MONKEY REVIEW: Rambo

June 6, 2008

For the fourth Rambo movie, Sylvester Stallone, who co-wrote and directed this entry, chose the civil war-torn locale of Burma (now Myanmar) as background for the action. Though Rambo could hardly be called a political protest movie, its portrayal of Burmese military junta sanctioned atrocities against its minority populations is certainly shocking and will probably be eye opening for some audiences unaware of the situation in that country. Stallone claims to have based some of the graphic violence in the movie, particularly in a scene depicting the massacre of a village, on media file footage as well as footage taken by Karen rebels in Burma, at whom a good portion of the violence has been directed. The massacre scene is as upsetting as anything I’ve seen in a movie in recent years, not least because the violence is extended to children and babies as well. The scene is reminiscent of the Sand Creek Massacre sequence in the 1970 movie Soldier Blue, though the technological advances made since then allow Rambo to show its violence in even more graphic and horrific detail. I’ve seen one reviewer claim Rambo is the most violent film he’s ever seen, and while I’m not sure I can say that, it’s certainly the most violent mainstream Hollywood action film I’ve ever seen. It’s rather like the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan stretched out to 80 minutes. (Rambo is listed as having a 91 minute running time, but it’s got nearly 11 minutes of end credits.) All that said, is Rambo a good movie? Well, yes, as an action film, it’s quite good, as Stallone has become very skilled at setting up and staging this sort of thing. The basic plot concerns Rambo being drawn into a rescue mission, led by mercenaries, to save American missionaries being held captive by a Burmese military faction. Save for Rambo, who comes across here as suitably cynical and disillusioned (and truer to the character in the novel that inspired this franchise, according to author David Morrell), all the other characters are painted in pretty broad strokes, however, including the villainous Burmese military, who here are basically updated versions of Nazis. But then I imagine one does not come to a Rambo movie expecting subtlety. So as an action film, Rambo is very effective. As political awareness raising tool, well, not so much, I don’t think, owing to its broad strokes and unsubtle approach, though I suppose if it inspires some of its audience to find out more about the situation in Burma, then it will have made a contribution, anyway. I would not recommend this movie to anyone but hardcore action fans, or fans of the previous Rambo movies, but if you fall into one of those camps, then you’re going to get your money and then some with this film.

P.S. By the way, this is Rambo: Penultimate Blood, as there’s another Rambo movie on the horizon, this time not set in a war zone, according to Stallone.

MONKEY RATING: TWO MONKEYS

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)

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One Response to “MONKEY REVIEW: Rambo”

  1. Henry Martel Says:

    The question is not whether “John Rambo” is a good action movie, is too violent, shows too much of the result of various projectiles impacting human bodies or even if it makes money for the movie company.
    This movie is informative. It shows the reality of the situation and level of horror the Karen people are facing for decades in Burma.
    This movie is not only for action movies’ fans. It is not an usual Hollywood fiction. It is all really happening. Whether you want to know what happens for 30 years and still right now in Burma and you have the guts to watch the images, then go to see this movie. You will be informed. After that, if you are not convinced, you still can try to go to Burma and meet the Karen armed resistants in their area for them to show you a few proofs. Just be aware that the Junta will not facilitate your endeavour. Before to get there, I advise you to set your things in order at home because if you succeed in getting there, you might well not come back.


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