January 30, 2008 > Movie Review
Rambo The Movie
By Sam Rao
The snarl is back, the mumble is definitely back and so is the chiseled body. The fourth sequel of the "classic" Rambo movie series was released on Friday across the US - this makes it 20 years after the last film in the series and 26 years (Oct 1982) after Movie I - "First Blood.' The movie is written, directed by Rambo himself - Sylvester Stallone - and is produced by Avi Lerner, Kevin King Templeton and John Thompson.
This time John Rambo (61 year old Sylvester Stallone) is based in North Thailand and he plies a longboat on the Salween River, living a simple life of a Thai local, who makes a living catching poisonous snakes.
But with the Burmese-Karin civil war nearby, the 'man-who-gave-up-fighting' ignores the aftermath of the 60 year war and leaves the medicos, rebels, peace workers and mercenaries alone. As they do him. (In the movie no one calls Myanmar by its official name- everyone calls it Burma.) One guess; how long before Rambo is sucked into the conflict? About 20 minutes into the 93 minute long movie.
The segue for Rambo into this war and violence is through a couple of human rights workers, who now need a "river guide"... and they happen to be looking for the American who can do just that in Thailand.
Sarah (Julie Benz , TV actress and of "Dexter" fame) and Michael Bennett (Paul Schulze of "The Sopranos") are the ones who make contact and ask Rambo to guide them up the river and help deliver food and medical supplies to the Karen tribals. Overland is not possible as Myanmar (Burmese) soldiers have laid landmines along the land route.
Guess what! Rambo initially refuses and then agrees after Sarah appeals to him, and drops them off and goes back to his life. Oh by the way, on his way to drop off the human rights workers Stallone kills a boatload of pirates who try to rape the female worker Sarah and kill her colleague. So begins the body count, if someone is counting, (it's about 20 minutes into the movie)
Soon a pastor, Arthur Marsh (Ken Howard) comes to search for them as the human rights workers had not returned. The US Embassy is also looking for them etc. and manages to get Rambo to go looking for them with rag tag mercenaries or should we say "contractors." Rambo obligingly picks up where he left off and goes about on his mission in trademark "Rambo-style."
It seems after purchasing the rights of Rambo from Miramax, Producer Avi Werner approached Stallone about a sequel. Stallone went about this new opportunity with gusto and even made sure that cast members were as "authentic" as possible, with several local Karin tribe people making it in the movie. A former rebel soldier in real life, plays the evil Major Tint (Maung Maung Khin), bringing his real life experience to the movie.
Director of Photography Glen MacPherson explores scenic North Thailand and the killing fields are reminiscent of the Vietnam-era movies, though the killing in this movie is a lot more graphic and bloody with exploding body parts galore and body parts strewn everywhere. Special effects- a requisite in every Rambo movie - is ever present and exploding huts, jungles and mess of people being gunned down etc abound.
Julie Benz as Sarah is OK and in midst of action most of the time while some actors like SF Bay area native actor Tim Kang who plays En-Joo and mercenary Lewis (Actor Graham McTavish) have marginally more speaking lines and make an impact. Other supporting characters are not really developed, as obviously the movie is centered around Rambo.
The movie is rated R with brief nudity, plenty of profanity and plenty more violence, blood and gore. If the smattering of applause at the end of the movie and the occasional odd giggle at heads exploding on impact of machine gun bullets, are any indication- American audience are by now well sensitized to all the blood and gore in Rambo movies. This movie will be ranked much below the "classic" Rambo original (1982) 'First Blood' and is more in line with the last one Rambo III.