A year ago, Sylvester Stallone resurrected his famous role in Rocky Balboa, revisiting the life of a has-been fighter. With Rambo he’s opted to do the same, only without a clear reason, except maybe nostalgia and dollar signs. Twenty years later here’s John Rambo again and… you guessed it, he kills a lot of people. So many people, actually, that the movie becomes a showcase of morbidly creative ways to mutilate a body.
The first half of Rambo is not a good movie. The second half, well, it isn’t good either, but if you’re going to watch pure action and ultra violence then there’s enough brutality to satisfy even the hardcores. The dialogue and characters are horrendous, but hopefully anyone seeing this movie knows what they’re getting into. Lots and lots of blood.
The story has a retro, throw-back feel to it, though to which year is never really explained. A group of Christian aid workers find Rambo living a peaceful life in Thailand, wrangling cobras and fishing with a crossbow. They plead with the refusing head-bander to accompany them up the river, into the genocidal war zone formerly known as Burma.
The leader of the missionary group, Michael (Paul Schulze), tells him he’ll be helping change lives, to which Rambo in his infinite wisdom asks, “Are you bringing any weapons?” Michael says, “Of course not.” Then Rambo grunts, “Then you’re not changing anything.” Yeah maaaaaan. You tell ‘em Rambo. But the lone female missionary, Sarah Miller (Julie Benz), appeals to his sense of duty through a speech filled with more mentions of “change.” It sounds like the political campaign speeches going on right now, if they were shouted to a mumbling man in the rain.
After Rambo successfully transports the group to their destination (complete with a random pirate boat massacre), a man comes to see him ten days later, telling him no one has heard from the church group. Rambo agrees to go in search of them with a team of mercenaries.
Then the real carnage begins.
The stage had already been set with brutal scenes of armies toying with innocent villagers in scattered mine fields and horrid acts to women and children. But Rambo and friends step it up a notch.
At first he’s just a “boatman,” transporting the hired hands into the heart of the jungle. However, it isn’t long before he’s laying waste to faceless enemies with everything from his trusty crossbow to a nearby rock. There isn’t a clear villain really, just a slew of soldiers who don’t know what’s about to hit them. Or sneak up and knife them. Or blow them up. Or unload a mounted turret gun on them. Get the point? It’s like someone made Sly angry and he mumbled to himself, “You want violence? I’ll show you violence.”
Watching Rambo make his way through the terrain to kill more Burmese terrorists, I’m reminded of Guns N’ Roses lyrics. “Know where you are? You’re in the jungle, baby. You’re gonna diiiiiiie.” I had to find ways like this to amuse myself, because it was a solid half hour of blood shed, body counts, and explosions.
Remember that message of change at the beginning? The hopeful intentions for peace and kind-hearted assistance? Of course you don’t. There was about two minutes of it before the violence kicked in and just about everyone died.