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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

REVIEW - "Rambo" (2008)

Over a year ago “Rocky Balboa” arrived in theaters to finish off the series once and for all. Sylvester Stallone delivered the best Rocky since the original and finished the series in a proper manner. It was relevant, it had depth, and above all it had the heart of the original “Rocky.” No longer was it a typical boxing movie, but it made us believe, once again, that a single man can be one in a million. After “Rocky Balboa’s” success I suppose it was only natural that Stallone would flee back to other things that made him a star. But where’s the relevance in “Rambo?” What more can we get from this character born of the Vietnam War? Not much. Unlike Rocky, Rambo isn’t a character with an inspiring legacy that needed a strong close. He is tragic in the original movie, “First Blood,” and at peace in “Rambo: First Blood Part II.” An awful third movie was made, but that’s easy to forget. So the question I ask when I look at the poster for “Rambo” is, “Why?”

John Rambo now resides in Thailand. He makes a living by catching snakes and offering transportation on his boat. When missionaries ask to be transported to Burma he reluctantly agrees. Of course Burma is in the middle of one of the longest civil wars in history and violent Burmese soldiers cut the mission trip short. Rambo is then called in to action to rescue the survivors with a small group of mercenaries.

It’s not real thick on plot, but none of the Rambo films have been so that’s okay. What isn’t okay is the direction Stallone took this film. Does he want us to take this movie seriously or not? Is this a film to spark awareness or just a big action romp? As far as I’m concerned the film is overly violent. I do not wish to watch children being impaled by the ends of guns, innocent Burmese families being shot down and women being raped in what turns out to be a pretty flimsy action movie. This isn’t “Schindler’s List” or “Saving Private Ryan.” It’s a sequel to two-decade-old action franchise. Granted, the Rambo movies have always been criticized for their violence, but it seems those movies had more tact than “Rambo.” An action movie this typical shouldn’t pretend to be some great war tale.

Another thing the early Rambo movies had was motive. In the original film Rambo was disoriented by his Vietnam experience. In the second movie he found himself at peace through fighting. The new film is similar to the latter, but how many times do we have to watch Rambo come to face his destiny? He’s a great warrior. He’s meant to fight. We get it! But does the movie get it? With an ending that seems to contradict the miniscule point of this movie I have to wonder what Stallone was thinking. (Besides “More sequels!”)

On a more positive note Rambo is still as intriguing as ever. He’s quiet, reserved, cynical and still knows how to kick ass! The problem is none of the new characters were nearly as convincing. Whenever the mercenaries or missionaries were shown I found myself bored. The lack of development was bad enough, but these people are as dumb as it gets. The missionaries wander in to Burma with no weapons and don’t think twice about what could happen to them. Meanwhile, the mercenaries act exactly how you would expect them to act: Macho and mindless.

I did say I was going to go for positives didn’t I? Well the second half of the movie was a lot of fun. Once all of the grotesque killings of Burmese townspeople were exhausted, the soldiers got their turn. 50 caliber guns from every corner are used to blow apart Burmese troops! Rambo’s trademark bow and arrows are back in rare form! Throats are ripped out! Rambo even sets off a claymore mine near an un-detonated WWII bomb! The result is too funny for words. And don’t miss the end. Rambo behind a 50-caliber machine gun for 15 minutes is only boring in theory.

I can honestly say I enjoyed much of “Rambo,” but I can’t get past how inappropriate it can be. It would’ve been more enjoyable if Stallone ditched the soapbox and just went for a more traditional action flick; but even then this movie doesn’t warrant any reason to be made. Oh wait! Money! My bad. “Rambo” may be worth a look, but only one look.

** out of ****

(The Crimson White sucks.)

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