When we last left John Rambo, Sylvester Stallone's monosyllabic soldier of fortune was on the front lines of the Cold War, single-handedly leading Afghanistan's Mujahedeen rebels to victory over the invading Soviets in 1988's Rambo III.
The fourth chapter, creatively titled Rambo, finds the grizzled Vietnam vet living alone in a remote jungle village in Northern Thailand, doing his best to leave behind the violent life he once knew. The years have been surprisingly kind to Rambo; the rice-and-fish heavy Thai diet apparently suits him, as his muscles have swelled to absurd dimensions -- far larger than the ones that pummeled the entire Red Army 20 years prior. Nowadays, his pummeling is limited to the scrap metal he collects on his longboat -- a solitary existence, but a peaceful, trouble-free one.
But damned if trouble doesn't find him, arriving in the form of a group of Christian human rights workers. Hoping to provide aid to Burma's beleaguered Karen rebels, they appeal to Rambo to provide passage to the war-torn nation. He initially refuses -- cursing their naivety with a few angry grunts -- but grudgingly relents when one of the Christians, a comely blonde lass named Sarah, prevails upon his more charitable instincts. (Rambo may be invulnerable to bullets, but he's no match for the fairer sex.)
Surely enough, Sarah and the rest of the Christians are captured by Burmese soldiers almost as soon as they're dropped off, and Rambo is tasked with leading a group of mercenaries into the Burmese compound and extracting them.
And thus begins the bloodshed.
Rambo's story essentially consists of two acts: 1) setup; and 2) slaughter. And the slaughter is unprecedented in its intensity. Whereas Stallone's previous comeback vehicle, last year's Rocky Balboa, felt like a sincere attempt at making a film with real depth and feeling, Rambo is all about giving the fans what they want. And what they want, apparently, is to see their beloved hero kill as many people as possible, preferably in the most violent manner possible.
Indeed, the extremity of the violence functions almost as a parody of Saving Private Ryan's famously graphic battle sequences. Arrows pierce skulls, machetes separate stomachs from intestines, machine guns tear bodies to ribbons, sniper rifles decapitate their targets and mortar shells send bloody bits of flesh flying in all directions.
And then it's pretty much over. Once the battle ends, the plot's resolution essentially consists of Rambo surveying the wreckage, exchanging a long, forlorn glance with Sarah, and then walking away. (For all his troubles, Rambo doesn't even get the girl.)
It's difficult to assign a number to a movie as ridiculous as Rambo. Fans of the first three movies will likely love it, as will fans of irony, absurdity and unintentional comedy. Cinephiles looking for the next Citizen Kane will obviously be disappointed, if not nauseated. Me, I guess I'm a combination of all three. Hence:
Disagree? Let me know at tleupp@Reelz.com