With Rocky now resuscitated, Sly Stallone continues his franchise refreshment with a new instalment in the Rambo saga, ahead of 2009’s Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot 2. Maybe.
Much was made of the fact that Odeon refused to carry this, with the implication of some kind of moral victory for taste. But it was a decision taken on economics (the chain declined to meet the inflated rental asking price), rather than aesthetics. Putting that snobbish myth to bed, it must be said early doors Rambo is what it is. As a continuation of a very 80s phenomena, to suggest it’s not a clichéd, crudely plotted and acted affair would be misleading.
Now spending his days in Thailand, Rambo is approached by a group of missionaries keen to distribute aid in war-torn Burma. Reluctantly he smuggles them into the country, only for them to be taken hostage by the country’s military regime – an incredibly savage dictatorship bent on inflicting genocide on their own people. That said, their leader looks incredibly suave in his Aviator shades, in a bit of a Noriega kinda way, so I’m bit torn.
Our hero then heads with a team of mercenaries to rescue the missionaries and assist the Karen rebels in the civil war against the ruling military. The whole premise is set up with a real Janet and John purity - here hero, there bad guys, watch hero f*** up the bad guys - that’s hard to fault.
The Pixies had a famed structure for their songs, loud-quiet-loud, and that’s put to good use here. Moments of introspection (of which there are a few) are followed by almighty screaming visceral claret bonanzas. Which leads to a point about the pre-release publicity. Much was made about the body count, almost to a point of glee. But a lot of the onscreen deaths are caused by the genocidal tactics of the military towards the innocent; now as one of Stallone’s aims is to draw attention to the atrocities in Burma, such revelling seems a touch churlish and tasteless.
These fight scenes are visual gut shots: limbs explode, heads fly off and bodies frequently fly across the screen. In many ways they recall the highly stylised Babycart samurai films, made popular in the West as the video nasty Shogun Assassin; all that’s missing are the arterial geysers.
The extras confirm the intention to raise awareness of the situation in Burma, explaining how closely the film ties in with the reality. One of the Burmese actors, a former Karen rebel, risked his family being persecuted to appear in the hope of bringing their plight to our intention and curiously, getting caught selling Rambo there carries a life sentence. Maybe that’s all a bit Chris Martin, but it’s valid and it works – it effectively gets the point across.
That’s all fair enough, but it also shouldn’t mask the issue of whether it’s a good film or nor. Clearly, this ain’t Fellini, but if you buy this, you don’t want Fellini – you want loud bangs and big guns. Rambo has both in ample measure. There are some shocking performances, but that’s part of the charm.
It’s Julie Benz I feel sorry for. First the girlfriend of a serial killer with a junkie ex in Dexter, now a hostage kept in squalor who narrowly escapes rape and death in Rambo. That’s paying your dues, that is.
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Matthew Marsden
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Extras: Featurettes. Commentary from Stallone. Deleted scenes