Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

19 February 2008

Rambo, dir. Sylvester Stallone (2008)

NIKKI says:
"I didn't kill for my country. I killed for myself. And for that, I don't believe God can forgive me."

That Rocky Balboa worked so well, left me with few doubts Stallone would make something effective out of the John Rambo character 20 years on.

The new film is harsh and uncompromising. It's also filled with strong political views aimed at Christian missionaries, gung-ho mercenaries, devastated Myanmar, and, of course, the US government.

It works because it's so uncompromising, because it refuses to be an air-headed action movie. There's no room for popcorn here, and finally Rambo can be viewed as more than just a mulleted '80s action hero. It's clear how much respect Stallone has for the character and his predicament. He knows Rambo, or his version of Rambo, well, and it shows. Rambo is smart and dedicated and he tells it like it is, but Stallone lets him be damaged and bull-headed and not always right. The effects of his training have lasted in terms of his physical capabilities, but also his emotional stress.

Stallone lets all of this out in what is really a simple story. The missionaries wish to get food and medical help to the terrorized Burmese. Rambo warns them against entering such a hostile area, but they feel they know best. Rambo takes them where they wish to go, and the missionaries wind up killed or kidnapped. Now, Rambo must go in and find them. He guides the mercenaries in and becomes a part of their group, intent on saving the missionaries, not because he feels he has to but because Sarah, the wife of one of the missionaries, challenges him early on that he talks a big game, but what does he have to live for? And that while he might know the ravages of Burma enough to warn her away, she knows something about the good in the world, and that true good does exist -- you just can't see it hidden in the jungle beside a war-torn country.

So Rambo has something to prove, in the end. That he's not emotionally dead. And where he ends up at the end of the film is absolutely spot-on where he needed to go. It's a great ending.

If I had one gripe, it would be the lack of detail about the Burmese soldiers and the reasons behind their destruction.

After two new films, I'm wanting Stallone to keep writing. He clearly has something to say. He's a smart, competent writer, and a fearless filmmaker (stories on the set of Rambo with the elephants moving equipment and the bugs and the snakes are reminiscent of Werner Herzog or Coppola on Apocalypse Now). I want him to leave the old characters alone and come up with some new ones.


STEVE says:
Never been a huge Rambo fan. In fact, 80s Stallone turned me off completely - Over the Top, Cobra, Lock-Up - all that testosterone flying around, someone could get hurt. Not to mention what he did to Rocky, taking a street-tough-made-good and (quite literally) wrapping him in the American flag, turning him into a political icon instead of a symbol of the common man. The Rambo movies just seemed an extension of that philosophy. Where First Blood had a point to make, Rambo II and III were just more of the same flag-waving, might-is-right bullshit that came out of the Reagan era.

Last year's Rocky Balboa marked a comeback for Stallone, as an actor, writer, and director. It brought Rocky full-circle, making it a fitting end to the series. With Rambo, Stallone does the same for his haunted Viet Nam vet, bringing him back to the country that rejected him and - if not outright giving it to him - at least implying a sense of peace. It was really much better than I'd expected.

Although he could have left that red headband at home.


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