Film Reviews

RAMBO (Victoria)

By • Jan 25th, 2008 •

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After lying low for 20 years, Rambo massacres 1000 men. Best sequel of the series. I’m looking forward to Rambo V.

Disgusted with humankind – he’s seen it all and then some – John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is eking out a solitary living commandeering a leaky, slow boat on the Salween River in Northern Thailand.

Rambo reminds me of the great iconic anti-hero Roy Batty: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

Those demanding missionaries (that’s Julie Benz from my favorite series, Showtime’s “Dexter”) will not take “No” for an answer when they approach Rambo to take them to the border where the Burmese-Karen civil war is raging.

Because Sarah (Benz) stands outside his hut in the thunderstorm, Rambo agrees to undertake the dangerous river journey without pay. Leaving them off, Rambo returns only to be confronted 10 days later by Colorado minister Arthur Marsh (Ken Howard). The missionaries have “gone missing” and are feared kidnapped. He has hired a group of mercenaries led by Lewis (Graham McTavish) to find and evacuate them.

(I interviewed McTavish on the Red Carpet at Planet Hollywood for the premiere of RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION. He was charming, gracious, very slim and dashing, and answered all my inappropriate Red Carpet questions. Obviously, he’s new to the ritual. I’ve since given up Red Carpets because you must only ask celebrities ‘What are you wearing?’ if you want a response.)

Rambo agrees to take the mercenaries to the place where he dropped off the missionaries. Like all monk-warriors, Rambo doesn’t do small-talk or sing war songs. But he does understand the skill and ideology of the mercenaries. When Lewis tells Rambo to stay in the boat, he ignores the order and follows the mercenaries inside the Seventh Circle of Hell compound.

The missionaries are not fairing well.

Hell breaks wide open. Body parts explode. Heads get blown off. Teenage boys are going to love this.

After lying low for 20 years, Rambo massacres 1000 men. I wanted him to yell at Sarah: “Happy now?”

You’ve got to give Stallone credit. The task of directing and acting in this could not have been easy. If he’s not soaking wet, he’s covered in mud. He certainly does not need the money.

Stallone directs with skill and menace for the generation of moviegoers who are now used to ultra-violence. He delivers the goods with excess vigor. This is a violent, gory, blood-letting extravaganza. Jigsaw (there’s a SAW 5 on the horizon) better up his game.

Stallone looks terrific and keeps the Rambo growl to a honorific FIRST BLOOD flashback. Without a villain to face – Rambo is now up against a nasty army of sadistic rebels – McTavish delivers as the arrogant, insult-baiting adversary who almost takes the movie from Sly, but gets his payback by being wounded. He has to be carried out of the jungle on a stretcher.

I don’t know why they held no press screenings or promotional screenings for RAMBO. Could the studio really have been afraid of RAMBO? I understand that the press junket interviews were done without a pre-screening of the film. This is highly unusual and was seen as forecasting a “stinker.” (We critics are being kept from seeing more movies every month!)

Written by Art Monterastelli and Sylvester Stallone (and based on characters created by my friend and former neighbor when I lived in Santa Fe, David Morrell), Rambo is still a man carrying around his demons and regrets. Well, he now has a body count that requires a lot of penance. If you are a fan of John Rambo, you will not be disappointed.

Will critics belittle Michael Douglas for resuscitating Gordon Gekko and Harrison Ford for putting back on that hat? When E.T. returns to Earth, will critics cry “foul!”?

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