Rambo ★★★

The character John Rambo burst onto the screens back in 1982 in a film that gave Sylvester Stallone another franchise to run concurrently alongside Rocky. The first film was terrific, a look at a war-scarred veteran struggling to readjust to civilian life in an America that wanted to forget a war that he simply couldn't. The second (which I really like despite the awful reviews it got) upped the ante and took him back to South East Asia, and the third film was horseshit set in Afghanistan during the Russian occupation. I'd never seen this fourth instalment simply on the back of that horrendous third outing and the fact the politics that fuelled the films were turning inside out as the years progressed. Events in present day Afghanistan remind us how foolish that third film actually was, but as Stallone looked for a new villain to face in Rambo's fourth outing Burma looked like yet another hot political potato.
This is a violent film. That's no surprise, but this was extremely graphic considering the other three in the franchise. Going for a more honest and realistic approach to tyranny and oppression by a military dictatorship, the brutality on show here and the squalid depiction Stallone paints of the country won him a certain degree of respect from outsiders for highlighting human rights abuses and for speaking out. That aside, this is still the Rambo of old, settling scores and helping to protect the innocent in a world with unadulterated brute force. Stallone's grew into this character over the years and it had been twenty years since he last pulled on the bandana, and it showed. Bulked-up, but looking craggy-faced and a little out of shape, he nevertheless kills almost everything that crosses his path. A simple premise of rescuing some missionaries in Burma gets the blood and guts routine, but this time he has a bit of help from some mercenaries who don't quite realise just how special he is. A blood-fest, those last fifteen minutes are a glorious mix of gory deaths and action punctuated by the odd grunt and misplaced guilty grin. Julie Benz pops up as a damsel in distress, and Graham McTavish hones his hard-man image before donning some dwarf makeup for The Hobbit films. I did enjoy that last shot of the film though, it felt like closure for a character who's seen and done enough killing to last a lifetime.

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