by Tony Medley
It’s been 20 years since we
last saw John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone, who also directed and co-wrote
the script with Art Monterastelli), and he hasn’t changed much. He still
doesn’t say much, but he’s as deadly as ever.
Rambo is a taste that’s
savored by a group of fans who are nothing if not loyal. At my
screening, which was in a local theater because Lionsgate and The
Weinstein Company weren’t too enthusiastic about critics seeing it
before release, the first time Rambo appeared on the screen there was
applause like when the star first appears in a Broadway play.
These people are there
because they trust that Rambo will give them what they expect. And they
weren’t disappointed. There are still lots of bad guys, and they are
very, very bad and easy to hate, and he kills them efficiently and
graphically. Because of the advance in special effects, now we see them
being blown to bits, cut in half, and lots of other bloody ways to die.
As the movie opens, John is
living alone as a guide in northern Thailand catching poisonous snakes
to sell to make money on the side. But a team of roving missionaries
shows up and asks him to guide them into Burma where the world’s longest
civil war rages between the brutal government and the Karen rebels. One
of the missionaries is the beautiful Sarah (Julie Benz) and her husband, the idealistic Michael
Bennett (Paul Schulze). John likes Sarah.
So, naturally John is
talked into it; naturally the missionaries get captured by the brutal
military; naturally, Rambo has to save them. He is given immeasurable
help by Bryan Tyler’s up tempo music that keeps the action going
throughout what is basically a rescue-chase film (first the rescue; then
In addition to the music,
director Stallone keeps the action moving, without worrying too much
about dialogue. Grunts are generally enough. Until the last few minutes,
there are no lingering shots of characters contemplating the meaning of
life or the meaning of anything. Nobody has time because the music keeps
reminding them that there are people to save and bad guys to run away
from and then kill.
There are terrible things
going on in the repressive Burma (now called Myanmar) where a despotic
military dictatorship oppresses the gentle Burmese. For an exceptionally
good movie about what’s going on there, see “Beyond Rangoon” (1995).
“Rambo” is like a cartoon compared with that movie, which got little
play in the Clintonian ‘90s. The oppression of the Burmese was and is at
least as brutal than what was going on in Kosovo, but the Clintons were
extremely selective in the people they felt they should defend. With no
threat to America, instead of the genocide going on in Rwanda or the
atrocities in Burma/Myanmar, Clinton decided to commit American troops
to Caucasian Kosovo and ignore the Africans and the Asians. Even though
“Rambo” has the depth of a single sheet of paper, at least Stallone
brings some attention to the horror being faced today by the brave
This isn’t Shakespeare, but I don’t think this audience would have
applauded Sir Laurence Olivier had he been the first guy to appear on
the screen in tights like they did John Rambo with his muscles still
bulging (even though he’s 61 years old). Stallone knows his audience. He
gave them a well-timed movie (1:33) with lots of action. I knew what I
was in for and I liked it. And I wasn’t alone. My guest was a young lady
who rated it higher than I did.
January 26, 2008