Rambo (2008)

Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone - John Rambo
Julie Benz - Sarah
Matthew Marsden - School Boy
Graham McTavish - Lewis
Reynaldo Gallegos - Diaz
Paul Schulze - Michael Burnett
Tim Kang - Tint
Maung Maung Khin - Tint

Year - 2008

Score - 4 Howls Outta 4

In modern cinema, action films haven't really done much business. Guys like Vin Diesel, The Rock, and Jason Statham are good at what they do but don't seem to put a fire in the viewing public as the action stars of the past have done. Guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Sylvester Stallone turned 80s action flicks into visual spectacles. Massive gunfire, cool action sequences, and the fact that all three were charismatic and had a strong presence about them made them bankable stars. Bruce Willis is still having a thriving career, becoming one of Hollywood's most respectable actors. Ah-nold is now Governor of California. The most quiet one of the three has been Sylvester Stallone.

Pretty much his fault, actually. While films like CLIFFHANGER and COPLAND were great, others like JUDGE DREDD, THE SPECIALIST, OSCAR, and STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT! pretty much tanked his bankability. Stallone was barely a blip on the Hollywood radar until 2006 when he returned with the sixth installment of his iconic franchise, ROCKY BALBOA. It surprised a lot of people that an aging action star still have a lot of life in him and ended the story of Rocky in a much more fitting way than the horrible ROCKY V did. The film was a success and Stallone, knowing that his career is pretty much done, decided to give his other iconic character a fitting end as well. Thus, Stallone gives us RAMBO after 20 years of not having the character protrayed on the big screen.

The last time we saw John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), the tortured Vietnam war hero had pretty much single-handedly destroyed a bunch of Communist soldiers in Afghanistan, staying in the country to help the people there. While we don't know what happened for those 20 years, we do know that Rambo now lives in an area around Burma. He fishes and hunts down snakes for cash. He tries to remain in seclusion, but that ends when a group of Christian missionaries need Rambo to take them into Burma to help save lives. Apparently, Burma has been going through a Civil War for over 60 years - with people getting murdered and raped - men, women, and innocent children are being tortured. Rambo tries to warn these missionaries that nothing they do will change what's going on, but the sole female missionary Sarah (Julie Benz) is kind to Rambo - enough that he grants them their wish. However, the group ends up getting attacked by the evil soldiers who have put fear in Burma. The group's Reverend shows up days later and tells Rambo to take a group of mercenaries to the area to free the missionaries. Feeling the mercenaries are gonna need all the help he can get, Rambo decides to lace it up and do what he does back: kill some motherfuckers!

RAMBO is a thrilling action piece that's a mix of FIRST BLOOD and RAMBO III. It's obvious Stallone was not happy with how RAMBO III ended, because Rambo is pretty much a joke and cartoon in that film. He gets back to basics here, having Rambo brood long enough to realize he can't escape who he is and decides to accept the fact that he is a war machine. Rambo goes full circle here [something that RAMBO III tried but failed to do] and gives us Rambo fans a fitting conclusion to a great action hero and franchise.

Sylvester Stallone, who directed and co-wrote this film, knows exactly who John Rambo is. The storytelling is extremely well done, as we understand why he refuses to do certain things and why he realizes that running away from your past isn't gonna help you get rid of those demons. The dialogue was very good, the action set pieces are incredible, the pacing was actually good, and there's actually a bit of depth in this film that most action films don't have. The beginning with clips of the horrible things going on in Burma really set a gloomy tone to the film, giving us an indication that this was not gonna be RAMBO III all over again. And with the subject matter, it's treated with enough respect to give the action later on a reason to happen. People don't get blown up and shot just for the sake of looking cool [which is really does, by the way]. We get a sense of a real horrible situation that's occurring and Rambo and others are tired of the crap and fight back. It helps that Stallone knows his action films and what works and what doesn't [he's been on both sides to know]. Honestly, I was caught up in everything this film presented to me. Stallone has always been a fine director and I hope he continues to do that. Might be a good move on his part.

The action is really in-your-face. The finale especially, where you see blood, guts, limbs, and heads exploding at whim. Some people had problems with the slow parts of the film, but I actually enjoyed the slow pacing. It built up towards the action and made it feel more exciting than it probably was. And I'm sure CGI was used in some of the sequences but I couldn't really tell. I just kept saying "Oh!", "Holy Shit!", and "Damn!" during most of it. It was like watching a real war zone - no one was safe from death and destruction. This is the epitome of an R rated film and I'm happy for it. It's violent without it looking like a video game. Much appreciated.

Stallone is still great as John Rambo. Honestly, it's like he never stopped playing the character. This Rambo is more akin to the Rambo of FIRST BLOOD, who pretty much doesn't give a fuck until something inside of him clicks. He's haunted by nightmares of his past. He doesn't have a problem taking a life. And he just wants to be left alone. Yet, someone always brings him back. Even at 60-ish, Stallone is still very believable as an action star. You remember John Cena running like a pansy through the woods in THE MARINE? Well forget that crap. Watch Stallone do it...like a MAN. Stallone still has that charisma and aura about him. One of his facial expressions tells a thousand words. Really good performance.

The other actors did well also. None of them really stick out except for Julie Benz as a compassionate missionary who's probably traumatized forever due to all the violence she witnessed, Matthew Marsden as School Boy with his fine sniper shooting, and Graham McTavish as the fiery Brit who I wanted to knee in the balls whenever he spoke. But if you're looking for acting in a film like this, you probably shouldn't be watching this. But luckily it's very good and everyone has a role and works with it. Can't complain at all.

RAMBO is definitely worth 20 years of waiting to have a resolution to the character of John Rambo. It definitely lives up to the other three previous films and definitely gives Rambo a fitting end that us Rambo fans have been hoping for. Sure, it's your stereotypical action flick but what else do you expect? It's bloody, it's gory, it's well directed and acted, it's socially aware - plus it's a lot of fun to watch for the most part. I had a blast. The audience I was with had a blast. We definitely need more action films as good as this one was. RAMBO is a great last chapter to an icon. Thank you, Mr. Stallone. Thank you.

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