The Rambothon – Part 4

Wow, it was a REALLY long gap between entries in this series. Twenty years?! Why did they do this?

Title: Rambo

Released: January 2008

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish

Plot: John Rambo is keeping his head low running a ferry and catching snakes in Thailand, as you do. When a group of American missionaries are captured by a Burmese warlord, Rambo springs into action.

Review: Holy cow is that gory! What on Earth happened?! There’s more internal organs being rapidly externalised than in the Saw movies!

Surprisingly this feels more like a sequel to the original than the previous two films. It’s more grounded in reality and deals with real-world issues rather than being army porn. Although the last time John Rambo meddled in real-world events it wound up being super awkward in hindsight. Rambo (or John Rambo if you live around here). This movie really wants to know how real-world gritty it is, starting with a montage of horrific acts of war.

Horrific is the word here. The movie wants to really hate the Burmese warlords. They talk about going into Burma like they’re going into Mordor. They depict the Burmese as brutally murdering children for fun. It’s real rough viewing, and it’s mostly in order to make what Rambo does later somewhat palatable. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

John Rambo (Stallone, as usual) is lurking around a jungle being manly when he approached by a group of doctors and missionaries looking to charter his ship into Burma. Rambo quite rightly tells them to go home, because, as previously established, Burma is entirely populated by over-enthusiastic slasher movie characters. Inevitably they all get captured and Rambo is approached to join a team of mercenaries to get them out. Half an hour in we finally have a full cast and the loud-mouth mercenaries loud-mouth themselves in Burma while Stallone is so much cooler.

After getting involved in a few action scenes and witnessing some more atrocities, the mercenaries wind up mostly captured and it’s up to Rambo to get them out. He mostly achieves this goal by manning a mounted turret gun and absolutely shredding everyone he can. Literally tearing them to pieces by the dozen, limbs and organs flying everywhere. Eventually the day is won, people are saved and Rambo walks a lonely road, blessedly without a power ballad for once.

I’m actually fine with this, and not in a perverted ‘I love gore’ fashion. What I like is that a warzone is depicted in a grotesque manner. The number of films painting a genuinely distressing ‘war is hell’ message are vastly outnumbered by the badass hero cliche to a startling degree. It’s also cool that Stallone is trying new approaches and styles influence by recent trends. There’s nothing to say that he couldn’t have done this with an original character, but Rambo fits quite while and it wasn’t an attempt to recapture past glories but take him in a new direction.

One of the biggest sticking points is the story itself. It doesn’t break the Rambo formula of rescuing POWs from warlords. John Rambo being convinced that he should take these missionaries into such a dangerous area breaks the reality of the movie, simply because he is all too aware of how things will likely turn out for them, and he’ll feel morally obligated to go in after them. It’s suggested that Rambo’s tragic need to kill to fulfil his purpose in the world could be driving him into this situation, but there’s nothing stopping him from taking mercenary work from the get-go.

Like the first film in the series, this is more interesting than it appears on the surface. It’s not exceptional, but it’s an interesting step away from the expectations set by the previous couple of films.

Now that we’re all caught up, we’re ready to see Rambo: Last Blood in two days! Review will be up on Thursday.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN