The year 1988 was the last time we saw Rambo on the big screen. 20 years later Sylvester Stallone revisits one of the characters that sky rocketed him to fame, John Rambo. Rambo this time is going into Burma to rescue Christian aid workers who’ve been captured, tortured and killed by the brutal Burmese military. Aided by mercenaries, he takes on the Burmese in the only way he knows how, by becoming war and death itself.
Rambo may not be cinematic art, but Stallone makes Hell a fun thing to watch. A couple of years ago, when it was announced that Sylvester Stallone would be returning to the successful franchises of both Rocky & Rambo, people immediately rolled their eyes in disgust. After the success of Rocky Balboa, most viewers and critics had to eat their words, but at the same time, gave them hopes that a fourth Rambo film would actually please crowds the way Balboa did. Still, people, including myself, stayed cautious and skeptical at the thought of Rambo.
Going into this film, I can honestly say that I was pumped and excited to be there. I’m glad to say that now that I’m done watching Rambo, that feeling is still there, only now its intensified. The moment the opening credits and the amazing Rambo theme graced my ears, I was all smiles and as I’m writing this, I’m still smiling. In many ways its very difficult to actually write a in depth review, because the plot of this film is thin at best. This isn’t a rich story by any means, even though the civil war in Burma is a very real situation. That said, does a Rambo film need a rich story? The answer is a resounding no. This is Rambo, a brainless action film, yet not so brainless at the same time. There is two ways to explain that: Its brainless because its just glorious gory fun with some of the best action sequences I’ve see in long time. Its not brainless because the civil war in Burma is very real, very brutal, yet not many people know about it, or even heard of Burma. I admit, I didn’t either. Stallone educates us with real clips and news reels at the beginning of the film to set up the story.
As in all things, there is always the good and bad side of movies. The best thing about Rambo is the action. It can easily be described as intense and possibly realistic. I say ‘possibly’ because I have nothing to compare it to because I’m not solider and I’ve never seen war except in movies. Stallone for many months has said he wants to make this as realistic as possible, so I can only go on his word. That, and the fact that a 50 caliber machine gun has the capabilities of tearing a human body apart, so there is that. Rambo is extremely gory, but at the same time, its not over done like it is in some films. For example when an arm or leg gets blown off, there wasn’t an obscene squirt of blood spraying all over the place. I’m sure you know what kind of movies I’m referring too. What Rambo succeeds at is making me scarred as hell to die like that. Seriously, its horrifying. Something that is always key in movies is the music. The Jerry Goldsmith theme once again leads us in and out of Rambo. The score, composed by Brian Tyler, is a fantastic composition that honors both Goldsmiths original theme as well as Dan Hill’s song, “It’s a Long Road,” in which the theme is worked off of. I’ve always loved great musical scores ever since I was a little kid, and when used right in films it just makes the experience all that much better. Another thing I love about Rambo is the sentimental virtue. I’m such a sucker for using clips and voice over from past films, and just like Rocky, Stallone uses it again in a dream sequence that lasted somewhere around 30 to 45 seconds. Hearing Richard Crenna (Col. Trautman) telling Rambo who he is and seeing the action of the past Rambo films is simply amazing. That scene alone gets the viewer, or at least me, so pumped up for Rambo. That’s the point where you want to see Rambo kick ass, and that’s what he does. One of the things I was concerned over is the mercenaries and how they would fit in a Rambo movie. The thing is, whether they were there or not wouldn’t matter to the out come or the feel of the film. Still, I have to say that their involvement wasn’t distracting. Of course what makes Rambo so great is Rambo. Stallone once again steps into this role and continues the greatness of the character, the unsung hero, the warrior.
Its hard for me to point out what is bad in Rambo because, in my opinion, there isn’t much. I will say that it does take a little time to get into the big action and climax of Rambo. I’ve heard people complain that the beginning is boring. Well, it isn’t, but I do understand what they are thinking. Some of the set up did drag on just a little bit. The introduction of the mercenaries could have easily been shortened or just replaced with a little bit more action. Rambo movies are not known for their great dialog, and here that tradition carries. Some of the dialog in the beginning of the film is really weak. Especially the scenes with the interaction of Rambo and Sarah, played by Julie Benz. Sarah convinces Rambo to take them into Burma in the most unconvincing ways. You would expect some type of strong speech to convince Rambo to help them, but in the end it sounded like this, “…Help us, it’s the right thing to do,” Then Rambo would respond, “Ok…” The dialog really wasn’t like that, but when you see the unconvincing scene, that’s how it will make you feel. The bad dialog however is overpowered by the kick ass action, so dealing with that isn’t all that bad. The biggest weakness and most apparent weakness is the fact that there isn’t really plot. First Blood had a very rich story, where Rambo really doesn’t. Rambo is a simple story: Aid workers captured, Rambo rescues them. Also, if there is a moral to the story, it doesn’t show itself. I’m sure if I see it a few times and think about it real hard I could come up with something. If I had to say right now what the moral of the story is, I think it would have to be, Rambo “coming full circle,” as Trautman put in in Rambo III, and accepting who and what he is. Other then that, I can’t find anything.
The biggest concern for Rambo is making enough money to make the studio happy enough for a fifth film as there has been talk of another film. Rambo, as far as I know, is on a $50 million dollar budget. Even if they do decide to make this the last film, I do hope its successful in the box office, because it deserves it.
Overall, Rambo is just a kick ass film. If you can get through some of the bad dialog and a couple of dragged out scenes, you’ll thoroughly be entertain by this. If you’re a Rambo fan, you’ll love this movie. I really had a great time at the theater and I’m going to go see this again. I rate Rambo a solid, like Stallones arms, 8 out of 10.
For a full preview of Brian Tyler’s score, go HERE!!