After many long years, John Rambo returns to the big screen, and with him he brings some of the nastiest, bloodiest action to ever be witnessed on the big screen. Sylvester Stallone's Rambo may be simplistic and designed only for his most ardent fans, but would you want it any other way?
It's been twenty years since Rambo last invaded a country, and nearly that long since Stallone has had a bona fide hit. That's not entirely true, as Stallone found that there was still demand for some of his old franchises with the mild success of Rocky Balboa, which, admittedly, was pretty decent. Unlike Rocky, which is much more limited by Stallone's age, the Rambo movies don't demand the same sense of realism. After all, how many commandos can take on the entire Russian army in Afghanistan single-handedly... and win? With Stallone fully endorsing HGH steroids, the man can continue to make Rambo movies well into his eighties, and that's just fine with me (unless the steroids cause a nervous breakdown or heart attack first).
This new Rambo film, titled, simply, Rambo, once again shows us that Stallone realizes his age and the decline of his career, but isn't willing to go down without a fight. Some people criticize Stallone for making sequels to his favorite franchises long after they were deemed dead, but I credit him with the ability to identify where demand is and to go with what he knows works, rather than scrape by on a bunch of forgettable direct-to-DVD projects. This new Rambo shows us that our title character now lives a peaceful life in Thailand, using his boat to fish and catch snakes for a local tourist attraction. He's as quiet as he has always been, and seems content - but not necessarily happy - with his life.
When a group of missionaries show up and ask him for his assistance to get them into war torn Burma, Rambo reluctantly decides to transport them to their own deaths, pretty much on the insistence of one beautiful but misguided woman who he is clearly attracted to. Those steroids can manipulate your mind and emotions, Mr. Rambo! When the ruthless army attacks that village where the missionaries are staying, however, Rambo and a team of mercenaries decide to take matters into their own hands. While the others consider Rambo a relic of the past, he proves to them that he is still as capable as ever - and will destroy anything that stands in his way.
The truth is, if you liked the old Rambo movies, you'll like this one. With exception to the first film, the movies have been pretty much about a scarred figure going to war with some kind of injustice, and fans have soaked them in as pure action movies. Those kinds of movies are hard to come by these days, though we have seen a resurgence of late with such films as Live Free and Die Hard, Terminator 3 and now Rambo. Rambo doesn't care about providing a complex plot or intriguing drama; the movie is here to give fans what we all secretly crave, a downright bloody massacre with Stallone taking on hundreds of people single handedly. He's not alone in this film, but he just as easily could have been.
Rambo truly is the goriest film I have seen in a decade, putting to shame films such as The Hills Have Eyes and countless others. The film is disturbing in the least and masochistic at its best; Stallone does not shy away from showing the bad guys inflicting genocide, rape, murder and torture on men, women and children. The movie's not for the faint of heart, as for an hour and a half you literally see people get blown apart, their insides ripped out, bodies cut in have by rail guns and more. According to IMDB, the movie features 236 killings, or, on average, 2.59 killings per minute. Sadly, this is exactly what I wanted to see, and Rambo delivers to the point.
Despite its simplicity, Rambo is a well conceived little picture. The story is basic, though Stallone does make some attempts to give his character substance. He might not quite pull it off, but the confines in which the title character has placed himself are believable. The movie itself is very dark and gritty, which adds to the appeal of the film. The killings are brutally gory and highly detailed, carefully avoiding the "cartoon" violence seen in such films as Kill Bill. Rambo does not make fun of itself or pay homage to past films, and, thankfully, the seriousness of the movies pays off.
My only real complaint about Rambo is that the main bad guy gets off way to easily. While he gets what he deserves, the ending comes so quickly and brutally that you don't even have time to catch your breath; I would have liked to see things drawn on a couple more minutes, just so that the villain could see what's coming to him. So yes, I actually wanted Rambo to be longer.
Rambo is a great film, as long as you're looking for an action-packed action movie. Fans of Rambo and those who miss the non-stop action films of old will take pleasure in this brutal sequel; of course, everyone else will avoid this film at all costs. As long as Stallone continues to make Rambo movies for Rambo fans, I will continue to watch them. And enjoy them.
Rambo Movie Review #2 (C+), by Robert Bell
Rambo is Sylvester Stallone's second attempt to revitalize a dying film career through recycling his successes in younger years. Perhaps a sequel to Stop, or my Mom will Shoot is in the cards. His comeback films appear to be successful as a result of a camp value associated with a modern sequel to the visceral Vietnam and Apartheid movies of the 80's. It's unlikely that this entry will reinvent the genre, or even keep Stallone on the map for more than his additional fifteen minutes.
The plot is simple. War Veteran John Rambo (Stallone) reluctantly assists and seeks out missing missionaries in Myanmar.
John Rambo symbolizes the action hero of yesteryear, men who existed in the shadows of unrealistic male Heroes constructed by Walt Whitman and John Wayne mythologies. These men are larger than life, tortured by the pain of the world, unaffected by emotional misgivings, and willing to risk their own life for the good of mankind. They clearly have a lot of time to dedicate to the gym, and invest a lot of money in baby oil for their chests.
As this mythic male image has long since died in a post Fight Club/ Marky Mark world, it makes the resurgence of this form of hero amusing and campy. As such, the film should succeed in amusing an educated audience, and likely placating the mechanic/tattoo artist crowd.
We're treated to some very thinly painted characters with diametrically opposed political views in order to set up a very basic conflict not dissimilar to the ones set up in the Anaconda films. The symbolism of traveling down the river towards a murky ideology altering fate is likely lost on no one.
The dialogue is typically male, and in attempting to be meaningful, comes across as laughably bad. It is ultimately the stoic Sylvester Stallone dialogue you've come to expect. "When pushed far enough, killing people becomes just as easy as breathing". Really Sly? Really?
The violence is gratuitous, which is essentially what a Rambo audience would expect. There are slow motion explosions, limbs getting blown off, people blowing up into chunks, small children getting shot, closeups of people getting shot through the head with arrows. It's all there, and unrelenting.
It would be difficult to argue that the direction and cinematography were unsuccessful in their efforts. Every frame of this movie is like a love-letter to the superior action films of two decades ago. However, suggesting that a film looks dated is rarely a compliment.
This is not a good movie. It is however, successful in being exactly what it attempts to be. A Rambo movie. And as such, it should please a Rambo fan.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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