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Mike Barnard

Published February 22nd, 2008 | by Mike Barnard

Rambo (2008) Review

Classification: 18 Director: Sylvester Stallone Rating: 3/5

One man killing machine John Rambo has never been a screen star known for subtlety, nor has he ever been a great talker. The Vietnam veteran, shell-shocked by the horrors of war, is good at one thing: obliterating all enemies in his path. So when Sylvester Stallone decided it was time to resurrect the second of his iconic characters following the success of Rocky Balboa, there can be few complaints that he opts to make a brutal and excessively violent trip into the Burmese jungle to rescue a group of aid workers who unwittingly become hostages of the nation’s army. Loud, bloody and steeped in graphic portrayals of exploding bodies, this is Rambo back to his murderous best, minus the tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top moments that may well be bemoaned by fans.

After a quick history lesson telling us Burma has been locked in a state of civil war for 60 years and witnessing the atrocities through news reports, we catch up with John Rambo in Thailand. Now much older, he’s now quite happy catching snakes for local gamblers to use in their betting games and fishing with his trusty bow and arrow. Approached by a group of human rights missionaries led by Sarah (Benz) and Michael Bennett (Schulze), he reluctantly guides them up the river into Burma to a village. Leaving them there, they are quickly captured and taken back to a prison camp. Sure enough, it is Rambo who is asked to accompany a team of mercenaries to rescue them. Rambo Duly obliges and finds himself frustrated by the SAS-leader numbskull and a selection of other random 2-D characters. Rambo has certainly never needed such help before, he must be getting on a bit.

Even so, when the Rambo action does kick in, there are some typically gruesome moments such as his ripping of one man’s throat out, taking down five Burmese soldiers at long range in a matter of seconds with arrows and shooting an entire platoon to pieces with an massive gun mounted on the back of a jeep for about 10 minutes. The only thing missing is his old knack of producing a rocket launcher from thin air which is sadly lacking completely. He remains a menace to the bad guys, although he is no longer the one-man show he once was he has others giving him plenty of help. There isn’t the same levels of endless action as previously seen in these films, but it is as effective as ever for getting the pulses racing.

It would be nice to say Rambo is an intelligent study of the Burmese conflict with real political value and not be underestimated from a serious perspective. Of course, if you haven’t guessed already, there is little to support that notion. Stallone claims he is keen to show off the true view of war, so that is presumably why about 2.5 people die every minute in the most gory fashion possible and he has written a script with hilariously misplaced pondering comments such as “live for something, or die for nothing” and “when you’re pushed, killing is as easy as breathing”. Yes, Rambo is dumb entertainment as ever, there is just a more brooding style to remove the near cartoon posturing that undermined some of First Blood Part II and ruined Rambo III. If that is what you are expecting, Rambo won’t let you down. It would be harsh to criticise Stallone for simply handing Rambo a final hurrah and giving those who like him so much exactly what they have been waiting for so let’s not knock him too much. He has avoided the embarrassment many predicted and perhaps even surprised a few people. Well done Sly, though we’ll probably never be able to take you seriously.


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