March 19, 2009

Rambo (2008)

I FELT COMPELLED to watch Rambo because of the polarized opinions I had read and heard. Critics lambasted it, while most guys I know said it was the bloodiest, most violent bit of fun they’d seen in a long, long time.

• The country of Burma has endured decades of civil war (Rambo opens with real, horrific news footage of the civil unrest). The killing of monks, farmers, and families, plus the abduction of boys from those families, who are then forced by their captors to become soldiers.
20 years have passed since the last Rambo movie, the ridiculous (even by the series’ standards) Rambo III. We now find John Rambo in Thailand, living in some sort of shantytown village, catching cobras to sell at the local market.
• Rambo’s approached by a group from Christ’s Church of Colorado, who want him to take them up-river into Burma in his boat so they can provide relief and change to the oppressed people there. He declines, telling the group’s leader that, since the team is going in without weapons, they’re “not changing anything.”
• After some convincing by team member Sara (Julie Benz), Rambo agrees to take them into Burma. But once they reach their destination, Rambo is dismissed by the team’s leader, who says they’ll find another way back down the river.
• Soon after Rambo leaves, the village is attacked and completely decimated by Burmese militants. Nearly everyone is killed in brutal, unflinching displays, including women and children. Of the original relief team, only a handful of them (including Sara) survive and are captured.
• Back in Thailand, Rambo later learns that the team he took to Burma has been missing for 10 days. The church’s pastor asks Rambo to take a group of mercenaries to the spot where the team was dropped off, in hopes of locating them and bringing them back.

I won’t go into the rest of the plot, except to say that the mercenary team gets separated, and several of them are killed – giving Rambo the green light to release unholy hell on the Burmese militants.

• It was satisfying to see Rambo as part of a unit, and not a one-man killing machine…well, up to a point, at least.
There are several “DAMN!” moments of Rambo-ness: ripping out of throats…bodies flying onto land mines and back into the air as interchangeable parts…turning a soldier into hamburger at close range with a mounted gun turret…
• The abuse of the Burmese natives is hard to watch: Children are killed, women and a young boy are raped (albeit largely off-screen), and several natives are shown lynched or beheaded.
• The ending tacks on the sweeping music, long stares, and dips a bit into Velveeta.

Rambo is a slice of down-and-dirty, 77-minute mayhem (including an inexplicable 10 minutes of closing credits). At its core, it’s actually a pretty decent action yarn, with sympathetic characters, loathsome ones, and large amounts of brutal injustice to fill you with enough indignation to root for Rambo…and the chaotic bloodbath he unleashes.

In the end, I’m still torn as to how to rate Rambo:

Is it gratuitous? Yes.
Is it exploitative? Yes again.
Is it art? Hell no.
Is it manly, primal, and awesome? Yes. Yes it is.

1 star
as a gratuitous, graphically brutal,
ultra-violent film with no artistic merit.
4 stars
as a manly, awesome, blow-‘em-up, kill-‘em-all movie.

Will your kids want to watch it?
Your kids probably know Rambo as an ‘80s icon (or punchline?), and their curiosity may be piqued with this new entry in the series. But no way in hell should they see this film. There’s so much mayhem and carnage happening on-screen, it’s hard to process at times. Definitely something to shield them from until high school, maybe even till they’re upperclassmen.

Will your FilmMother like it?
Highly, highly doubtful. Even if she thinks it’d be a kick to revisit Rambo on an ironic level, the level of realistic violence in Rambo is not for the faint of heart. If she still persists, you can’t say you (and I) didn’t warn her.

"I used to have a huge career. Now, it's about this big."

* Director: Sylvester Stallone
* Screenwriter: Sylvester Stallone
* Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Ken Howard, Matthew Marsden
* MPAA Rating: R (strong graphic bloody violence, sexual assaults, grisly images and language)

Buy this movie for less at >>


James said...

Looks like I will have to watch this one alone. That is if I ever get that kind of an opportunity. Thanks for the review.

And remember: "They drew first blood." said...

There is something to be said about a manly movie. The original Rambo movie was on TV not too long ago, which I was able to catch just a little bit of.

Gemma said...

Just loved the dual rating. You couldn't have said it better. I'll be leaving you and the big boys to your mayhem! Thanks for an entertaining review.

Keith said...

I loved this movie! It was great to see a manly movie again. There are so few of them these days. This movie rocked.

Oh yeah. I just did a post about when I plan to return to blogging. I hope you'll check it out. Thanks.

Kathy B. said...

Another excellent review ~ however just loved your caption about his career.
Fantastically funny.

Raymond said...

This movie far exceeded my expectations! A very entertaining macho man movie. If you're looking for 90 minutes to suspend reality or get away from the kids this movie is for you. Rambo must have killed over 250 people in this move.

LEon said...

I enjoyed this movie very much. I think Stallone does a great job to keep the movie relevant to time. Rambo is less emotional now but still as brutal as he can be. Great review.

R.L. HEARN said...

This plot made up for the stupid ones of Rambo 2 & 3


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