Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rambo 1- 4

I know I’ve written about at least one Rambo movie on this blog before. But since my wife recently gave me the Rambo quadrilogy on DVD and since the filmmakers so shamelessly based the title character on myself, I thought I’d write about all four movies in the series.

First Blood (1982)

In this original, ex-Green Beret John Rambo (played by the ever-versatile Sylvester Stallone), is a drifter looking for one of his old Vietnam buddies in the Pacific Northwest. After finding out that his friend is dead, Rambo is arrested for vagrancy and is mistreated by the local sheriff. Rambo goes nuts and escapes, injuring a few deputies in the process. This sets off a massive manhunt in the mountains, where Rambo’s cunning and training keep him alive. His Vietnam commander Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna) arrives to try to talk him down.

This is one of the better Rambo films and is more realistic than the next two sequels. If I have one complaint, it is that the film relies on the tired 1980’s Hollywood cliché that everyone who served in Vietnam was an emotional burnout who can’t function in peaceful society. Rambo eludes to this when he complains to Trautman that he can’t even hold down a job parking cars.

Most of the Vietnam vets I’ve ever met were well-adjusted family men. In their book Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of its Heroes and its History, authors B.G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley show that Vietnam vets were actually statistically more successful than the rest of the baby-boom generation at large. But I guess John Rambo running his own construction company or something wouldn’t be so exciting.

Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

In this cartoonish sequel, Col. Trautman finds Rambo toiling away in a federal prison work camp. Trautman has arranged an early release and pardon for Rambo, if he’s willing to do a snoop-and-poop mission in Vietnam to look for American POWs. It soon becomes apparent that Trautman’s superiors actually want Rambo to fail and NOT find any POWs, in order to save the U.S. government from embarrassment. Instead of just taking pictures, Rambo rescues the Americans and brings them home.

The whole movie feels like an extended episode of the A-Team. When I was 12 years old it seemed awesome, but it seems hokey now. The film also contains another one of my pet peeves from 1980s war films: A big red star painted on the side of American Huey helicopter does not a Russian Mi-8 Hip helicopter make.

Rambo III (1988)
In this equally cartoonish installment, Col. Trautman is captured by the occupying Soviets when he’s smuggling Stinger missiles to the Afghani “freedom-fighters” (now called “terrorists”). Rambo must leave his tranquil life in Thailand to rescue his old friend.

One distraction in this one is Rambo’s feathered, shoulder-length coif that makes it look like Rambo should be performing with Queen or some other big-haired 80’s rock band rather than capping commies in Afghanistan.

Another distraction was the excessive subtitles in the “Ultimate Edition” DVD I have. When Rambo infiltrates a Soviet firebase there are Rusky soldiers running around, barking menacing-sounding Russian phrases. Since Russian is about as pretty as Klingon, this sounds intimidating to the western ear. But since the makers of the DVD subtitled EVERY little Russian phrase uttered in the film, you quickly realize the commie soldiers are saying nonsensical, random Russian phrases that don’t necessarily have anything to do with what’s going on. For instance, a Russian officer, while directing his men to search an area for Rambo, orders one of his soldiers to “go to hell like Rasputin.” Don’t subtitle that!

The climactic battle scene features something that Bawb, an old cavalryman, says turns his stomach. Rambo commandeers a commie tank and is somehow able to drive it as well as load, aim and shoot the main gun, all from one station. There’s a reason why tanks have crews.

Rambo (2007)

In this latest chapter Rambo is again living the quiet life in Thailand as a riverboat pilot. Things get complicated when he agrees to smuggle a group of Christian missionaries into war-torn Burma. Since I wrote about this installment at length HERE, I won’t go into great detail now. I will say that I believe this gritty and gory installment is the best one since the first movie.

For fans who can’t get enough, a fifth episode is said to be in the works, to be released in 2011. I guess my DVD four-pack will become obsolete then, damn it!


Bawb said...

We just re-watched all the Rocky movies front to back, and they were at least fun and entertaining. I forgot that in the first one better than half the movie was Rocky bumbling around the streets of Philly showing how dumb & down-and-out he was. It was shocking these days to see movies that were both pro-American and pro-Christian.

Re-watching all the Rambos is next on our list. It's hard for me to tell whether Rambo II or Rambo III is the more assinine & stupid movie. I suppose III, for the shooting down of helicopters with a bow & arrow (The A-Team AND the Dukes of Hazzard?), the afore-mentioned tank-crewing problems, and the game of chicken between a Hind and a T-72.

Then again, #2 is incredibly far-fetched and ridiculous in that an M-60 machine gun actually works and works well. Thank God we finally replaced the Pig with some good Belgian 1958 technology.

Ben said...

And why did the Vietnamese have that M-60 rather than a Russian MG anyway? Rambo did NOT bring it with him, he grabbed it from the bad guys.