Fourth time not exactly a charm
Sylvester Stallone wants us to take his movies seriously. It’s been 20 years since the third installment of his “Rambo” series, and the 61-year-old director and star eschews a predictable political angle and sets the film amid a background of the Burmese genocide.
You may recall John Rambo, the Vietnam vet who in “First Blood” (arguably the best of the Rambo series) waged a personal war against a small town police force. Since then he’s fought off Vietnamese captors and Soviet armies. Rambo follows the same formula which has a plot that is less significant to fans of the series than the body count and the means by which the one man army kills his assailants.
Availing himself of improved pyrotechnics, Stallone uses an impressive array of techniques to display the slaughter, maiming, disemboweling, and decapitation of innocent Karen ethnic minorities, the American missionaries who are in need of rescue, and the Burmese genocidal military regime that must be stopped. Graphic and grisly, some scenes make “Saving Private Ryan” seem like a walk on a French beach. A sequence depicting Rambo outrunning the nuclear-like blast of a Claymore mine will certainly be used as a home theater reference scene for its sub-woofer rattling qualities.
The lack of irony or humor — except for the occasional unintended chuckles provoked by certain platitudinal one-liners — here separates the violence from Tarantino films or graphic novel adaptations that often use their bloodfests to parody or to bemuse. This begs the question as to whether the savagery in “Rambo” is more justifiable when, quite frankly, its base objectives really aren’t that dissimilar from a “serious”war film like “Ryan.”
Those to whom this film is aimed aren’t likely to question the point of “Rambo” any more than those who enjoyed and saw the purpose of other bloody action films. But make no mistake, Stallone has raised the bar (or lowered it, depending on your viewpoint) to a level of carnage (and profanity) that assures this “Rambo” isn’t even your father’s “Rambo.”
Rated R for violence, gore, rape, and profanity.