Saturday 19 October 2019

Movie Review: Rambo (2008)

A rudimentary action flick, Rambo recycles and reuses tired elements from the glory days of overblown 1980s one-against-all combat movies.

Burma is in turmoil as the brutal regime terrorizes the population and unleashes fury and death on the Karen Christian minority. In Thailand, former special forces operative John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) lives a quiet life as a snake catcher and boat operator. A Colorado-based faith group led by Michael Burnett(Paul Schulze) and Sarah Miller (Julie Benz) request Rambo's help to travel upriver into Burma to deliver medical supplies and assistance to peaceful villagers. He reluctantly agrees.

After violently fending off pirates Rambo drops off the aid group, and having witnessed his brutal tendencies they dispense with his services. But Michael, Sarah and the rest of the aid workers are captured by the Burmese army and held hostage. Their church assembles a team of mercenaries including caustic ex-SAS operative Lewis (Graham McTavish) and sharpshooter School Boy (Matthew Marsden), and Rambo joins them on a dangerous mission to find and rescue the hostages.

A full 20 years after the previous instalment, Sylvester Stallone brings back the Rambo character for another go-around in the Asian jungles. With Stallone directing and co-writing, this is a quickie effort clocking in at under 90 minutes, and notable mostly for excessive blood and gore, even for this genre. The battle scenes seem to revel in imagery of bodies being mangled and blown apart at every opportunity, and the slaughterhouse aesthetic overpowers anything else Stallone may have had in mind.

Which is not much. The story is a standard fare rescue operation overly familiar from the days when Chuck Norris used to churn out low budget, micro intelligence derivatives. Here Stallone gets fully trapped in the White Saviour trope, all the prominent doctors, aid workers and mercenaries uniformly white and all the locals essentially indistinguishable Asians. The unnamed chief villain spits out venom in his untranslated local language and may as well carry the "monster" stamp on his forehead given the complete lack of context.

Rambo's brooding presence offers the only spark of interest. With Stallone now a weathered 62 years old, his economical stares and grunts serve the character well, the hollow blankness behind his eyes the result of stoic disillusionment and a prescribed destiny of never fitting in unless actively engaged in the business of killing.

Beyond the main character are interchangeable fields of massacre saturated with the blood of faceless victims and countless enemy soldiers, Rambo unable to overcome the agony of his most resilient enemy: the useless sequel.

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