Sunday, July 06, 2008

No More "Kind and Gentle" Rambo

There seems to be two trends in movies recently. One is making sequels to long dormant 1980's action movies, such as "Die Hard," "Indiana Jones," "Alien," and "Predator." The other trend is to scrub these films of profanity and gore so they can be marketed to the wider (and thereby more lucrative) PG-13 audience. Not so with the recent Rambo sequel. Rambo IV (actually just titled "Rambo") bucks the latter trend and is by far the bloodiest, most profane and violent of the Rambo series.

This installment finds ex-Green Beret John Rambo living peacefully in Thailand as a snake-wrangler (of all things) as well as operating a small riverboat. In neighboring Burma there is a genocidal civil war going on (true story) in which the Christian minority is being slaughtered by the Burmese army.

A group of Christian missionaries wants to get into Burma to help the oppressed Christians with bibles and medicine. They attempt to hire Rambo to sneak them into Burma on his boat, thereby helping them to "change the world" for the better. Rambo curtly refuses with, "F*ck the world." But Rambo's mind is changed by a good talking-to by one of the missionaries, an obligatory, Hollywood-issue, hot white woman that seems to find their way into even the remotest of third-world hellholes.

Rambo fights his way through river pirates (slaughtering them all to the man, of course) and drops the missionaries off in Burma. By the time he gets back to his hovel in Thailand the missionaries have been captured by the barbarous Burmese. Then he must smuggle a group of mercenaries, hired by the missionaries' pastor, into Burma to save them. Of course John Rambo can't just be a waterborne taxi-driver and soon finds himself involved in the rescue mission.

Most of the violence and gore comes not from Rambo himself but from the graphic scenes of genocide and ethnic cleansing by the Burmese army. This movie has more decapitations, disembowelment, dismemberment, and gang rape than you can shake a stick at.

But once Rambo gets his machine gun warmed up he spills his fair share of blood too. Trading in his old 7.62mm M60 for a vehicle-mounted .50 cal. MG, he really racks up the kills in the movie's climactic battle scenes. In the old Rambo movies the bad guys would usually just fall down amidst an eruption of dust when Rambo sprayed them with a machine gun. Using the more powerful .50 cal and plenty of computer special-effects allows writer/director Sly Stallone to repeatedly show the bad guys get blown in half, or their heads or limbs blown off by machine gun-fire.

I actually liked this film, despite the constant orgy of violence. It was a compellingly simple film and that was refreshing. You knew who the bad guys were, you knew Rambo was the reluctant hero, you knew the missionaries would get captured and you knew who would rescue them. This film doesn't stray from the basic Rambo movie formula, so it felt like a well-worn pair of sneakers. If you can stomach all the gore, it's worth renting.

Graphic from


Bawb said...

Yup. The movie was over the top with the graphic torture and rape and slaughter and feedin' the hogs. I felt it could have been a decent enough movie without so much carnage that it would make Sam Peckinpah cringe. How many times do you really need to see a human head explode under the impact of a .50-caliber BMG round?

The only refreshing thing about the whole movie was that (a) Hollywood admitted there are Christians and (b) they are getting persecuted around the globe. This is actually quite common in some places, especially those whose governments are sanctioned by the Religion of Peace, but it is not worthy of the Mainstream Media, who have more important stories, like celebrity marriages, to cover. Usually, the only Christians that appear in a modern movies are cookie-cutter stereo-typed bigots who "perscute" gays.

There was also a wee tiny smattering of history, as the rescue party stumbles across an unexploded Royal Air Force bomb in the jungle, a left-over from WWII. This no doubt caused many of the younger folks in the audience, products of publik skools, to sit up, take note, and ask, "What's World War Two?"

Ben said...

One thing missing from this flick was Richard Crenna as Colonel Trautman, Rambo's mentor and only friend in the world. Maybe he was too old or maybe they thought he lost his credibility when he lampooned his own character in "Hot Shots! Part Deux." They could have worked in an appearance pretty easy.

Anonymous said...

Maybe not so easy to work in Richard Crenna.

Ben said...

Poop! He can probably STILL out-act Stalone though.