It has been almost twenty years since Sylvester Stallone last appeared as the iconic John Rambo. In the ensuing decades, his larger than life portrayal of the troubles Green Beret has faded some, but remained firmly a part of Americana, and to some, the old days of Ronald Regan’s Gunboat Diplomacy.
The world has changed since Rambo last helped Afghanistan rebels fight off their Russian invaders in the last film, as the world of today has Russia as an previously unlikely ally, and Afghanistan still a battleground, with terrorists replacing the Soviet invaders.
To some, the image of the swaggering Rambo solving his problems through overwhelming and deadly displays of violence is a reflection of times past. Today the image of the one man army seems to some as out of place as two cowboys having a showdown at noon.
In the new film, Rambo spends his days catching snakes for a snake show, and ferrying people up and down the river in his boat. Life in Thailand has been quiet for Rambo as his days of soldiering are over, which is good as far as he is concerned as he has become very bitter with life, as he fails to see how any of his actions, or those of his comrades have made any significant change in the world.
When a group of missionaries arrive and wish to hire Rambo to ferry them into nearby Burma, Rambo is not interested as he mentions that unless the missionaries are bringing weapons into the longstanding warzone, then they will not be making a difference.
Rambo eventually relents and drops the group off in Burma, and returns to Thailand to contemplate his life, and what the comely missionary Sarah (Julie Benz), has told him about going home and seeing how much things have changed in the decades since he left.
In time, Rambo is informed that the missionaries have failed to return and is asked to lead a team of mercenaries back to Burma in an attempt to locate and rescue the missing caregivers.
At this point the film kicks into high gear as Rambo must once again face his past, and find purpose in his training that have made him and elite killing machine, as he attempts to come full circle, and finally put the demons of his past behind him.
The film is light on plot and character development, but Stallone, (who co-wrote, produced, and directed the film) knows what his audience wants and delivers it to them in droves. The bad guys are easily the vilest, inhumane, and loathsome villains ever put on the screen as they make all of the villains of past Stallone films combined look like altar boys. Horrific atrocities abound, and the audience knows that it is only a matter of time until Rambo dishes out justice.
The film is very graphic, and I would be hard pressed to find a more graphic action film, as limbs are hacked and blown off in graphic detail, and several people find themselves decapitated or reduced to bloody piles of gore.
While this to some is over the top, Stallone pulls no punches and shows the horrific damage that can be caused by modern weaponry and does not sanitize the effects as so many modern films do. In providing first class action, he also takes the time to subtly educate and inform without being preachy.
While the film is not going to win praise for acting and writing, Stallone knows what he is trying to do, and keeps the film a tight, and well-paced action fest that shows that Rambo still has plenty of life in him and like his recent outing as Rocky, was not ready to say goodbye to his two franchise characters.
If you are a fan of action, and the previous films in the series, then sit back and enjoy, as John Rambo is back and taking names.
4 stars out of 5.