R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Sylvester Stallone
scr Art Monterastelli, Sylvester Stallone
with Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Rey Gallegos, Jake La Botz, Tim Kang, Maung Maung Khin, Supakorn Kitsuwon, Aung Aay Noi, Ken Howard
release US 25.Jan.08, UK 22.Feb.08
08/US Weinstein 1h31
In the jungle, the mighty jungle: Stallone (above), Schulze and Benz (below)


Rambo It's clear that Stallone wants to give his iconic character a worthy send-off, two decades after Rambo III, which was set in Afghanistan. And this new film actually feels 20 years old, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

John Rambo (Stallone) has retired to a quiet life in northern Thailand, where he feeds the poor, provides cobras to a local snake-fighting arena and smelts his own tools. Then a team of missionaries (including Benz and Schulze) asks him to take them upriver to help the persecuted Karen people in Burma. He says no, but takes them anyway. And when they're later captured by the sadistic Burmese army in a vicious attack, Rambo teams with a bunch of mercenaries (including Marsden and McTavish) to launch a rescue mission.

With minimal dialog, Stallone echoes the Vietnam themes of the first three films and pushes a straightforward message: "Live for nothing or die for something!" It's unsubtle filmmaking, laying out every nuance for us and playing around with some pretty serious ideas without digging very deep. There's an intriguing balance between Rambo's consuming cynicism, the missionaries' naive optimism and the mercenaries' gung-ho action; intriguingly, none of these attitudes can survive in this ferocious place.

But these ideas are washed away in a sea of gore and violence. Every on-screen death or dismemberment is accompanied by a horrific gush of blood, filmed without a whiff of postmodern objectivity. Stallone is making a serious movie about redemption, and it requires Rambo to be literally washed in the blood of the martyrs. In some ways, this sober approach undercuts the action mayhem to highlight the injustice. In other ways it implies that to defeat murderous brutes, you have to murder them brutally.

Yes, Stallone does have skill as a director, vividly capturing real horror and making the most of gritty silence. But the film has no resonance beyond its 1980s-style narrative; it feels utterly disconnected from the 21st century, which leaves the extensive blood-splatter feeling like battle porn. And of course, we know the gay paedophile baddie has a special death awaiting him in the end. In other words, it's pretty much what you expect from a Rambo movie.

cert 18 themes, graphic violence, grisliness, language 11.Feb.08

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Rambo Kenny Davies, London: 5/5 "This is a film set against backdrop of war, ethnic cleansing and genocide. How can it conceivably be filmed with post modern objectivity?, and to who? So as not to assault your liberal PC senses? It a film about a retired war vet caught unwittingly in genocide for Gods sake! And the war is not even fictional. Whilst he doesn't dig deep, the remit of the film was never to philosophize on why atrocities are being committed in Burma. It at least brings home the absolute brutality of war, and not some sanitised fluff. Gory - Yes, Well filmed - Yes, Well directed - Yes, Must see - Yes, Recommended - Yes." (5.Mar.08)
2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall