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Overall Rating
3.93

Awesome: 32.32%
Worth A Look43.43%
Just Average: 12.12%
Pretty Crappy: 9.09%
Sucks: 3.03%

7 reviews, 57 user ratings


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Rambo
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Fake Blood"
2 stars

Although I believe that I used this space in the past to confess my strange fondness from crypto-fascist, ultra-right-wing action entertainments from the 1980's ranging from John Milius’ delirious Cold War fantasy/nightmare “Red Dawn” to TV shows like “Hunter” and the little-remembered Robert Stack extravaganza “Strike Force” to virtually anything made in during that decade starring Charles Bronson, I must admit that my fascination with this particular subgenre never quite extended to the Rambo franchise that solidified Sylvester Stallone’s standing (now there’s a lot of alliteration altogether) as one of the most popular movie stars in the world. I greatly admired 1982's “First Blood,” a smart and highly efficient bit of filmmaking that offered viewers a halfway intelligent plot to go along with the brutal action and featured one of Stallone’s best and most nuanced performances. On the other hand, I thought that the hugely successful sequel, 1985's “Rambo: First Blood Part II” was a ridiculous cartoon in which the insane politics of the piece regarding our involvement in Vietnam (such as the notion that we would have won handily if it weren’t for those namby-pambys in Washington refusing to let our soldiers do their thing) were only partly redeemed by some thrilling, if highly improbable, action set-pieces (which came courtesy of then-unknown co-writer James Cameron). As for 1988's “Rambo III,” it was a bloated and fairly disastrous attempt to repeat the success of the previous film that is only of interest today because of the queasiness that one now experiences watching it because of its plot–which essentially boils down to Rambo traveling to Afghanistan to help rebels fight off their Soviet oppressors and helping form what would later become al Queda–and because it is was a key element in the incident that led to the only time to date that I have ever been thrown out of a movie theater. (Although I have neither the time nor the space to recount it right now, I will happily send an account to anyone who writes in requesting it–I promise you, however, that it probably isn’t really worth it.)

And yet, despite all of that, I have to admit to a certain glimmer of anticipation as I sat down to watch “Rambo,” the first character’s first big-screen adventure in 20 years–a time so long ago that Reagan was still in the White House when it hit theaters. For starters, there was that insanely violent extended trailer that made the rounds of the Internet a few months ago that promised jaw-dropping amounts of over-the-top carnage (including a bit that made it look as if Rambo actually punched a man’s head off with his bare hand) that made it look like a nutty grindhouse film from the 1970's and which stood in marked contrast to such blood-free spectacles as the PG-13 “Live Free or Die Hard.” More importantly, I wanted to see it in order to find out if Stallone could actually pull it off and make a decent “Rambo” film after all these years. Sure, the idea of the 61-year-old actor strapping on his guns and machete and running through the jungle once again may sound like something straight out of “UHF” but hey, people said the exact same thing about him stepping back into the ring in “Rocky Balboa” a couple of years ago and that turned out to be an enormously engaging and entertaining film. If he could make something as seemingly pointless as a sixth “Rocky” film into something worthwhile, perhaps he could pull off a similar miracle with “Rambo” and, dare I dream, eventually go on to make the “Cobra 2" that I have been dreaming about since 1987.

Alas, whatever sense of hope and anticipation I had for “Rambo” was pretty much eroded away by the ten-minute mark and was replaced by equal parts boredom and irritation. Instead of the lean and efficient cinematic machine that fans have been hoping for, the film instead turns out to be a flabby and shabby piece of hackwork. Granted, the film does come alive with a final half-hour of outrageously gory violence (which is where virtually all of the footage from that infamous trailer was cobbled together from) but it is unlikely than anyone other than the most devoted “Rambo” fanatic will have the patience to put up with the film’s crackpot plotting, monosyllabic mumbling and numbing sadism to make it that far in the first place.

As the film opens, Rambo has left his past behind and is now making a humble living in Thailand catching cobras and pythons for use in a local snake show. One day, a group of Christian missionaries led by Michael (Paul Schulze) and Sarah (Julie Benz) comes along to ask him to take them by boat up to war-torn Burma so that they can bring aid to the villagers that have been brutally oppressed by the military for over a half-century. Understandably, Rambo advises them that the region is too dangerous and that they should just go home but then, in a scene that I can only assume was left on the cutting-room floor because it contained more dialogue than flying arrows, he immediately changes his mind and takes them. After a boat trip that is hampered only by a pirate attack in which our hero single-handed kills a half-dozen Burmese savages, he drops his passengers off inside of Burma and heads back to Thailand, where he is haunted by flashbacks of the previous “Rambo” films.

Approximately five minutes later, the village that the missionaries are visiting is attacked by the forces of the menacing Major Tint (Maung Maung Khin), a sadistic sodomite that decimates the town and takes our peace-loving do-gooders prisioner and subjects them to any number of tortures. A few days later, Rambo is visited by the pastor of the missionaries’ church, who informs him that they have been taken and, naturally, the weasels in the State Department don’t want to do anything. Instead, the pastor has hired a group of mercenaries to rescue his colleagues and needs Rambo to take them back to where he dropped them off. Of course, we all know that Rambo is going to do more than just serve as a glorified tour guide and before too long, he is greasing Burmese soldiers via bow-and-arrow from football-field distances before staging an elaborate and gory assault/rescue operation that is aided immeasurably by the fact that his opponents seems incapable of hitting the broad side of a barn, a not-insignificant detail here as it appears at times that Rambo himself has swelled (in an all-natural way, no doubt) to the approximate size of the broad side of a barn.

After seeing “Rocky Balboa” and admiring the way that Sylvester Stallone figured out a way to take a series that had grown bloated and lazy and bring it full circle with a story that effectively took the past into account while returning it to its humble and low-key roots, I guess I was hoping that he would take a similar tack in bringing John Rambo back to the big screen. Maybe he could have offered up his feelings about a new generation of soldiers being sent off to fight in another war even more pointless and wasteful than the one that he participated in decades earlier and which effectively ground his life to a halt. Maybe he could have been struggling with the guilty knowledge of what his efforts in Afghanistan helped inspire a decade or so later. And yet, one of the most disappointing things about “Rambo” is the way that it sidesteps not only these issues but pretty much any real-world concerns. Yes, what is going on in Burma is genuinely horrible but as the film goes on, it quickly becomes apparent that Stallone has no real interest in the country or its people other than to allow its real-life atrocities serve as the springboard for his fictional ones–it even goes so far as to open with actual documentary footage of said atrocities, a move that is unseemly at first glance and then positively obscene when it becomes apparent that it has only been deployed to get a cheap rise out of audiences. Instead, all we get is unintentionally hilarious dialogue in which all of the characters speak lines that not only seem to have been torn straight from the tag lines of movie posters, they seem to have been selected exclusively from films that went direct-to-video. (It says a lot that the deathless bit of prose “Live for nothing or die for something” is not the most laughable line in the film.)

This aspect of the film is disappointing, though perhaps not that surprising–my guess is that few people going to see “Rambo” would want to sit still for examinations of collective war guilt or the horrors of Burma. What is surprising, however, is how poky and uninteresting it is for the vast majority of its brief (91 minutes, of which at least ten consist of end credits) running time. While the aesthetic of that initial trailer may have been 1970's grindhouse, the film turns out to resemble one of those cheapo “Rambo” knockoffs that Cannon Films churned out in the 1980's starring the likes of Chuck Norris (if you were lucky) or Michael Dudikoff (if you weren’t). Visually, the film is surprisingly cruddy-looking, the editing is ragged beyond belief and there are several points in which it feels as if entire scenes were removed at the last minute without anyone even trying to cover up the now-gaping holes in the narrative. The heroic characters are all paper-thin and the villains are even less so–if I am not mistaken, the chief bad guy is never referred to by name even once during the film. As I said, the film does perk up considerably with the mayhem that kicks in during the last half-hour or so–heads and limbs go flying in the air, intestines go plopping on the ground and even one of the missionaries finally mans up enough to beat someone to death with a rock to the skull–but even the cheerfully overblown nature of this segment is undone considerably by the use of painfully obvious CGI gore effects that only serve to highlight the unreality of the entire enterprise. (My favorite of these moments is the bit in which a single Claymore mine is detonated and demonstrates the kind of impact usually reserved for the kind of military hardware that you would find Slim Pickens straddling with glee.)

Silly, sadistic and containing the kind of lurid depravations not seen on a movie screen since the good old days of the “Black Emmaneulle” sags, “Rambo” veers between being a bloody bore and just plain bloody and unfortunately tips too much towards the former for it to work even as a mindless action spectacle. Maybe if it does well at the box-office (which it probably will, based on the reaction of the overwhelming young and overwhelmingly male audience I saw it with at a midnight screening), it will inspire Stallone to write and direct a proper wrap-up for a character that has served him long and well–one that will allow him to confront the real world instead of the sub-comic book surroundings of this disappointing effort. The character deserves it and those of us who have been waiting for a proper follow-up to what we saw in the original “First Blood” all those many years ago deserve it as well.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=16841&reviewer=389
originally posted: 01/25/08 05:25:29
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User Comments

9/21/17 morris campbell rambo movies are macho fantasy bullshit 1 stars
7/06/15 D. the R. Good action flick - don't read too much into it, but we'll miss ya, John! 4 stars
1/21/12 Kyle Excellent Gorefest 5 stars
3/21/11 Richard79 Sly empties his first round into peurile teen trash like Die Hard 4.0 5 stars
3/10/11 sunny day Beats out Rocky Balboa, because this isn't a stupid retread of its own first installment. 4 stars
8/15/10 bored mom Look on the bright side. He's finally honest about killing bad guys for himself here. 4 stars
8/14/10 R.W. Welch Standard rescue mission stuff for the most part, but well enough done. 3 stars
8/10/10 Chad Dillon Cooper A Hollywood cupcake for the masses. 1 stars
5/15/10 Tim The best of the Rambo films - thrilling yet relevant and philosophical, despite flaws. 4 stars
8/25/09 PAUL SHORTT MORE NAUSEATING THAN ENTERTAINING 2 stars
8/24/09 Jack Sommersby Nothing great, but it undeniably delivers the goods. Stallone, again, is superb. 3 stars
5/30/09 Stevo A Film to make you angry. In many ways. 4 stars
4/28/09 Dr.Lao Wooden, over the hill steroid addict says "pacifism is stupid!" 2 stars
3/08/09 alice sucks No woman gets raped in Rambo, you idiot! 5 stars
10/07/08 Shaun Wallner Intense Action!! 5 stars
7/30/08 Alice Terrible!Guess you have to be a male to enjoy watching women getting raped.CRAP! 1 stars
6/30/08 mike Limbs being blown off and other brutality non stop. Good stuff 4 stars
4/25/08 mr.mike Agree with Brandy - it was....OK 3 stars
4/09/08 Brandy Didn't really care for it that much. 3 stars
3/26/08 Tim Surprisingly good, it's also relevant. Holds together pretty well. A rousing film. 4 stars
3/22/08 shaun 0065 its great to see him back again too long out great 5 stars
3/16/08 Dinesh Typical Rambo Movie with unwanted blood stream , but worth watching it 4 stars
3/04/08 matthew Short as hell, 76 minutes + credits, but damn did it entertain 4 stars
3/03/08 vaj master this is the greatest cinematic epxperience evar 5 stars
3/02/08 ladavies This was the first Rambo movie I've seen, loved it. Will probably see another. 4 stars
3/02/08 ben dover wow fucking amazing violence 5 stars
3/01/08 Theresa Wagner great action movie, you gotta love stallone 4 stars
2/21/08 Anthony Feor Poinless sequel that Stallone somehow pulls off 3 stars
2/14/08 Kai Lunkeit Genius action movie featuring tons of stunning action set pieces!!! 5 stars
2/04/08 FILM REVIEWER EXCELLENT action film 5 stars
2/04/08 a guy Don't know what movies other critics saw, this was a thrill to see. 5 stars
2/02/08 DrCruel Absolutely brilliant. Sly is a genius. 5 stars
2/01/08 Michael S Milne Sly got w/SOF to decide to set it in Burma- surpasses all Rambo flicks but 1st Blood. 5 stars
2/01/08 eric Stallone does it again,awesome movie,nice ending just like Rocky Balboa. 5 stars
1/31/08 Dan I dare the reviewer of this film to try and re-invent the wheel. See if you can do better. 5 stars
1/31/08 Bob Dog Laura Kyle's Rambo review casts doubt on the entire eFilmCritic site 2 stars
1/31/08 Nitin Excellent comeback!! 5 stars
1/30/08 rob nothing special 3 stars
1/30/08 Lloyd I loved it! It was more than just an action movie. Rambo walks proudly into the sunset! 5 stars
1/29/08 Ming Typical Rambo movie, It delives all the actions and excitments. I love it 4 stars
1/29/08 Ray Truly Awsome! Truly! Stallone is my hero. He does what he does and I love it. 5 stars
1/28/08 Darkknight21c This is how action movies should be done. Look and learn Hollywood 5 stars
1/28/08 Schreck Wow! Absolutely one of the best, most awesome movies I have seen in a long time! 5 stars
1/28/08 Mitch Instead of just plain Rambo this should have been called "Rambo: Bloodshed and Brutality 4" 5 stars
1/28/08 Specialist4hire I haven't felt exhilirated in a movie for a long time. Rambo delivers!!! 5 stars
1/27/08 Michael Galazzo I was skeptical going in, but RAMBO delivers; its a 93 minute adrenaline rush!!! 5 stars
1/27/08 Jay I had little expectations that this film would do the previous films justice. I was wrong. 5 stars
1/27/08 Bnorm That shit was insane...50 cal at point blank will ruin anyone's day especailly those clowns 5 stars
1/27/08 Mick Yes, the bad guys in this are scum in real life(not sterotypes) 5 stars
1/27/08 Reptilia Ramob will WTFPWN you! 5 stars
1/27/08 Mike Absolutely the best Rambo movie ever! 5 stars
1/26/08 the hangman loved it,the best movie of the year so far,truly satisfying 5 stars
1/26/08 Brian Mckay Much to my surprise - BEST RAMBO EVER. More bloody and satisfying than the last 3 combined! 5 stars
1/26/08 Jeffrey Gardner This is going to end up being a great advertisement for supplemental testosterone 4 stars
1/26/08 Shawn An incredible action film. Goriest movie quite possibly ever. 5 stars
1/25/08 Roland Gagne Best action sequence I've ever seen in any movie. Unbelievable! 5 stars
1/25/08 action movie fan one of the greatest action movies ever! RAMBO RULES 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  25-Jan-2008 (R)
  DVD: 27-May-2008

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