(No longer in theaters)
Action/Adventure, Drama, Suspense/Thriller
Jan 25, 2008
For Rambo, the long-unawaited resurrection of the muscle-bound warrior (the film, like Rocky Balboa, is sans Roman numeral to signal its born-again purity), Sylvester Stallone scoured the globe for a politically uncontroversial murderous regime whose soldiers could be turned into flying hamburger (heavy on the ketchup) for viewers’ delectation. He found one in Burma, a land of sadistic jackals who mow down women (or use them as sex slaves), conscript boys (or use them as sex slaves), and wear mirrored sunglasses (standard equipment for genocidal sex-slavers). John Rambo resides now in Thailand, downriver from Burma but pointedly indifferent to its carnage. He has become an automaton, at one with the natural world but emotionally dead. When a godly group of medical do-gooders implores him to take them across the Burmese border, he disparages their labors. “Fuck the world,” he says, definitively. “Maybe you’ve lost your faith in people, but you still must care about something,” says the party’s blonde (Julie Benz), whose speeches and blondeness manage to penetrate Rambo’s hitherto impregnable defenses. He does not care about much, but he knows in his heart he’s a warrior, that war is inside him, that war is where he lives and what he does, and that what he does is what he is and does … and is.
What Stallone cares about is grosses, but that has become rather poignant. A two-trick pony whose increasingly hilarious self-inflation finally turned him into a camp icon (his impossible-to-please father thought his physique in the first Rocky looked puny—and did he show Dad), Stallone wants, after a decade and a half at the bottom of the Hollywood food chain, to go out on his own terms, head high, forearms bulging. If bringing back Rocky and Rambo opens him up to more ridicule from the likes of me, it’s also the kind of challenge at which he excels. Idiotic as Rocky Balboa was, the punches landed, and Rambo works on its own debased terms, too. The arrows hit their targets. The bullets connect. The knives find their viscera. The grenades produce showers of pinwheeling limbs. You’ve never seen gore like this in a mainstream movie—in any movie. CGI has made it possible for machine guns to open heads like pomegranates and split bodies in two where they stand.
The 61-year-old Stallone would deserve a measure of respect for pulling Rambo off, appalling as it is, but this Fangoria-worthy circus of horrors also features footage of actual Burmese atrocities. He wants to get real with it. He just endorsed John McCain, too, probably because McCain was a prisoner of war in Vietnam and Rambo rescued prisoners of war in Vietnam and it’s the least one warrior can do for another. Stallone, of course, sat out the Vietnam War, opting to hang with rich girls in Switzerland. For all his heroic posturing, that’s where he really lives and what he really does, and what he does is what he is.