Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rambo (2008)


Sylvester Stallone is 61 years old. I point that off right in the beginning because as you watch RAMBO, the third sequel to feature Vietnam veteran/Green Beret John J. Rambo from FIRST BLOOD, you'll see a 61-year old man almost outrun a massive explosion, rip a man's Adam's Apple out using his fingers, and rack up a body count to rival anything that came out in the heyday of 80's and 90's DTV action films. And as you watch this you will probably laugh a bit, but if you've got any sense of humor for this type of movie you will also say "Wow." A lot.

Look. RAMBO isn't a great movie. It may not even be a good movie. But it's so sincere in its execution, and so serious in providing as much action and viscera as possible, that you can't help but grudgingly give Stallone a little respect. Like ROCKY BALBOA (a much better film in my opinion), Stallone isn't cashing in on another popular franchise. He really wants to give this character a sense of closure, and wants to do it on his terms. And RAMBO, for better or worse, is a film that feels like it's the sole product of one man's vision.

Burma is the setting this time around, and Stallone starts the movie with actual footage of the atrocities that have plagued the country for years. If nothing else it's a bold attempt to shed light on the plight of a country that gets far too little media attention. Despite this overtly political beginning, RAMBO feels in no way like a "message" movie. The plot is simple: Rambo, now living in Thailand as a snake wrangler (yes, you read that right) reluctantly agrees to ferry a group of missionaries into Burma. The missionaries are (of course) captured, and it's up to Rambo, along with a motley crew (of course) of mercenaries to bring 'em back alive.

That's it. The movie's short and to the point. And apparently the point is to kill, maim, and literally explode as many people as possible in just under 90 minutes. This may be the most brutal movie I've ever seen in a mainstream theater. I guess in tone this is more akin to FIRST BLOOD than RAMBO III (thank God), but the action is frankly so gratuitous as to be almost unbelievable. During a village raid the bad guys (I don't even remember why now) come in and proceed to blow the living crap out of the place.

his includes bayoneting children and lobbing them into fires.

Read that again. It happens. Limbs are thrown around with abandon. Entrails are spilled and you won't see this many heads rolling outside of a Judas Priest concert (didja catch my subtle reference to the immortal Priest sing "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll?" Didja?)

But that's not all the 80's fun you get. The mercenaries take every opportunity to roll, flip, and kill bad guys as uniquely as anyone else. I think I counted seven somersaults that ended up in either gunshots or crazy knife kills. Rambo is an enormous presence on screen. He looks 12 feet high and carved out of the side of a mountain. His worn countenance works to the film's advantage - anyone else and we wouldn't have sat through the film. But you can always count on Rambo to gets the audience cheering, and despite it's obvious cheap budget, simplistic plot, and literally tons of gore, the latest RAMBO was a amusing if slightly guilty ride.

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