Retro Review: Rambo (2008)

It had been twenty years since Stallone had tightened his bright red headband.

But after the success of 2006’s “Rocky Balboa”, it really was a forgone conclusion that Stallone would want to bring redemption to his other landmark career character.

“Rocky Balboa” made us all forget the tripe that was “Rocky V” and the ridiculous alley brawl. So why couldn’t a new Rambo film help us forget the “over the top” (pun intended) craziness of “Rambo 3”.

Stallone brought “Rambo 3” to Afghanistan not as a commentary on the Cold War but he wanted to showcase the valiant struggle of the Afghani people during the Russian occupation. Stallone took the same approach when he made “Rambo” in showing the genocide ripping apart Burma.

The story begins when a group of missionaries hire Rambo, who now works as a river boat captain, to take them into Burma so they can offer aid to the people. Rambo connects with one of missionaries played by Julie Benz (Dexter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer). She seems something in Rambo which he hasn’t felt in a very long time, friendship. When the missionaries village is attacked Rambo joins a motley crew of mercenaries on a rescue mission. And in typical Rambo style all hell breaks loose.

This latest incarnation of Rambo is more blood-thirsty, dirty, nasty and crazy then the other films. Blood and carnage is like poetry to Stallone, who also directed. Exploding body parts, guns mowing down people, the sickness of humanity and the carnage really shows the impact of war but when is enough is enough. The gore in this film compared to the rest of the series is like saying the difference between John Carpenter’s Halloween and Rob Zombie’s. There is a very disturbing escalation especially since Rambo never killed anyone in the first film.

But the images of war and the savagery of humanity is what this film is about. But if you peel back the layers of blood there isn’t much to really get into with this film. The more human scenes that bookend the film are what there is to treasure here. One of the deleted scenes even shows a different side to Rambo’s internal struggle. I think as he had gotten older and had been in seclusion for so long he would have become more human. But really he hadn’t. It almost should have been a “history of violence” kind of story. Twenty years is a long time, he could have found peace until once more his world is shattered by war and thus he has to become the monster once again.

I liked seeing Stallone return to the character and that audiences wanted to see more but I think the return could have been even more special.

There is a key scene in “Rambo 3” where Trautman compares Rambo’s training to that of a mighty sculptor. He asks Rambo when is he going to come full circle. This one scene would echo what Stallone is conceiving with Rambo 5. He wanted to bring Rambo back to the States. But after Richard Crenna’s passing in 2003, how can Rambo come home when the only person to welcome him would be his old friend. The latest Rambo ends with what seems like a flash forward in time with Rambo coming down a long road and stopping at a mailbox that says Rambo. In the film, Rambo told Julie Benz’s character that his father may or may not be alive but really I think this was conceived as a replacement for Crenna.

There have been talk of Rambo facing an alien like Predator in a sequel it was going to be called The Savage Hunt. Then the premise of Savage Hunt was changed to military experiments and children raised to kill. Then there was an idea of bringing Rambo to Africa. The best and brightest rumor is that Rambo V will be titled “Rambo: The Last Stand” which will bring the series back to North America and be an intense thriller in the spirit of “”First Blood”. Let’s hope this is the movie they finally make after Stallone wraps up “Expendables 2” because this would wrap-up the series and play perfectly to Crenna’s speech from Rambo 3.

(3 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer

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