Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Christian missionaries trek through the Burmese jungle with medicine and supplies for refugees. They are taken hostage by sadistic local soldiers who enjoy killing children, raping women, and beheading the men of the local villages. John Rambo and a team of mercenaries set out to rescue the missionaries. Lots and lots of bad guys explode.

I don't recall a recent action film that was as gory as Sly Stallone's RAMBO (**1/2). The blood-lust that this film possesses in its heart was pretty astounding to witness. Stallone, efficiently directing from a script he co-wrote with Art Monterastelli (THE HUNTED, which was basically a riff on FIRST BLOOD), keeps a lean, mean, fighting attitude during the film's swift 80 minute run time. Characterization is kept to card-board stereotypes, the bad guys are disgustingly reprehensible and deserve everything that they get, and the film's statement about revenge and "give 'em what they deserve" is refreshingly 80's in its mindset. Who would argue that genocidal maniacs who throw children into pits of fire, lop off the arms and legs of the elderly, and rape and abuse women don't deserve to be extinguished from this planet? That's basically what Stallone is saying with RAMBO, and boy does he ever make his point graphically clear. The bad guys aren't just shot and killed in this film; they are utterly decimated. Gatling-guns are fired at the enemy from about a foot a way, leaving bloody, chunky piles of human viscera in the spot where a body once stood. Throats are torn out with bare hands, people disintegrate after stepping on land mines, and the tops of people's heads are ripped clear off their skulls by obscenely large bullets.

And you know what -- there was something eerily satisfying about all of it. Not that it's a great film, or even a very good one, for that matter. It's just ballsy and sort of deranged in its decision to be so upfront about its violence. Stallone has taken the real-life atrocities that have been occurring in Burma for years and has made a film that some might be tempted to call exploitive. I'd disagree. It would've been exploitive had Stallone shied away from showing the terrible things that this film portrays. He wants to remind people that there are shameful things happening all over the globe. And within the confines of the action movie genre, he's able to spin a story that anyone with a pulse will be able to identify with. Who wants scum like these barbaric soldiers living and breathing? Clearly not Stallone, so through the iconic character of John Rambo, he's able to dispatch some good old vigilante justice. The film is simple yet never stupid, focused and never incoherent, and stripped down to the bone when most action films feel the need to run on and on and on. It's well shot and well edited, with the final action scene really feeling like Michael Bay's ultimate wet dream. Sure, the writing is ham-fisted, the dialogue is clunky, and the acting is average. But if you want to see an R-rated action film of the likes that never get made any more, check it out.

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