Gary Liew’s review published on Letterboxd:
Is it weird that this is my 2nd fav Rambo movie?
I was loving a lot of this. The brutal, unflinching ultra-violence that basically shouts “FUCK YOU, we‘re R” in the face of all the PG-13 bullshit of other 80’s action property sequel/ remakes like Die Hard, Total Recall, Robocop & Terminator. The return to the somber and darker spirit of First Blood; from John Rambo’s character to the gritty realistic tone. Brian Tyler’s music, harkening back to Jerry Goldsmith’s classic score. The calmly-paced, peaceful intro of Rambo going abt his day hunting snakes and catching fish; taking its time to establish character, atmosphere, conflict and drama.
As someone who grew up hearing stories from my grandparents abt the atrocities of WWII Japanese army and watched the Act of Killing/ Look of Silence documentary it’s interesting how the depiction of the Burmese soldiers and their gruesome inhumane ways hued so closely to the unspeakable acts of war crimes there. The sad thing is that despite how appalling the deplorable acts of the Burmese army are depicted here it is nowhere close to the horror of actual crimes perpetrated by the Japanese during the Nanjing Massacre or the Indonesians.
Anyways, I digress. Stallone’s reasons for making the Burmese unspeakably evil is to A) up the suspense & stakes, & B) give us reason to root for Rambo to chop down each & every Burmese soldier with a Gatling gun.
In fact, this really hit a sweet spot for me once we got to the prisoner escape sequence at the Burmese army village, which is probably the most suspenseful thing in the entire series. The way Rambo & the mercenaries have to navigate themselves around the village to extricate the missionaries while not alerting the overwhelming number of Burmese soldiers is some nail-biting ass-hovering-over-seat butthole-puckering intense kinda stuff.
As for the things I had gripes with is that outside of Rambo I didn’t like most of the mercenaries and missionary characters. In particular Graham McTavish is so obnoxious & over-the-top here. Also with the last action sequence, aside from the pure badassery of Rambo mowing down a whole bunch of Burmese scum on a mounted Gatling gun in possibly the most violent action sequence I’ve ever seen in my life there’s really not much variety to that final battle. Both Rambo & School Boy pretty much remained in the same position they were in doing the same thing from start to end of that battle; all Julie Benz does is scream and yell a lot, & there’s no geographical clarity as to where the Burmese army are showing up or multiplying their forces from.
And lastly this is a personal nitpick but this movie is sadly lacking in Rambo killing with tactical knives or with the giant machete he’s wielding. It’s really missing an action set-piece or two of Rambo hiding in the jungle like First Blood and slowly taking down the Burmese army one by one. This really needed more stealth-kills with knives and trap-setting from Rambo, which thankfully the new movie delivered in spades.
Anyways, the first 2/3s of this was so good that I actually think it could have used an extra 20 mins. Although I did like the movie ending once the conflict was resolved. It’s such an 80’s/90’s action movie thing; no drawn-out epilogues or multiple endings.
One thing that I admire abt the Rambo franchise is its adherence to continuity; Rambo continues wearing the Jade Necklace from Part II in Part III, the Thailand setting in Part II becomes Rambo’s home in Part III and IV (donating money to monks in both), and Rambo going to his father’s ranch by the end of this leads nicely to V (Last Blood).