Top critical review
on December 12, 2008
At first glance, it would appear the sexagenarian Sylvester Stallone has gone senile. Dredging up hits from his youth to salvage a fading career seems sad, first with 2006's Rocky Balboa (the sixth in that franchise) and now with Rambo (the fourth). But Rambo is actually a good film.
In First Blood (1982), Rambo stood up for himself against a prejudiced town; in Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) he stood up for Americans still held captive in Vietnam; in Rambo III (1988) he stood up ' perhaps now regretfully ' for Afghanis overrun by Soviet forces. And in Rambo, he stands up for Christian missionaries kidnapped by sadistic Burmese soldiers.
In a decade devoid of action stars, Stallone proves he's still got it. He has aged well, but refrains from taking off his shirt this time around, perhaps to disguise his softening muscle tone. It's a shame today's primary target audience was born after his heyday, who may consider him an icon of their parents' era. But Stallone has had a fascinating career, from highs like his Oscar nomination for Rocky to lows such as Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Yet, to continue working as an actor, he's smart to resurrect a role in which he was typecast and can never escape.
And it's nice to revisit this character two decades later. The tragic and complex Rambo, who never found happiness in the world, is now working as a boatman in Thailand. But after spending twenty years living in peace, it seems unlikely he would suddenly volunteer his services as a killer ' his motive is not apparent. On the other hand, perhaps it's a part of him he can no longer repress. After all, the first film was an indictment of the American military system, which trained young men to kill in Vietnam and then tossed the survivors aside. As Rambo says, 'When you're pushed, killing's as easy as breathing.' His exploits allow viewers suffering from frustration to vicariously live out their subconscious need for mayhem.
And there is plenty of it. While no moviegoer would buy a ticket to Rambo and expect a deeply cathartic story sans gore, the movie offers exactly what the franchise is known for: a high-body count, excessive blood, and incredible sound.
Directed and written by Stallone himself, Rambo succeeds where most films of late do not ' its stunts are believable, and he thankfully does not resort to flying people during the fight sequences. Although the film is populated with the aforementioned missionaries, a gaggle of mercenaries (who come off as bumbling cartoons next to the lethal Rambo), and the villainous Burmese, none of the performances stand out -- Stallone was also smart enough to cast capable actors who wouldn't overshadow him. Fans of the series will miss the late Richard Crenna, who played Rambo's mentor Colonel Trautman in the first three films, though Crenna does appear in one of Rambo's dreams.
It's impossible and impractical to compare this movie to Disney's action-adventures or summer blockbusters, but Rambo delivers pure 80's nostalgia'Hell hath no fury than a Rambo scorned. Rating: 7 out of 10.