Rambo (2008) Directed by Sylvester Stallone. With Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Paul Schulze, Tim Kang and Jake La Botz.
Not content with just taking the starring role, Sylvester Stallone takes the megaphone as director for this fourth outing of his battle-worn Vietnam veteran, John Rambo. In the twenty-years that have passed since we last saw JR, not all that much has changed. He’s still drifting, he’s still alone, and he’s still built like a tank.
The majority of the plot takes place in war-torn Burma. Straight away, Stallone knocks us off-balance by feeding us newsreel footage of actual atrocities taking place inside the troubled country. It’s a jarring sight, and sets a very real, earnest tone.
It’s pleasing to report that this is a much better film than the previous two outings, although I can’t go further into this review without mentioning the violence. From the iconic Rambo: First Blood Part II onwards, the bloodshed in the series took on a larger than life, almost adult cartoon quality. Fast forward to 2008, and the world is a very different place. It’s no exaggeration to say that the level of carnage in this film surpasses the previous three combined. One ferocious village raid must have hit its head on the censorship ceiling, as the horrors visited upon women and children are almost unbearable to bear witness to.
Aside from the genuinely shocking levels of violence meted out, Stallone does a convincing job of bringing the character back to the screen. The Rambo films were never overly wordy, and this is no exception. There’s something about Stallone as an actor, though. He’s continually derided and underestimated by critics, and I think there’s something within that, that makes me/us want to root for him. This latest offering might not garner the same critical glow that First Blood has enjoyed over the years, but Stallone is attempting to make a very different, modern film here. This is about Rambo finally embracing who he is.
The violence might stretch levels of tolerance for some, while the tone is devoid of humour and completely po-faced, but I enjoyed seeing Stallone going at it one last time. The truth is, I’m a bit of a sucker for a good comeback, and like 2006’s Rocky Balboa, this definitely qualifies as such. Just don’t ‘push him!‘ 3.5/5