Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Review of Rambo

John J. has come full circle. John J. Rambo that is. And sure enough, by the end of the 4th Rambo movie, he's walking down the long road. And he's on his own-dah...dah dum.

I grew up in the eighties and was a huge fan of Rambo. But this newer movie was very different from the others. "First Blood," the first movie, was a rather good movie-the most unique of the four. As a kid I watched it with much pleasure. Apparently what happened next, was that it made some money and so the movie-makers decided to morph Rambo into an action hero franchise and market him to kids. The second movie was cheesy (though I did not notice as a child) and the third one was even worse. And then there were the Saturday morning cartoon incarnation of the Rambo universe. That was definitely marketed towards kids.

Now, all of us kids-mostly boys-grew up with Rambo. He was our hero. Fast forward to today and Stallone hasn't done anything lately (accept, of course, "Rocky Balboa," and, if you go back a little farther, "Spy Kids 3-D") for movies. All the old franchises are being resuscitated lately and, of course, the boyhood fans are now adults. So I guess Stallone thought he'd come out of retirement once again to revive his second major serial character only this time make it more edgy and adult oriented.

Most parents would not be comfortable allowing their children to watch the new one, I think. That is how edgy and adult oriented it is. There are plenty of f-bombs in the film and also much gore. Of course, in a Rambo movie, you would expect to see a lot of violence. But did we really need the 27th decapitation? Wouldn't the first 26 (primarily by gunfire) suffice? Still, Rambo and his buddies are hardened assassins so you would expect a good deal of swearing and, when people step on landmines or have their heart literally blasted out of their ribcage with a canon, one would expect to see blood.

And there was certainly a lot of blood, and severed limbs (not just heads) in this movie. In fact, I think that, apart from some horror movies, this is probably the goriest movie I have ever seen. Even horror movies aren't normally this gory. "Dead Alive" (sometimes also called Brain Dead) certainly was more gory and "Evil Dead II" was as well. But "Saw," for example, was slightly more tame than Rambo part four it seems. Even the Kill Bill movies were relatively tame compared to this movie.

This, as it seems to me, is not necessarily a bad thing. As I almost said before, this new Rambo movie is more realistic than the other Rambo movies. He actually talks in this one and he does not take on the military of an entire country on his own. Rather, he is fighting a Burmese army as, for all intents and purposes, a Burmese soldier. So it is two armies fighting each other not one man, who doesn't talk, fighting an entire country and winning.

Another difference from the older movies was that Stallone does not appear shirtless in the movie in a state of hyper-saturation from body oil. Considering his age that could be a good thing. That being said, however, his short sleeve T-shirt reveals arms which do look quite buff. Also, there did not seem to be as much action for Rambo to do. The last 15 minutes or so I got the impression that Stallone is old and since it is his movie anyways, he would just stand behind a very large gun and shoot a lot of bullets (while making a tomato paste out of the enemy). Keep in mind that this is after an hour of him leaning against the motor of his pontoon boat.

One part that surprised me was that even the Burmese children were portrayed as getting killed. Very rarely do we see children getting killed in an action movie or any kind of movie in general. I think that anachronism was wholly intentional. There are some third-world countries which heavily persecute Christians. In the Rambo movie, Christian missionaries are going into Burma to help them but many of the Burmese are already converts. And they are being persecuted by a dictatorial government. There is one memorable quote in the film where Stallone's character says, "live for nothing, or die for's your call." Could it be that Rambo was coming around to the missionaries point of view that Christian and medical aid to Burma was a helpful-worldchanging kind of thing? At any rate, what I am trying to say is that it seems the movie is not merely "let's shoot lots of bullets" but actually trying to expose the plight of persecuted Christians in places like Burma. I may be reading into it what is not there but that is the impression I felt while watching the movie. Perhaps the six o'clock news, in real life, was not covering persecution of Christians (and perhaps others) and their martyrdom like they should have, in my estimation. Who better in the fictional world of movies than Rambo to draw our attention to the barbarism against fellow believers and save the day?

In the final analysis, I must say that though better than the second and third installments, "Rambo" is not as good as "First Blood" but it is still quite good especially for an action movie. I tend not to like action movies too much. They just seem mindless and formulaic. I think the plot line was good in theory though not fleshed out as much as it should have been. I give it three out of five stars. If you were a childhood fan like I was you'll definitely want to see it. And while not the best movie of the year (Stardust?), it is certainly worth watching, at least if you are an adult male. But again, while the first three were perhaps appropriate for younger children, I suggest you don't allow anyone in your household that is not at least a teenager to watch this film.

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