Director: Sylvester Stallone (Rocky 2-6, Staying Alive)
Writer: Sylvester Stallone
Producers: John Thompson, Avi Lerner, Kevin King, Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 93 min.
read my spoiler disclaimer

reviewed by Andrew James
      What to expect from a Rambo movie: cheese, explosions, preposterousness and a big guy with a red bandana and gigantic machine gun. In other words, generally a characature from the original character in First Blood. A film that truly had something to say and was a well-made, "un-cheesy" action picture of the 80s. So does the newest chapter in the franchise, simply entitled "Rambo," capitalize on the slightly higher caliber story-telling of the first film, or is it more ridiculous explosions and guys flying though the air (ala "A-Team" style) of Rambos 2 and 3? Well, neither really. This is an excuse to see the internal organs of about 500 people in about 500 different ways.

      John Rambo, trying to leave all of his courageous but brutal past behind him, now lives in a quiet village in Thailand, capturing snakes and fishing for the locals. He is now a man of peace and tranquility; until one day a church missionary group shows up asking for his help in getting passage into burma, where they believe they can help aide the victims and refugees of a mass genocide that is occurring there. Depsite Rambo's pleadings, they convince him to help. He leads them to their destination and then he heads for home. Weeks later, he's informed that the missionaries have gone missing and having taken a liking to the young girl leading the expedition, he decides to head into Burma with some mercenaries and rescue the captured missionaries.

      Taking the reigns himself on this one, Stallone does do a decent job with the directing of the story. Unfortunately he also penned the screenplay which is, to give it a considerate term, "lacking" in just about every aspect a screenplay could have going for it. Rambo himself has about ten lines of dialogue and most of those are about three word sentences. Still, like I said, it does look nice and the action sequences are well choreographed and have a fun style.

      Nobody goes into a Rambo film looking for dialogue and poignancy though, do they? So the action is what we're looking for. And it's there... oh boy is it there! Although I could make a serious case that there is a difference between "action" and "people being shot and killed." The action in this movie is exactly that: a series of brutal moments that would have Private Ryan stupefied.

      The film starts with stock footage of the aftermath of genocide. Decapitated heads, burned corpses, gun downs and mutilations. This is all before the opening credit sequence. From there, we see prisoners being forced to walk through a mine field while the evil soldiers make bets on who will survive. If you want to see someone explode from death by a mine, Stallone has you covered.

      It doesn't stop here though, Hotel Rwanda has nothing on these Burmese soldiers who ravage a small farming village. Shooting babies, raping women, throwing children into fires, mowing down entire families, bashing the skulls of people, tying up fathers and sawing off their limbs and igniting the entire village so that nothing is left but fly covered corpses and a few "trophies of death" placed throughout the camp. This is seriously about as sick as it gets and I am SHOCKED this movie is only rated R. NC-17 is MORE THAN called for with this movie. And by the way, that's only about the first half of the film. The only redeeming quality is knowing that eventually John Rambo is going to show up and take vengeance on these people.

      So then Rambo shows up and it's more killing time: heads exploding, more limbs removed, explosions of the highest caliber and disembowlments. The only good thing about this is that at least the bad guys are dying now instead of innocent people. There are some unique kills that were sort of interesting, but the rest of the movie is so vulgar that it hardly compensates for the ineptitude of any cinematic story telling.

      But hey, props to the visual effects department for putting together sicere war realism in all of it's harsh brutality. This isn't the cheese of the previous Rambo pictures; people die here and die realisitically. None of the action seems faked or half-hearted. Rambo is still indestructible, but at least when the bad guys die in this picture, they don't just go flying off screen; we see their intestines fall out... literally.

      The acting would be laughable if it wasn't so grating. Even Stallone, who I praised pretty highly for his latest turn in Rocky Balboa, is less than mediocre here and despite the over indulgence of killing thourhgout the picture, part of me almost wanted to see one of the other main characters in the missionary group disembowled just so he would shut up. Fortunately (or unfortunately) there isn't a whole lot of "acting" that takes place in the second half of the film anyway. It is Rambo on a 20mm machine gun mowing down legions of troops with a pulse pounding, nauseating score echoing throughout the theater.

      So then the ending, that could've maybe... maybe redeemed some of the inaneness of the rest of the film by giving us a poignant ending or at least some sort of message, completely disappoints.

      I don't know where else to go with this. If you want loads of killing, you're going to get it here. I admit to the sick side of me getting some satisfaction at points and it did manage to dish out one of the best explosions I've ever seen in a movie. There are some unique kills and there are a few moments of vengeful retribution that might get a few audience members to cheer. But all in all this is one big excuse for director Stallone to see how many people he can kill in how many different ways and how brutally he can do it while still managing to keep people in the seats. I'm no prude. I dig a bloody action picture as much as the next guy, but c'mon, give us something for Rambo's final(?) farewell.

Click "play" to see the trailer:

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