You know what happens next...
As what I now see a perfect way to end a long, hard and tiring week, I just saw Rambo tonight at Rockwell. RAM-freakin'-BO. I have to say that I wasn't too confident in this film some time ago. The trailers had a B-movie feel and cheapness that I disliked, and the snippets of over-the-top gore made me feel that the movie had gone too far in its obvious desire to get back the glory of the 80's Superhero. However, the last couple of weeks and quite a few positive (even glowing) reviews caused me to unerringly make my way to the movie theater, prepared for a night of unrelenting bloodletting.
Rambo is the fourth film in the series starring Sylvester Stallone as everyone's favorite Vietnam Vet, master archer, commando and Synonym for Gratuitous Violence. It's been twenty years since John Rambo (Stallone) exterminated Russian Spetsnaz Troops in Afghanistan, and since then he's been living a simple life in Thailand, wrangling snakes for a local pub and catching fish with his bow-and-arrows. It doesn't take long for a group of American church volunteers to arrive and ask for Rambo's help in getting into Burma. Through a quick montage of real-life atrocities in current Burma/Myanmar (which is in the grip of a 60-year, genocidal civil war), we know that Burma is NOT a good place to be, and Rambo repeatedly tries to get the white folk to give up on their humanitarian mission. However, strong-willed Sarah (Julie Benz) eventually convinces Rambo to take them on his boat, by rekindling a bit of the selfless soldier buried in the somewhat puffy old Rambo.
Of course, it doesn't take long for the shit to hit the fan when the local Burmese troops arrive and find the village where the missionaries are dispensing aid, and things get REALLY nasty. When the church that sent the volunteers send in a squad of mercs to get their people out, Rambo is ready and raring to get back into the killing mood. And it's not just because he cares about the missionaries (though he does). It's an excuse for him to unleash the animal he's kept cooped up inside of him all these years. That scary, freakin' force of nature that Colonel Trautman molded and turned into the perfect battlefield tool. It's one last try to be RAMBO once more.
And RAMBO is what this movie is- unadulterated, unrestrained and brutally frank, to be quite honest. This film's violence does NOT hold back; it pushes the envelope of the R-rating, not only for the kinetic bloodletting and realistic portrayals of carnage, but for the way that men, women and children are seen murdered coldly by merciless monsters in fatigues and combat gear. The imagery melds the gory scenery of Private Ryan and The Killing Fields in no small detail, but thankfully doesn't wallow too much so as to turn stomachs. But make no mistake- bodies get mangled, exploded, ripped apart. Blood spurts and flows more so than in any of the previous three films put together. This is probably how REAL munitions do real damage to human bodies, and it isn't pretty. But it is DAMN fascinating to watch.
To be honest, it would have been horrifying if the villains- a battalion of truly despicable, murderous, sadistic, rapine Burmese soldiers- weren't as gloriously deserving of their end as they are in this film. These baddies get to have their way for quite a lot of the film, so when Rambo and the good guys FINALLY get to give it back, they GIVE and then some, and it's glorious. Fist-pumpingly glorious. Bad guys get ground into hamburger and it's freaking awesome. This is no watered-down Die Hard 4.0-excuse for Rambo. This is Rambo, an apology and vindication for the cartoony and over-the-top Rambo III. It isn't pretty at all, but darn, this is what it is. And for what it is, it bloody succeeds.
In the end, Rambo isn't rocket science. It's not the most politically-correct or tasteful of films. But it DOES do what I thought films today couldn't... end a beloved franchise with a resounding, bloody BOOM and not a whimper. Welcome home, John. Glad to have you back.
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