2008, R, 99 min. Directed by Sylvester Stallone. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Reynaldo Gallegos, Jake La Botz, Tim Kang, Ken Howard.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Feb. 1, 2008
There will be blood in the ultraviolent Rambo, a movie that depicts both heinous acts and righteous reckoning with equal degrees of flying body parts and arterial sprays. In this wholly unnecessary fourth installment of the franchise, Stallone’s one-man weapon of mass destruction takes on the villainous Burmese army in a mission to rescue a group of kidnapped Christian missionaries deep in the Myanmar jungles. Gone, however, is the manufactured macho image of an oil-slicked physique ready for action that’s forever burned into our iconic memory of the Eighties. In the 20 years since we last saw him fighting alongside Afghan rebels against the Soviets, John Rambo (Stallone) now looks like a real human being, albeit one still given to tough-guy utterances accompanied by a don’t-fuck-with-me glare. The script attempts to suggest that our taciturn hero has softened in his old age, given his empathetic response to the female missionary who challenges him to find his humanity again. Of course, the development of human relationships is not what the Rambo sequels are all about – the emphasis is, of course, on getting even with a maximum of bloodletting. The bad guys in this film’s black-and-white world are beyond redemption and, therefore, deserve to die. Be forewarned: Watching the graphic massacres of helpless civilians by these men requires a strong stomach, particularly when you know that such senseless brutality is not far removed from reality in that troubled country. (The fact, however, that the cryptic leader of these sadists is depicted as all the more evil because he likes the company of adolescent boys is stupidly regressive. Shame on you, Sylvester.) No question, there is a perverse satisfaction in watching Stallone the actor shoot, stab, and strangle his way to victory (granted, he has help from some fellow mercenaries), and Stallone the director handles those scenes well. But even as the body count rises, you’re left to wonder whether there can ever be anything more. The initial Rambo film, First Blood, was an above-average action film with a real human element to it, but its follow-ups are this side of parody. Having artistically exhausted this franchise long ago and ended another one with the 2006 release of Rocky Balboa, Stallone is in desperate need of reinvention, but he seems myopically focused on rehashing the past rather than exploring the future. One shudders to think what he might revive next by way of his film oeuvre. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot … Again? More Tango & Cash? It boggles the mind.