While it’s not thoroughly engrossing or particularly original, Rambo, Sylvester Stallone’s throwback to eighties action movies, certainly succeeds as a purely adrenaline filled macho-man film about destruction and violence. Returning once again to the material that made him famous (last year he resurrected Rocky to surprisingly good reviews), Stallone brings back his one-man army, John Rambo, a man who only knows how to kill.
The new Rambo is twice as big, as he easily appears the size of two grown men on screen (not in height, but in muscle), likely due to Stallone’s debatable use of HGH (human growth hormone), of which he has been publically extolling the benefits. Even more controversial is the opposition the film has received from the government in Myanmar due to its depiction of the Burmese military junta.
The movie opens with a scene illustrating the cruelties and mass genocide suffered by the Burmese people from the ruling military regime. It then cuts to Rambo, played apathetically and solemnly by the “new“ Stallone, who seems to have found his calling catching snakes for entertainment in a local town in the former Burma. His life is introduced in stark contrast to what you would expect for a character with a legacy such as Rambo’s.
It isn’t long after the audience learns of Rambo’s seemingly uneventful life, before the catalyst for the movie’s action walks into Rambo’s small hut. A group of missionaries asks Rambo to bring them upriver, further into Burma where the genocide is in full swing. At first Rambo declines, but after a somewhat clichÃ© speech given by a woman in the group about how people change, Rambo reluctantly changes his mind. He subsequently brings them upriver, drops them off and returns back to his meager life.
Just as quickly as they had arrived, the missionaries find themselves being attacked by the Burmese military, and with no weapons to protect themselves, those that aren’t killed are captured and brought back to an outpost where they are held as prisoners. Rambo learns of the missionaries’ morose fate via their congregation’s priest, who enlists Rambo’s help, along with a troupe of mercenaries, to rescue the hopeless group of Americans.
Much of the internal conflict in the beginning of the film arises from the contrasting viewpoints held by Rambo and the missionaries, where his ideology insists that people don’t change, and theirs focuses on the innate goodness inside of everyone. This juxtaposition of opposing views, while providing a source of moral strife in a paper-thin plot, only serves as an attempt to display Rambo as a dynamic character. However, this misleading presentation can’t hide that he is anything but an emotionally layered man. Despite the fact that the missionaries learn the fault in their beliefs, the change means little to the viewer, as the plot device occurs just in time for Rambo and company to jump in, guns blazing and body parts flying.
It is in this aspect, that of violence and non-stop action, where the film succeeds. The raw brutality shown on screen harkens to that of the original Rambo movies, which weren’t plagued by CGI, but instead made use of props and more “lifelike“ visual effects. The body count for the movie is expectedly extremely high, and the coverage of the events by the camera doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Limbs fly and bullet holes puncture almost anyone and everyone on screen. Be prepared for the short running time (93 minutes), which allows for the film to capitalize on the action, creating very few dull moments in the movie.
For a semi-blockbuster action movie, Stallone proves his capabilities startlingly well, displaying his skills as writer, director and actor; and while it isn’t anything special, Rambo will appeal to fans of the original trilogy, and it does provide a satisfying conclusion to the saga. Of course, no one should expect anything but action and a weak plot from a movie such as Rambo, and it didn’t shy away from this truth in its advertisements and trailers. Although it accomplishes its minor goal of entertainment through violence and action, Rambo is not nearly worth the price of admission; instead, wait and rent it when it comes out on DVD.