Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rambo

Sylvester Stallone, perhaps because his advancing age is prompting him to be more reflective about the characters that made him a superstar, has tried in recent years to give a sense of spiritual closure to both Rocky Balboa and John Rambo. I think he did a much better job with the final film in the former franchise than the latter.

I will be the first to admit Rambo is a noble effort. Of all the sequels, it is the closest in tone to the far superior to any of them original. Rambo is now a grisly old man living isolated in te Thai jungle. He has lost touch with virtually every shred of his humanity when approached by missionaries with a request he take them upriver into war torn Burma on a humanitarian mission.

He refuses at first, but is convinced by Sarah, played by Julie Benz, to go along with it. When he is forced to kill a boatload of pirates in order to save Sarah, the other missionaries shun his further help. Sarah, however, appears to have reawakened something inside him with her sweet dedication to humanitarianism.

Predictably, the missionaries recaptured by the Burmese army as they massacre a village. The missionaries’ pastor visits Rambo and asks him to help guide mercenaries the church has hired to rescue the missionaries. Imagine passig the offering platearoud for that on Sunday morning. Just go with it. I did.

Rambo joins up with the mercenaries even though they are not thrilled with the idea of the old man tagging along. There is an effort made to differentiate Rambo’s new attitude with the guns lining mercenaries, but I think it comes too fast to be plausible. When they come across the massacred village, they all vow revege. Rambo drops back into old form ashe helps liberate the missionaries from a prion camp, then kills 268 Burmesesoldiers, including disemboweling the sadistic commander.

It isa brutally abrupt end to a very abrupt movie. It is niety minutes log, but feels far shorter. I feel that way because Rambo’s journey back to accepting his humanity is an ambitious undertaking that is completed far too quickly. Weare supposed to accept minimal contact with missionaries over a few days has had this profound impact on his psyche when it is established he only had one conversation with sarah the entire time. Wesay that conversation. It as not much. I guess rambo is acheap date.

But who a I to question anyone else’s spiritual epiphanies? In the end, Rambo is motivated to return home to Arizona tosee his elderly father. Taking the previous films into account, he presumably has not seen hisfather in nearly thirty years. It makes for a nice sense of closure.

Stallone wanted to make Rambo his Unforgiven. I do not think hit a mark that high, but he did do a good job. Rambo just does not have the juice to be as poignant as Stallone intended, But it is the best we can expect from him. That is all we can ask for.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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