In the latest token of 1980s nostalgia, Sylvester Stallone resurrects the “Rambo” franchise after a 20-year absence. Despite the immediate apprehension such an idea evokes, Stallone surprises by delivering a solidly gripping film.
Stallone, now 61 years old, is as stout as ever as the disgruntled Vietnam veteran John Rambo, who has withdrawn to northern Thailand to live a quiet life of wrangling snakes and river boating. As Stallone demonstrated a year ago with “Rocky Balboa,” he has no problem reemerging back into the familiar archetype, and it feels a natural evolution to the character.
Since this is a “Rambo” movie, it doesn’t take long before the protagonist is engulfed by a world of conflict. A group of naïve missionaries approach him to lead them into war-ravaged Burma (now called Myanmar by the current government). With much reluctance and doubt that they will be able to change anything, he agrees. Once he drops them off, they are inevitably captured by the cruel army, forcing Rambo to lead a rescue mission with a ragtag group of mercenaries in tow.
Last year’s batch of war movies were often tedious and heavy-handed. With its primary objective to deliver an adrenaline rush, “Rambo” is neither. The second half is particularly action-packed, and, as several media outlets have brought to light, it contains the series’ highest body count by a wide margin. However, the violence isn’t glamorized. Instead it serves as a stark reminder of events similar to these occurring in today’s world.
Nevertheless, whatever type of message it is trying to purport often gets lost amidst the wash of blood. While it tries to delve into reasons about why we fight and when, if ever, it is okay to adopt such extreme measures, in the end it simply comes across as supporting the age-old adage that violence only begets more violence.
For an exciting and intense thrill ride, “Rambo” fulfills its purpose. Combined with its rather open-ended conclusion, I even wouldn’t mind seeing the story continued at some future point. On the other hand, for those who like something deeper or more profound, there’s a little something called the Academy Awards. Go watch one of those nominees instead. This is, after all, Stallone we’re talking about.