Rambo cuts, rips, and slashes its way to the top

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Rambo on a machine gun

RAMBO IS BACK AND KICKING ASS THE BEST WAY HE KNOWS HOW — WITH A HEAVY MACHINE GUN. Despite gratuitous amounts of violence, Rambo is already a contender for action film of the year.

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Tim Kang
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone

4 stars

It’s been about 20 years since our last encounter with the tumultuous jungle war icon John Rambo and a lot has changed.

Rambo, who has retreated to northern Thailand, lives a simple, solitary life in the mountains and jungles, fishing and catching poisonous snakes to sell while running a longboat along the Salween River on the nearby Thai-Burma border.

As the world’s longest-running civil war rages into its 60th year, Rambo, who has long given up fighting, is approached by a group of missionaries who request his guidance through the war-torn region. After being repeatedly solicited by Sarah (Benz), the only female missionary, and her husband Michael (Paul Schulze), Rambo reluctantly accepts and leads the crew on its journey.

After the crew goes missing for 10 days, Rambo is convinced to return to the jungle and bring them back. This time, however, he’s joined by a group of mercenaries who aid him in his approach and make for some intense gunfights. Essentially, from here, Rambo transforms into an exhilarating, yet terrifying, bloodbath.

A word of caution: Rambo is not for the squeamish. The first film in the series had a mere 0.72 kills per minute; the latest flaunts a staggering 2.59, so you can rest assured you’re in for a visceral slaughterfest.

For better or worse, the audience is continually caught between a juxtaposition of extremes " horror at the brutal massacre of Burmese villagers, but the pity and sentiment is replaced with an insatiable craving for more killing and explosions the moment Stallone dons a heavy machine gun.

If you enjoy character development and an engaging plotline, look elsewhere. Among the sheer horror and excitement lies Rambo’s own inner struggle to understand his violent nature as a mercenary. While Rambo is a complex and misread character, Stallone offers a half-hearted attempt to explore Rambo’s personality.

The dialogue is sparse, contrived, and at times nonsensical. However, Rambo was never concerned with an engaging plot and compelling storyline in the first place. Rambo is the kind of film that reinforces the reason people go to the movies " to be entertained. The audio component is fantastic, especially in theatres; it’s as if the mortar explosions and gunfire have come to life.

It’s easy to see that some people might find the overwhelming violence more nauseating than entertaining. Clearly, Stallone intended it this way. The eye-opening portrayal of life in the Burmese jungle is realistic in the sense that one realizes just how much better off it is living in a part of the world that isn’t engulfed in violence.

Although its premise isn’t original, and its violence makes Saving Private Ryan look like a walk in the park, Rambo is a powerful and entertaining film that’s well worth your time and money, which is more than can be said for most films these days.

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