I think it’s important we take a moment to have a look at the titles in the Rambo series in sequence: First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo III and Rambo. This really suggests that we’re not dealing with the most intelligent of movie franchises. (It could also drive one a little insane. Will we ever see Rambo II? Why is the first movie last, and yet the word First used twice?) It is similar to the Rocky films, insofar as the initial entry was actually a quality flick, and the follow-ups soon sank into mediocrity. And again, like Rocky Balboa, this newest sequel is definitely a cut above the worst films in the franchise, but doesn’t reach the heights of the original.

RamboIt’s probably just as well this film didn’t address the consequences of Rambo III. US involvement in Afganistan in the 80s had some repercussions that make the film a little embarrassing these days, though it is perhaps inadvertently apt, considering the disdain reserved for the government in the first two Rambo flicks.

Instead of tackling any tricky issues, we find John Rambo catching snakes in Thailand, effectively hiding out from the rest of the world. The simple plot involves Christian missionaries needing a boat to get them into war-torn Burma, and it’s pretty obvious that eventually John’s gonna have to come out of retirement and kill a bunch of people in the name of… well, violence.

And boy, does Rambo have it in spades. This has surely got to be the goriest action film ever made. There are a lot of dismemberments, decapitations, stabbings and shootings in this film, and if you’re after a friendly, fun action flick, this isn’t it. To be fair, the film retains its own inner logic, making no excuses for the violence. It is excessive, but there’s something to be said for depicting the consequences of hyper-violence, rather than keeping it ludicrously clean like The Matrix.

This is actually a pretty entertaining film, and a lot of this is thanks to the inclusion of a bunch of mercenaries (all with their own distinctive look, of course) who give us a break from just following round the taciturn titular character. Paul Schulze (of ’24’) and Julie Benz (of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Angel’) make up the two main missionaries, and theirs is a thankless task, mainly involving looking shocked as all the blood rains down.

Rambo is a solid enough action flick. The main concerns would be with a: the climactic scene – yes, it tops Rambo III in terms of body count, but all sense of geography is lost as everyone seems to be shooting in every direction; and b: the lack of relevance to the franchise’s meta-narrative. It may be expecting too much, but this film only pays lip service to John’s overall story.

Rating: 3 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 5th March 2008
Hoopla Factor: 3.5 stars

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