Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fourth Rambo film

Last Friday night, JF & GB & I saw the fourth (and hopefully not last) installment of the one and only Rambo.

I got into Rambo pretty late in the game. My cousins used to be into Rambo when we were kids but my parents...well they weren't Puritans by any means but they sure as hell didn't want me seeing THAT when I was six years old.

Enter life after college. Once the 90's hit, 80's action flicks that I loved growing up like Commando felt like they had been made eons ago, so no one talked much about Rambo except to make fun of the franchise. After college my buddy KB and I decided to revisit our 80's roots. I bought all three Rambo films at a bargain on and loved every minute of each film. I definitely feel I put the movies in their proper context - Rocky Balboa's dark side, if you will.

After Rocky Balboa came out to mixed reviews, there was talk of a fourth Rambo film. "Whoa", I thought, "here's a chance for him to really kick some ass on film for the last (maybe last) time".

Turns out I was right. Stallone, thankfully, did not remove his shirt during this film. He played the role exactly as you'd expect him to play Rambo at about 60 years old - gruff, tired-looking, unhappy. He gets asked by missionaries from Colorado if he'll help them up the river into Burma, which is a warzone due to the Burmese/Karen rebel conflict.

A bit of background is necessary here: I had seen the first trailer of this film a few months back, maybe August or so. It ruled. It was a rated R trailer. Guts everywhere, people literally being blown to bits by a 50-cal tank-like gun. I'd been anticipating a movie like this for a long time, and it finally arrived in January 2008.

Anyway, the movie lived up to all my expectations. Many critics unfairly panned it as a hark back to the old days of senseless violence in movies. This sequel sure as hell wasn't necessary, I'll grant them that, but it was a hell of a lot better than Rocky Balboa, and it was definitely made well. It's only 93 minutes long, but it feels longer when you're sitting in the movie theatre waiting for the action to really begin. And about an hour in, there's Sly, holding an arrow to a mercenary's face; jumping off a Jeep in the middle of the night to try to rescue our hostage missionaries from Colorado; and finally, in an orgy of blood and gore, standing behind a .50-cal, blowing people to smithereens.

In terms of the action, it was spectacularly well done. Sly didn't make his character do the kinds of things he could do 20 years ago. Rambo had just enough stealth left in those old bones to sneak up behind a Burmese rapist (with Julie Benz on his mind, half-naked and right in front of him, Peter Griffin could sneak up behind a man), and another Burmese government lackey ready to wipe out all the mercenaries hired by the Colorado church away. He gets just enough action before settling comfortably behind that .50-cal gun, and the final kill is a knife to the guts of the Burmese lieutenant, essentially disembowling the man.

Who wouldn't love that? Pure bubble-gum action candy, made with a much more modern flavor to it, so as to ensure the franchise is updated and respectable for the theatres. Overall great job, and I'd love to see one last mission - Rambo 5. Or maybe even a Rambo 6. Stallone has shown he can pull it off. I can't wait for the director's cut DVD.

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