By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Tim Kang, and Reynaldo Gallegos.
Toto, this isn’t Afghanistan anymore. Nor Russia. Or Vietnam. Yep, Rambo, the 4th installment of the series that started in 1982, and ends (?) twenty six years later, is not your typical Rambo film. Gone are the ‘strap up your boots & weapons and get ready for action’ scenes. Now, we are in Burma, where soldiers make a game out of blowing up people in water with grenades. A far cry from the cartoonish ramming of a helicopter with a tank or blowing someone up with a fiery arrow. The question was, is this any better, or worse than the Rambo films before it? Or, was Stallone’s decision to make the violence so prominent it splatters the screen in realistic fashion too…real?
I would have to say that after Stallone had decided to make another Rambo, this was the only direction he could have taken it. The film is about John Rambo being hired by a church pastor to rescue missionaries who are being held captive by the Burmese military regime. In the year 2008, there was literally nowhere else for Stallone to go with the character. Of course, you could have made another cartoonish heroic effort. But, what would that accomplish? Especially given what the country and world have seen since the last one.
His supporting cast that comes along for the ride is fine, given what kind of film they were in. Benz, who I had only remembered from Buffy, and Stallone had seen in Dexter & decided she was best for the part, is good enough. She has never been that great of an actress. But, since Co had died in the second one, there had been no real female to stand by his side. It was a dynamic that always fascinated me, and while there was definitely no romantic chemistry here (didn’t need to be), it was fun seeing her go along and experience the violence of what Rambo was talking about in person herself. Also, seeing Rambo interact with his strike team midway through the movie was a hoot. The Scottish one especially gave me the giggles every time he spoke. It should also be noted that the music score here, done by Brian Tyler (taking over for Jerry Goldsmith, who died in 2004) was nothing short of excellent. Going off themes that Goldsmith had already established, Tyler took them and made them his, adding some great melody and themes of his own. Headbands off for a job well done by him!
The film is also very well directed by Stallone, who always handled cartoonish action and boxing scenes pretty well. But, he was never put to the test like this.The last twenty minutes of this film are, I have to say, brilliant. Nowhere near what Spielberg accomplished with Saving Private Ryan, Stallone gives it a Herculean effort, and the film in turn breaks the franchise’s record of kills, with 236 in total. I would say, if the very beginning of the film, which shows real news footage of the Burmese military in action, doesn’t turn you off, then stick around. While this film is not the type of Rambo film we grew up with, it is required viewing for any non-cartoonish action fan. Also, Stallone doesn’t divulge too much, but more of Rambo’s history is given out here that we didn’t know before(the first mention of his father). It also has a nice closure to it. Gritty, intense, violent. Not the Rambo we know. But, more than enough to keep me not necessarily entertained, yet very intent on getting through this fascinating look at real life war. Through the eyes..of someone who used to infiltrate Russian armies and play chicken with Russian helicopters on his own. Ahhhh, get a whiff of that napalm, will ya?
4 out of 5