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Rambo: Still Buff, Bandannaed & Bad-Ass
Empress Eve   |  @   |  

RamboYesterday saw the release of Sylvester Stallone‘s Rambo, and while it didn’t top the box office (the top slot went to the spoof comedy Meet The Spartans), it did come in second with a gross of $6.7 million, making it the best opening day for a Sylvester Stallone film.

Not bad considering 1) it’s a January opening (a month with notoriously poor box office returns); 2) it’s up against January record breaker Cloverfield as well as Oscar-nominated films; and 3) it’s violent as hell.

Is Rambo really violent? Yes. Too violent? Maybe. Too violent for me? Absolutely, and not because there’s blood and guts flying everywhere. It’s because the violence is based in reality — this violence is happening in the world right now — it’s not fake.

Rambo star Sylvester Stallone, who also directed and co-wrote the film, states that his purpose in setting this fourth installment in Burma (currently known as Myanmar) was to expose the mass atrocities of the lengthy civil war raging there. Well, consider me exposed. Unfortunately, I’m sure most of the people watching this film either thought it was just another bad-ass action flick or, rather, another over-the-top action flick.

And, at it’s heart, that’s what it is. When going to see a movie like this, you have to take it at that — simply, an ACTION flick. If you walk away with more from it, that’s great. Otherwise, don’t try to dissect it for its acting merits, don’t shred it for its seemly preposterous plot line, don’t knock it for all its graphic violence, and definitely don’t be shocked at the actions of its hero — there’s a reason he’s there: to save the day by any means possible!

Like I said in the beginning, it was a bit too violent for me — I don’t get off on seeing innocent people raped, tortured, and killed. It’s not my thing. But boy do I love it when a good-guy action hero opens up a can o’ whup ass on the baddies. (Hey, they had it coming.) It makes me wish there really was a one-man Rambo army out there to save the oppressed, tortured victims of the world.

Unfortunately, there isn’t, which is why the Rambo films, as violent as they are, are so appealing to U.S. audiences. But one thing that might not be clear is this: The Rambo movies are actually anti-war. John Rambo was bred by the U.S. military to be a killing machine, so in all of the films, we see his struggle with that. That’s because Rambo is really a good man who’s put into these violent situations where he has to either kill or be killed (or stand by as others are killed). This fourth installment in the First Blood franchise gives us that guy once more. Reviewers at sites like Ain’t It Cool, First Showing, and Film School Rejects — those guys “get it.” You don’t have to love the movie to understand what kind of movie it is and what it’s supposed to be. Too bad the mainstream press doesn’t seem to understand that.

At least the dude at the NY Times, while not giving it a glowing review, showed that he knew what kind of film he was reviewing:

Mr. Stallone is smart enough “” or maybe dumb enough, though I tend to think not “” to present the mythic dimensions of the character without apology or irony. His face looks like a misshapen chunk of granite, and his acting is only slightly more expressive, but the man gets the job done. Welcome back.

Why can’t more reviewers get a clue? Check out the following pull-quotes from reviews from mainstream publications:

The reviewer at The Detroit News is obviously someone who appreciates the John Rambo character, but perhaps doesn’t understand him well enough:

It’s an unfortunate ending for a once-great screen character who deserves to be known for more than the waste he laid to others.

WHAT ELSE is Rambo known for than the waste he laid to others, can you tell me? That’s his thing — KILLING!!! He’s a killing machine. He knows it, you should too. Just look at the Rambo Death Chart compiled by the LA Times (see chart here just below at right; click for larger view).

Rambo Death ChartMind you, in the first movie, he mainly disarmed and maimed his adversaries, but that’s because he had returned from the Vietnam War and was just drifting trying to find his way. He was still shell shocked. In Rambo: First Blood II, he once again has to use his Green Beret training for a government-sanctioned mission to search for POWs in Vietnam; in Rambo III, he’s back behind the machine gun to help the Afghan Mujahedeen freedom fighters battle the Soviets — and lots o’ people are killed. Therefore, if you have a problem with how part four portrays this character, then you obviously have had a problem with his depiction in every movie after First Blood. Rambo does not change the man we’ve come to know in the sequels, but rather puts in him retirement, then takes him out for another rescue mission.

But, at least that reviewer wants some good closure. This review from E! Online totally misses the point:

The problem is, even as mindless violence, the movie fails.

Oh my goodness, it’s NOT mindless violence!!! This piece was horrible, so I won’t give it another mention. Instead, take a look at what THR had to say:

In short, No. 4 is one big snore.

Really, a SNORE? So, you were sitting there, watching a movie that depicts innocent villagers getting blown to pieces, babies being crushed to death, women being raped, and a hundred or so people being mowed down by machine-gun fire, and you’re like … Zzzzzz …? I guess, who needs Ambien when they can just watch a little graphic violence before bedtime.

And here’s one from my hometown paper, NY Daily News:

This time, the fantasy is so over-the-top, the enemies so comically monstrous and their deaths so gory, that you may just throw your head back and roar with laughter.

ROAR with laughter? So, you were sitting there watching gory deaths and monstrous behavior — based on events really going on in that part of the world — and you are throwing your head back … HA HA HA!!!. Obviously, you find it easy to sleep at night, why don’t you and the snoozy guy from THR get a room?

Lastly from USA Today, I disagreed with everything this reviewer wrote, but what really annoyed me was this:

Now, decades later, he’s still in top shape, despite the obvious lack of gym equipment in the Thai jungles.

Umm… because the only way to stay in shape is the use of gym equipment? Sure, that’s how Rambo got so fit in the first place, right? While fighting in the jungles of ‘Nam, he frequently hit the treadmill. He’s been ultra muscular for decades and since muscle has memory, he’d have to work hard at losing that physique. Perhaps if he had spent the last twenty years as a sloth, loafing on the couch, chowing down on fast food, then he’d have lost that muscle mass. But he’s been in a Thai jungle, forging his own weapons, hunting his own food, and trapping wild snakes — not exactly the lap of luxury. Does a guy living like that really need exercise equipment? C’mon.

Now, how he went from his Rambo III bulk to his hulking Rambo status is another story (which, also, has nothing to do with hitting the gym, but rather with Stallone’s use of Human Growth Hormone). My point: Rambo don’t need no stinkin’ gym! He’s beyond roughing it.

RamboAnd speaking of roughing it, the one part I did laugh at was when the mission workers’ pastor comes one night to Rambo for help in the pouring rain and he just walks into Rambo’s open hut (or tent?). There’s no door!!! That I don’t get. Why build/erect a shelter that does not provide total shelter? I don’t know, maybe it’s my lack of knowledge of Thai jungle housing.

The other chuckle I got was in the same segment. Rambo agrees to lead a band of mercenaries to Burma to find the captured missionaries. Rambo asks the pastor when the group will be ready to go. “When you are,” the pastor replies. Next thing we see is Rambo forging a new blade. Out of curiosity, how long would something like that take? Judging by the fact that he’s doing all this in his rained-on hut with some simple blacksmithing tools, I doubt his new blade would be ready by morning. Or, did the mercenaries wait around for Rambo to finish? Because, those missionaries were being held for nearly two weeks, I don’t think they should have to wait for Rambo to make weapons to be rescued.

See, I didn’t take Rambo so seriously that I didn’t know when WHEN to laugh. That being said, the crowd I saw Rambo with laughed in all the right places, cheered for our hero when he did his usually saving, and clapped when the credits rolled, as they should have. I’m sure fans of the First Blood movies will thoroughly enjoy Rambo and while Stallone has said this is the final installment, hey, you never know. Rambo V could be another decade or two away and if Stallone ever does don the bandanna, wield the blade, and man the guns again, I’ll be there again on opening day to cheer him on.


  1. I loved this film. It was a lot o fun. Great review!!!

    Comment by Jerry — January 26, 2008 @ 10:34 pm

  2. oh man, really?

    Great stuff.

    Comment by sir jorge — January 27, 2008 @ 1:45 am

  3. I really, REALLY liked this movie. What a great time!

    Comment by The Rub — January 28, 2008 @ 12:19 am

  4. I’m glad this piece doesn’t go into Stallone’s age (like EVERY other review did.) I’m so sick of all of this ageism (first with Harrison Ford, now Stallone). These men can obviously can still handle filming the action, so why can’t they still be able to make a living as action heroes especially if audiences want to see them. Isn’t it obvious now that audiences DO want to see them? Screw the mainstream critics, they can’t be trusted. They hate everything. They just can’t relate, or they think they are superior or something like that, i don’t know. It just annoys me. I really like RAMBO 4, now I wanna do a Rambo movie marathon! (Should have done that first i guess, but oh well, still can).

    Comment by Copper Plated — January 28, 2008 @ 7:08 pm

  5. Hey, people love violence and death and gore. If it doesn’t effect me I don’t give a shit. Stop acting like your humanitarian insight into a Rambo movie makes you some kind of awesome person… because the thing is, it doesn’t.

    Comment by Me — January 28, 2008 @ 7:15 pm

  6. I love stallone personally, the funny thing is he used to be a porn star especially in the film Italian Stallion and his mother was an astrologer which makes it even more funnier, I found the biography of his life

    Comment by steve wang — January 28, 2008 @ 7:29 pm

  7. I saw the flick with three Karen(the ethnic people getting massacred in the film) refugees this week. One of them said as kids they used to muse that they needed Rambo to come help them. Bizarre to see it on film. As for the plot line jab…I have friends inside Burma right now doing all that the film portrayed. Dangerous work indeed. Good to see that a little light is getting shone on the issue via the big screen. Props to Stallone for doing the movie…oh and that bomb exploding in the jungle was freaking awesome!!!

    Comment by eric — January 28, 2008 @ 7:46 pm

  8. I went to see this movie and people clapped at least 4 times. Once in the beginning (!), 2 times in the middle, and of course at the end. When was the last time people clapped at the end of the movie or for that matter in the middle. Certainly not during Cloverfield.

    I do agree that it was extremely violent. This however is more of a reality to me than a slow-mo 300-esque bull. and the fact that other reviews see it as boring just shows how desensetized the populace has become to toher human beings. This movie made you root for the good guy, absolutely hate the bad guys, all at the same time exposing our ignorance to what happens in the rest of the world while we sit and watch, well, meet the spartans?!

    Comment by dmitriy — January 28, 2008 @ 7:48 pm

  9. People just don’t understand how gory real wars are. .50 calibre bullets will do exactly what they portrayed in this film. One of my friend’s fathers was a Huey pilot in nam, and he told me stories of people shredded in half, and arms severed from a single round. I applaud them for the realism.

    Comment by International Farmer — January 28, 2008 @ 7:51 pm

  10. i loved this film. it is one of the best american action films of this genre in a long long time. although as action films go we americans rely too much on the machine gun.

    for some reason the nostalgia of a Rambo film was something that i was really wanting.

    the male testosterone review aside now, there was an odd feeling to this film, because of how actual it was. the opening montage seemed to be real atrocities, real dead bodies. that was a bit of a shock, and an set up a weird combination of dumb action film with eye opener to whats going on now.

    Comment by eric — January 28, 2008 @ 7:55 pm

  11. I disagree with the statement that the movie was realistic. When Schoolboy snipes the soldier, the man goes flying backwards. This would require the sniper to also fly backwards, and is something that simply doesn,t happen. Also, the chances of a dud ww2 bomb exploding 60 years later due to a claymore are very low. Great movie though.

    Comment by matt — January 28, 2008 @ 8:39 pm


    Comment by THE BOATMAN — January 28, 2008 @ 9:26 pm

  13. You’re wrong about that, Matt. The rifle being used by Schoolboy is very recent technology and uses six muzzle-vents to counteract the recoil. It can be fired sitting or in prone at a relatively rapid rate.

    Do you know the manufacturer and model being used by schoolboy?

    I’m not sure about the tall boy being detonated by the claymore, though. lol that was pretty wild.

    Comment by International Farmer — January 28, 2008 @ 9:32 pm

  14. i definitely loved the movie. it was great. sure the first 3 rambo movies were released before my time but i still bought the trilogy as a collectors edition. when i first saw the trailer on tv i was shocked that they were making another one and supposedly this is stallone’s last movie. glad it was rambo. i loved it so much i’m going to go see it again with my friends this thursday.

    Comment by ari — January 28, 2008 @ 10:33 pm

  15. The scenes that we saw on this film is actually happening not only in Burma but also in other countries. How dare are those critics to call it as a FANTASY, even in todays modern world genocide exist.

    Good thing he killed the pedophile with his knife.. really hate that bastard :)

    Comment by joel m. reyes — January 28, 2008 @ 10:58 pm

  16. I agree that the soldier shot by schoolboy will not fly backward no matter what calibre of ammo was used. Mythbuster had busted that myth awhile back and they used huge rounds and even shot at a dummy with a metal plate on. Yet the dummy they shot at didn’t manage to fly back at all.

    Comment by kitsura — January 28, 2008 @ 11:03 pm

  17. If I was a good writer this would have been word for word the same post I would have composed about Rambo. Thank you so much for this perfect review of the movie.

    Comment by vanlandw — January 29, 2008 @ 12:13 am

  18. A lot of people missed the real point to the horrible things that are going on in Burma which clearly is pointed out in the movie. Actually the first scenes depict that quite well. I guess people are to dumb to figure that out on there own. Stallone clearly wanted to make Burma known to the public for the atrocities that are being inflicted on innocent human lives every day. Do some research on Burma and you will find more graphic and horrifying things that are being done in real life. Rambo wasn’t a joke nor was it meant for people to laugh at. This was meant to wake people up in hopes that something would be done to save innocent lives from rape, torture, slavery and death. I guess we as human beings have no compassion for the oppressed. I guess we should have let HITLER kill all the Jews.

    Comment by John — January 29, 2008 @ 3:48 am

  19. Rambo VS Conan ?? anyone?? anyone?

    Conan will get owned. Rambo is ruff and tuff.
    Conan is soft and flabby and will get man handled.

    Comment by jay from miami — January 29, 2008 @ 12:07 pm

  20. I saw Rambo at the first showing on the first day and I regret not one cent of the price I paid. While watching it occurred to me that if anything works against the movie, it’s the Burmese angle. Not because the story isn’t worth telling, not because the travesties committed by the government there are excusable in any way, but because it’s a bunch of brown people dying, and if there’s one thing America is good at, it’s ignoring the deaths of brown people.

    Make a movie with precisely the same content as Rambo, extreme violence and all, but make the villains Third Reich Germans and the victims white Europeans and there wouldn’t be a bank vault in the world big enough to hold all the money it would make. Americans can’t even bring themselves to care much about their own brown people: we have a museum devoted to the Shoah just yards off the Mall in Washington, DC, but the National Museum of the American Indian barely mentions genocide (and never actually calls it that), while the United States National Slavery Museum has been banished to Virginia where almost no one will visit. Good work.

    I don’t feel this is an example of endemic racism or some such nonsense because this apathy is shared by Americans of all hues. We only seem to get exercised by people we can almost think are us; people who live in huts don’t qualify. Clearly many reviewers, some of which you quote, must be outrageously callous to react the way they have to what occurs onscreen.

    Comment by Sam — January 29, 2008 @ 3:10 pm

  21. I live in a neighborhood with over 50 Karen (pronounced Kah-Rehn, not like the name Karen as depicted in the movie) refugees and saw this movie with three of them. They came to see the Burmese army get mowed down. They said afterwards that they used to talk as kids about how they wanted Rambo to go into Burma and stop the fighting.

    Awesome movie. And great article, Empress Eve.

    Comment by Mike — January 29, 2008 @ 10:33 pm

  22. Me and three friends went to see this movie and there were some really good “oh S***” Moments considering we have watched many Action movies it is hard to believe we all gave it a thumbs up. This is one bad mutha of a Action movie!!!

    Yes the killing of the innocent people was sad but the bad guys at least in the movie get what they really deserve

    Comment by albert — January 31, 2008 @ 12:28 pm

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