There’s nothing more unifying to a crowd than having John Rambo cut wet swaths through people with a large machine gun. Political views. Religion. Ph Balance. None of these things matter just so long as people are being disassembled by sizzling loads sent forth from the muzzle of a turret operated by John Rambo.
Luckily Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo has very little else on its agenda aside from showcasing a pissed-off Vietnam veteran destroying his fellow men in messy and unsanitary ways. Though it follows the three-act structure, Rambo feels like a Reader’s Digest Condensed Movie, and when the film reaches its climax it’s at a time where most films would be just be gearing up for the last half hour of mayhem.
Stallone has always been a thrift in the editing room as evidenced by the Rocky films of the 80’s, and Rambo is so quick and so threadbare that you don’t have enough time to form an argument against it before something happens that just makes you shake your head and fall in line with the utterly gratuitous and plentiful human suffering.
People don’t die in their sleep in Rambo. They are shredded. They are hewn. They explode. They are perforated and they are incinerated. The amount of open casket funerals to be had in Burma following John Rambo’s vacation can be counted on one badly bandaged war stump, likely attached to the torso of a soldier whose last memory is of a veined Italian man shooting an arrow through his soccer teammate’s jaw.
If you take the grisly business out of this movie, Stallone’s swan song as his second most beloved character [third if you’re a Rhinestone fan], it pretty much comes across as a truly lunkheaded endeavor. A group of missionaries led by Father Phil from The Sopranos (Paul Schulze) and Julie Benz (having done enough to not just be considered Darla the vampire) persuades snake catcher John Rambo to guide them into the war zone of Burma. Reluctantly, he takes them and as soon as they’re doing their “good work” out of his care they are captured. Word gets to Rambo, who then has to escort a group of mercenaries to save them. Rambo steps in to save them all and the next day the world’s population is a lot less. It’s simple. A problem exists and John Rambo solves it with ultraviolence. Could be worse…
The villains are truly one-dimensional, killing and raping incessantly and so bored with the simple act of murder that they have to make little games out of it. The End Boss is fleshed out a little more; he wears sunglasses and likes the company of a young boy now and again. That’s it. I actually liked that about him. He doesn’t have much to say, doesn’t have a conversation with John Rambo. He’s just bad and foreign and eventually looking at his pieces on the ground around him wondering where it all went wrong.
The mercenaries start off as the most generic guys ever, seemingly guys who missed the gigs in Men of War or Deep Rising, but eventually become fun parts of the movie. They even help John Rambo turn little Burmese men into little Burmese puddles. It makes you wonder if this franchise has enough to sustain one more film, one where Rambo and a team of mercs are dropped into the Middle East and solve it with sniper fire and arrows to the cheek.
The missionaries are also quite archetypal and though the film makes Benz’s character out to have some special insight into Rambo’s tortured psyche I think it’s more a matter of how most guys would do what she asks them to do in Orange County, let alone the blonde-suppressed jungle mortuary known as Burma. She’s cute and she needs help. Done.
Plus, we all know that you can take the snake catcher out of the
murdering jeep with the chain gun but you can never take the murdering
jeep with the chain gun out of the snake catcher.
It’s a quick, stupefying movie but a fun one and a showcase for the latest in squib technology. You may not feel good about it, but Rambo is a quintessential Friday night movie anyone who survived the 80’s deserves to see.