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Coming off the success of 2006's ROCKY BALBOA, action star Sylvester Stallone revisits yet another of his iconic characters from the 1980s, John Rambo. Now living like a hermit and wrangling rattlesnakes in Thailand, Rambo is drawn back into the action by a group of do-gooder missionaries who want the taciturn, possibly psychotic, Vietnam vet to ferry them upriver into Burma. Though he initially proves reluctant--"Burma's a warzone"--Sarah, played by Julie Benz, convinces Rambo of their noble intentions. Doesn't he want to relieve suffering and stop ethnic cleansing? But when the group of idealists gets captured by the Burmese army, it's up to Rambo and a team of multinational mercenaries to save the day. What follows is an exhilarating, hypnotic explosion of violence as Rambo fights genocide with genocide, turning men into hamburger meat with high-powered machine guns, well-placed bombs, razor-sharp machetes, and, the most deadly weapon of all, his bare hands. Rather than trying to update the character, RAMBO succeeds largely by returning to the Reagan-era values that made its hero so great in the first place: his pathological obsession with laying waste to emphatically evil characters in increasingly grotesque ways. Indeed, the film's action sequences recall the opening of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, as bodies turn to reddish slush, entrails pour forth with abandon, and limbs are severed with bewildering frequency. Stallone (who also wrote and directed) perfectly embodies his role, a muscular, mumbling killing machine that recalls, in all the best of ways, Karloff's Frankenstein monster. While some may take issue with RAMBO's brutal onscreen violence, the film has an undeniably cathartic impact that has less to do with realistic storytelling, and more to do with the power of myth.
Was surprised that this latest Rambo flick is actually (in my opinion, anyway) the best of the series. Written by Art Monterastelli and Sylvester Stallone, and directed by Sylvester Stallone, the movie resurrects the John Rambo character as a loner trying (and failing) to forget his past in the jungles of Thailand. The plot revolves around Rambo reluctantly agreeing to help in an attempt to rescue religious missionaries taken captive in Burma (odd bit of inaccurate history here, as Burma has been officially known as Myanmar since 1989).
Stallone does not have a whole lot of dialogue in the movie, and what he does have, he pretty much mumbles through it all. Which, in an odd way, adds a little extra layer to the Rambo character. The guy is in his 60's, after all, and it makes sense that he's slowing down in some ways.
While the first half of the movie moves at a fairly slow pace, the second half is an explosion of ultra-violence that is probably the most intense portrayal of combat in film since Saving Private Ryan. Much better than the typical fare for the war movie fans out there, even if they're not fans of the Rambo series of films to begin with.
The production values, cinematography, stunts and special effects are much improved over the earlier series of films. Not to take away from the original First Blood film, which is a great story and a great action film, but this newest film has a more gritty, realistic feel to it that is owed in a large part to Stallone's direction and the fine camera work of cinematographer Glen MacPherson. This movie really shines in these respects on Blu-Ray Disc, by the way, which I strongly suggest over regular DVD - it's much more enjoyable.
In summary, obviously this is not an art-house film or something that gets attention at Cannes or Sundance - it is pure action movie and it follows the formula of all the films in the Rambo series, which is to say, the "Leave me alone/You've pushed me too far/Get even with all bad guys in the most violent way possible.." formula. But for escapist fun for those who enjoy action/combat or war films, one can certainly do a lot worse out there in that respect, and it's actually pretty neat that Sylvester Stallone, even at 60-something years old, can pull off this kind of muscle-bound action hero stuff (not to mention directing the movie as well) - he is in amazing shape for an old guy!
Continuing a third wave of his career, Stallone revisits another character that made him famous, and John Rambo is about as far from Rocky Balboa as one can get. While Balboa is a character that embodies hope and courage, Rambo is the grim embodiment of pessimism and hopelessness. Balboa celebrates the joy of life, while Rambo celebrates death. FIRST BLOOD never really lived up to the nihilistic astmosphere of David Morrell's book, but this 4th film in series more than surpasses anything Morrell put to paper. The bleakness begins with actual news footage of the genocide in Burma (not for the squimish - contains actual beheadings and other assorted acts of violence), where Rambo delivers and eventually must rescue a group of missionaries, and then ventures down dark avenues with badguys who are mass-murdering, war-mongering rapists and pedophiles. The amount of death and carnage is jaw-dropping, and it's hard to believe this is an R-rated movie. There were more dismemberments, beheadings, and obliterated bodyparts than in any 10 horror films I've seen recently. Under director Stallone's eye, in an attempt to keep events politically accurate, even children are repeatedly slaughtered. Even when parts 2 and 3 gave into Reagan-era eccessiveness regarding violence, it would still take all 3 previous films to equal the bloodbath of RAMBO. To his credit, Stallone fuses the story with themes of redemption that brings the character full circle after 25 years and adds even more emotional weight to this politically charaged blow-em-up. This old-school action movie, that surpasses its predecessors in shear action and violence, despite the slimest storyline of the series, is definitely not for the faint of heart, and especailly not for children.
Sly might be old but the man still got it. A lot people has seen Rocky Balboa and loved the movie, but wait until Stallone gathers all of his strength and places all of his energy into making John Rambo, the fourth Rambo film of the saga. It's definitely not an upgrade from any previous Rambo installment; it's just the next one. The dialog is very 'Stallone-esque' (lots of cheesy tag lines that sometimes hit and sometimes miss) but tolerable if you keep your expectations realistic being that it's a Stallone movie.
For Rambo lovers and non-Rambo lovers the story is simple enough. John Rambo tells the story of John leading a group of mercenaries up a river, and takes them deep into the jungles of Burma to rescue a religious group that have been taken captive after a village was burned to the ground, and the villagers were brutally murdered, one by one. I really enjoyed this flick During the movie he is referred to by his name John or as "boatman." Stallone wants to distance his character from "super soldier" from the man Rambo was in the last two movies. He is no longer a hotshot. So no wonder he is not breaking teeth when he gets insulted by the leader of the mercenaries. It does not matter anymore but once the Rambo comes out he fights so ferociously as if his soul was already burning in hell for those 20 years after we last saw him in Afghanistan. As if his desperation, anger, sadness, guilt altogether explode on the screen. It's not pretty, it's not enjoyable and there is no easy way talking about it.
The character development is pretty poor with the main character jumping into a trusting relationship w/ the female lead the instant he makes eye contact without any real explanation as to why. The chemistry between these two was virtually non-existent, but this was probably due to just poor writing more so than casting issues. This may have also been a product of the very fast pace of the film as it really jumps right into the action, but it wasn't a very long movie so they could have done it a little more justice by making it somewhat believable. I think they did a better job with this in First Blood. The team really put together a shocking and graphic representation of war with all of the 'bits and pieces.' I was smiling in amazement of how realistic everything looked and ashamed at the same time for grinning at something so violent.
Still, even with the flaws above it doesn't need a continuing sequel and I think Stallone knows that. Got to pay tribute to this man because he had portrayed one of the best Action Hero's and at the same time reminded us what an action movie is all about. John Rambo came full circle with himself as well as his character's realization for his fans. Any doubt that action movies are dead? Look no further, Stallone still got it. OHH RAAHHH!!!
Twenty years after the last film in the series, John Rambo (SYLVESTER STALLONE) has retreated to northern Thailand, where he's running a longboat on the Salween River. On the nearby Thai-Burma (Myanmar) border, the world's longest-running civil war, the Burmese-Karen conflict, rages into its 60th year. But Rambo, who lives a solitary, simple life in the mountains and jungles fishing and catching poisonous snakes to sell, has long given up fighting, even as medics, mercenaries, rebels and peace workers pass by on their way to the war-torn region.
That all changes when a group of human rights missionaries search out the "American river guide" John Rambo. When Sarah (JULIE BENZ) and Michael Bennett (PAUL SCHULZE) approach him, they explain that since last year's trek to the refugee camps, the Burmese military has laid landmines along the road, making it too dangerous for overland travel. They ask Rambo to guide them up the Salween and drop them off, so they can deliver medical supplies and food to the Karen tribe. After initially refusing to cross into Burma, Rambo takes them, dropping off Sarah, Michael and the aid workers...
Less than two weeks later, pastor Arthur Marsh (KEN HOWARD) finds Rambo and tells him the aid workers did not return and the embassies have not helped locate them. He tells Rambo he's mortgaged his home and raised money from his congregation to hire mercenaries to get the missionaries, who are being held captive by the Burmese army. Although the United States military trained him to be a lethal super soldier in Vietnam, decades later Rambo's reluctance for violence and conflict are palpable, his scars faded, yet visible. However, the lone warrior knows what he must do...
Sylvester Stallone writes, directs and stars as RAMBO, filmed on location in and around Chiang Mai, Thailand. Also starring are Julie Benz (Dexter), Paul Schulze (The Sopranos), Matthew Marsden (Resident Evil: Extinction, Black Hawk Down), Graham McTavish (HBO's Rome), Rey Gallegos (American Wedding), Tim Kang ("Third Watch"), Jake La Botz (Ghost World), Maung Maung Khin and Ken Howard. RAMBO is produced by Avi Lerner, Kevin King Templeton and John Thompson. Executive producers Randall Emmett, George Furla. Executive Producers Jon Feltheimer, Peter Block, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein. Executive Producers Andreas Thiesmeyer, Josef Lautenschlager. Executive Producers Danny Dimbort, Boaz Davidson, Trevor Short