Rambo (2008, directed by Sylvester Stallone)


When a group of Christian missionaries needs someone to guide them into Burma so that they can provide medical supply to the oppressed Karen people, they approach John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone).  The missionaries think that Rambo is just an American living in Thailand who makes a meager living as a snake catcher and a boat guide.  Because we’ve seen the previous Rambo films, we know that John Rambo is actually a Vietnam vet who, after destroying the town of Hope, Washington, was recruited by the government to rescue POWs in Vietnam and fight the Russians in Afghanistan.

At first, Rambo tells the missionaries that it’s foolish for them to go anywhere near Burma and that he wants nothing to do with them.  It’s only when Sarah Miller (Julie Benz) asks him personally that Rambo agrees to ferry the missionaries up the Salween River.  Rambo isn’t doing it for the missionaries.  He’s doing it to protect Sarah.

Unfortunately, on the way to the village, Rambo is forced to kill a group of pirates and he is rejected by the pacifist missionaries and, after he drops them off at the village, they order him to leave.  However, after the village is attacked and Sarah is taken prisoner by the Burmese military, Rambo returns.  This time, he’s with a group of younger mercenaries who, like the missionaries before them, don’t know what Rambo is capable of doing.  Rambo soon proves that he might not be as young as used to be but he’s still just as deadly.

During the final 11 minutes of this movie, Rambo kills over a hundred people but fortunately, they’re all bad.  It’s excessively violent and gory and it’s also totally awesome.  When you go to see a Rambo movie, you’re not expecting to see Shakespeare.  You’re expecting to see Rambo blow away the bad guys and, on that front, this film definitely delivers.  Even more than the previous films in the series, Rambo is up front about what happens when someone gets shot by a machine gun or blown up by a bomb.  It’s not pretty picture.  The violence is so gruesome that Rambo could almost pass for an antiwar film if the people that Rambo blows up weren’t all portrayed as being almost cartoonishly evil.

Rambo is also upfront about what that type of violence would do to a man’s psyche.  This film features one of Stallone’s best performances.  Eschewing the comic book heroism of the 2nd and 3rd films in the franchise, Rambo reminds us that, when first introduced in First Blood, John Rambo was portrayed as being a seriously damaged and bitter man, someone who hated what the war had done to him and who felt that he no longer had a home in the normal world.  Stallone was 62 when he starred in Rambo and he surrendered enough of his vanity to actually allow himself to look and sometimes act his age.  In this film, Rambo may start out as bitter but he finally accepts that his pain doesn’t have to define his life.  “Live for nothing or die for something,” Rambo says, a line that has subsequently been picked up by the real life Karen National Liberation Army in Burma.

Of the four sequels to the original First Blood, Rambo is the best.  It has the biggest action sequences, the best Stallone performance, and it alerted people to very real atrocities being carried out against the Karen people.  Coming out shortly after Rocky Balboa, Rambo was one of the films that reminded audiences that Sylvester Stallone still had it.  Rambo was a box office success and, 11 years after its release, it was followed by Last Blood.  I’ll be reviewing that one tomorrow.

Here’s The Trailer For Rambo: Last Blood!


So, today, twitter is all abuzz over the trailer for the upcoming Rambo film.  Apparently this film, which is called Rambo: Last Blood, will be the final time that Sylvester Stallone will ever play John Rambo and it features Rambo coming home and fighting a Mexican drug cartel.

Look, to be honest, this trailer pretty much looks like a typical Sylvester Stallone trailer.  It could just as easily be the trailer for another Expendables film, except for the fact that Rambo has become an iconic figure in the annals of cinematic mayhem.  Just the mere mention of the name gets certain filmgoers excited.

Of course, I watched First Blood earlier this year and I was surprised to discover just how good a film it actually was.  And, of course, action film enthusiasts are still talking about that scene in Rambo where the title character kills the population of a small country in a matter of minutes.  So, I get why people are excited about this trailer but, at the same time, it still feels a bit generic.

This trailer also features Old Town Road because God knows it’s not like that song is currently overplayed or anything.

There’s one thing that I do think we definitely have to give Sylvester Stallone credit for.  I’ve read that, during the first part of his stardom, Stallone wasn’t always pleasant to work with and that he sometimes resented being thought of as just being an action star.  But, during the twilight of his career, it would appear that Stallone has definitely made a sort of peace with the roles that define him.  He understands what he does well and he tries to give his audience what they came for.  I’m predicting that, when Stallone’s 90 years old, he’ll probably still be making movies where he beats up terrorists.  By this point, of course, the terrorists might be attacking a retirement home but Stallone’s going to be there to put them in their place.

And we’ll all be better off for it!

Anyway, here’s the trailer:

Scenes I Love: Rambo


Watching Ninja Assassin made me think about how much film and special effects technology has advanced to the point that the ways people can die in a film really is only limited by the imagination of the filmmakers involved. My new choice for “Scenes I Love” may make me come across as some gorehound, violence-loving neanderthal (the first two are actually correct but the third is false since I’m homo sapiens), but I love this scene I have chosen because it’s so over-the-top yet holds many truths to the events happening therein.

Rambo was Sylvester Stallone’s attempt to restart the Rambo franchise and to a certain extent he does so. The film was better than the third one and in terms of storytelling was equal to the second one and just a tad short of the original film. It’s a film one will not write to the Academy about, but Stallone brings back the franchise to what made it popular in the first place. He brought the character of John Rambo back to being the self-destructive, self-loathing, war-scarred veteran who just wants to be left alone to live his miserable life, but always gets dragged into one good-intentioned crusade after another.

This scene happens right at the very end and one could say it’s the film’s climactic eruption of testosterone. Rambo literally explodes Burmese soldiers’ bodies through his effective use of a .50 caliber heavy machine gun (and those who think the gun’s effect on people’s bodies was over-the-top…those people would be wrong. That is exactly what a .50 caliber round does to a body. It doesn’t do a body good) and some help from the people he’s trying to rescue. It’s hard not cheer Rambo in this scene after watching these very same soldiers massacre an entire Burmese village, raping captured young women and bayonet little kids before throwing them into a hut’s raging fire.

This scene also shows why the Rambo films have been labeled as nothing but mindless violence trying to make itself to be something profound (he is killing the bad people and trying to save those who are defenseless). I always though this franchise was just about one very angry guy who may or may not be right in the head, but who definitely has a weird sense of right and wrong. Not to mention very good at killing massive amounts of people in very messy ways.

There’s a part halfway in this scene where the higher-than-though leader of the Christian missionary group (who had earlier in the film lectured Rambo for being too violent in saving his and his people’s lives) played by Paul Schulze sees the carnage happening all around him and decides to go all caveman on one soldier who killed one of his congregation. A part of me actually smirked at this part. I knew that no matter how well-intentioned, principled and civilized a man thinks he is there’s something primal deep down inside that wants to commit violence.