recommended.
“You looking for me, Americanski?”
Strike Commando opens with Sgt. Michael Ransom busting into a Vietcong weapons depot with his squad of highly skilled soldiers. Under the command of Colonel Radek (Christopher Connelly), the mission is watched closely with limited time to take out the base. When the commandos hit a snag Radek remotely blows the depot early killing everyone except for Ransom who is thrown into an adjacent river. His body washes up near a village that takes him in to recover. The villagers see him as an American savior sent to strike down the invading Vietcong and Russian mercenaries. Ransom befriends a young boy named Lao (Edison Navarro) who dreams of visiting Disneyland. The village elder Le Duc (Luciano Pigozzi) is a French missionary holdover that aids Ransom as they fight off the North Vietnamese soldiers. The rampaging soldier finds a radio and calls in his location and his screaming desire for vengeance against Radek. Radek’s subordinate Major Harriman (Mike Monty) is pleased to know that his best commando survived but the shady Radek doesn’t care and would kill him for desertion.
Back at the US base after the extraction Ransom begrudgingly informs the sweaty Radek about the Russian force led by the muscle-bound commander Jakoda (Alex Vitale). Radek sends him back in for proof of Russia's involvement. Back at the village, dead bodies litter the jungle floor including Lao who clings onto life long enough to ask, “American, tell me about Disneyland?” Ransom seemingly abandons the photographic evidence portion of his intelligence mission and instead chooses to unload a comically large amount of ammunition into a small hut for about 3 minutes while screaming JAKODA! *Cue one-man war machine montage*
Writer/Director Bruno Mattei (credited here as Vincent Dawn) is no stranger to ripping off big-budget American films. Here he boils down the Vietnam action film genre into its purest elements leaving behind a non-stop barrage of bullets, explosions, and screaming. Without letting the plot get in the way of the story, Mattei’s film hits all the big points of a ‘Namspoitation tale with avenging innocent villagers, corrupt superior officers, and plenty of impressive fireballs.
Ransom’s sense of duty and loyalty to his now-dead squad fuels the musclebound goof as he bounces through the jungle mowing down anyone in his way. Mattei tries his best to shoehorn in emotional beats throughout the film but Brown adds the gravity of a blubbering basset hound before blasting his way through the jungle.
Performances throughout the film are spectacular. Reb Brown (RoboWar) is utterly committed to the performance even when he is tasked with some goofy line or blasting away in the humid jungle settings. Those comedic moments that are purely intentional are funny, but riding the line between parody and humor is a treacherous endeavor for this bullet-riddled actioner. The supporting cast is all on board including a Who’s Who of cult cinema with Alex Vitale (Robot Jox), Luciano Pigozzi (The Exterminators of the Year 3000), and Christopher Connelly (Manhattan Baby).
Strike Commando is a wonderfully over-the-top action flick that while lifting segments from Rambo: First Blood II it still has its own cheesy and cartoonish identity. Mattei offers an impressive exploitation banger that never lets its meager budget keep it from looking impressive. With a memorable performance from Reb Brown and enough explosions to rival anything from Stallone, Strike Commando is a damn entertaining watch.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Strike Commando arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Severin Films. Housed in a black keepcase the Region A BD-50 disc loads the Severin logo before landing on the Main Menu screen. Typical navigational options flank scenes from the film with music from composer Luigi Ceccarelli.
Strike Commando blasts onto HD thanks to a new 2k scan of the negative offering the best presentation of the film to date. In1080p and with the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio the bombastic vengeance machine looks fantastic! Image quality here is impressive with plenty of fine detail from facial features to costuming. Primaries are strong though muted earth tones monopolize the color palette with lush jungles, drab military uniforms, and muddy landscapes. Reds are pronounced as the blood never stops flying and black levels hold strong with plenty of detail within shadows.
Image clarity and depth are impressive, offering a closer glimpse at those cheap sets and even cheaper performances. Grain levels are consistent throughout the feature. Unfortunately some vertical lines and minor print damage is apparent on the Extended Cut but it doesn’t distract from the presentation.
Though plagued with a limited international theatrical run, Strike Commando hit its target on VHS in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Sadly any DVD versions of the film produced afterward ported over this VHS transfer. This Blu-ray from Severin is the way Strike Commando was meant to be seen!
Strike Commando arrives on Blu-ray with English and Italian LPCM 2.0 audio tracks. Though dubbing is used on each track I would recommend sticking with the English track as most of the principal cast are native English-speaking actors. If you choose the Extended Cut of the film I recommend sticking with the English track as the new sequences don’t provide an Italian dub for dialogue. The audio mix for Strike Commando sounds just fine though at times it can be tinny and crushed. Thankfully the mix translates the textures nicely offering plenty of chances to appreciate the scoring from Luigi Ceccarelli.
For the bonus features Severin is able to provide two interesting interview featurettes and an explosive Extended Cut of the Film.
Strike Commando is a cheesy, over-the-top Italian ‘Namsploitation ripoff of Rambo: First Blood Part II that never stops being an entertaining thrill ride. While many have tried to copy the success of Stallone’s franchise, director Bruno Mattei’s low budget actioner may be the best one out there. Severin Films’ Blu-ray provides an impressive visual presentation paired with a serviceable audio track. Recommended for fans.