PLOT: A group of missionaries make their way to bring medicine, food and religion to the locals of a war torn Burma. They find a man living in Thailand who has a boat that might be able to take them to their destination. The man is, of course, John Rambo. At first, he is reluctant, but eventually he takes them. Soon after, the group disappears and it is up to Rambo and a bunch of mercenaries for hire to bring them back.
Rambo! If you don’t know who that is you might just be too young. And if you are thinking, ‘hey, that dude started making those flicks twenty-five years ago… (insert your own age joke here)’. Well, after witnessing RAMBO… twice, I have this to say, Stallone is still one to be reckoned with. The latest batch of silver screen heroes have nothing on him. He is older, wiser and could take all the Tom Cruise’s or Matt Damon’s without breaking a sweat. He proves once again why he is a legend. And aside from taking on the character of John Rambo again, he also directed the latest adventure and has a screenwriting credit to boot. And much like he did for ROCKY BALBOA, he revitalizes the legend by adding a touch of humanity. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t see this guy picking flowers or going to a yoga class. We find our hero living alone, with the aid of a couple natives helping him fish and do other things for those in need in Thailand.
One of the most important factors of why Rambo works is simple. There is no flexing of muscles to show how tough he is, he doesn’t need to. He just is tough. And he also doesn’t need some convoluted plot that wastes too much screen time. What he needed was a group of missionaries trying to offer prayers, food and medicine to victims of some nasty Burmese killers. When this group offers Mr. Rambo money for him to take them to the war-infested Burma, he says no. It takes the strength of a young woman named Sarah (Julie Benz) who tries to reason with him. Once reluctantly convinced, he takes them up to where they want to go. They find a little trouble on the way, yet Rambo saves their asses before they even arrive to the ravaged lands they are traveling to. And after they do arrive, you know some bad mojo is gonna go down, which it does. It is then that a group of mercenaries, hired by the pastor of the church the missionaries belonged to, hitch a ride with John. Along the way, the leader of the crew named Lewis (Graham McTavish) treats Mr. Rambo with a sorry amount of lack of respect. He sees him as just a boatman, and tells him to stay at the boat while the big boys go on the rescue. Do you think Rambo will listen to that a-hole? Of course not.
I probably spent much too much time on that last paragraph because you know exactly what this is going to be about. It’s a Rambo movie. But gone are the phony heroics and the over-the-top superman power that he seemed to possess in the previous sequels. Not that they were a bad thing, but this new and improved version is much darker and violent. I was surprised to find the levels of the atrocities created for the film. We’re talking children being thrown into a burning building. A father holding his child and being shot as the bullet tears through the both of them. Stallone set out to show the levels of violence that are happening all over the world, so when you see this icon go on the attack, you are on his side one-hundred percent. But somehow, it manages to feel more realistic (well, as realistic as a Rambo movie could be) so there is a high cringe factor for a majority of the film. This is powerful stuff.
As a director, Stallone is unflinching and let’s the audience be a part of the war zone at a very close distance. Yet he offers up a few moments of sheer beauty by exploring the beautiful Chiang Mai, Thailand locations. He keeps the pace moving with this simple story of rescue. The bloody massacres that are on display are pure and almost too realistic at times. Suffice it to say, if you are easily bothered by it, you really shouldn’t be seeing this movie. Yet still, with all the horrors and brutality, there is a beating heart underneath it all. Stallone returned to some of the more human elements found in FIRST BLOOD and he delivers.
The cast is filled with very talented actors that give depth to their roles, including Julie Benz who along with Sly give the film some of it’s most, dare I say, touching moments, without the ridiculous clichéd romance. Also very good are Graham McTavish and Matthew Marsden as “Schoolboy”, one of the mercenaries. He has a wonderful bit where he claims that the missionaries are noble for going into hostile territory with nothing but food, bibles and medicine. While this new and improved Rambo offers up some bloody and intense violence, more so than it’s predecessors, it also shows growth and maturity. Don’t worry though, if you don’t want all the schmaltzy stuff, there is plenty of ass-kicking to make you happy. And if it’s any indication, a woman sitting next to me walked out in of the movie in disgust the first time the audience cheered while our man turned baddies into swiss cheese. To me, that usually indicates a good time had by most. So yeah, go see Rambo. I recommend it highly.
My rating 9/10 -- JimmyO