This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Ryan Parman’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
A man has trouble readjusting to civilian life in Oregon after coming home from the Vietnam war. His PTSD kicks in, and he ends up killing a bunch of local police — guerrilla warfare-style.
A few years later, he finds himself back in the far east as a warrior, fighting in Vietnam rescuing POWs, and in Afghanistan supporting rebel forces. Once again, he uses guerrilla tactics and extreme violence to win the day. In the end, he retreats to Thailand to settle down.
20 years later, still living in Thailand, he is approached to support the rescue of humanitarian aid missionaries in the country of Burma (Myanmar). He decimates the politically motivated kidnappers with even more guerrilla style violence.
10 years later, and 40 years after we first met him, this same man is living on a ranch in Arizona. Why would he do this after spending over 20 years living in Thailand? Who knows. He is living with a woman and her granddaughter, who refers to him as “uncle“. We also find out that he “raised” her.
She is getting ready to start college, when she decides to go to Mexico, alone, to find the father who abandoned her. On this trip, she is drugged and wakes up in a sex trafficking situation. The man goes to Mexico to find her, and gets his ass beat. He wakes up four days later, find the girl, and she dies on the way home. Note that this is approximately five days since she went to Mexico.
Manas pissed, so he decides to go on a murder spree. He goes full-scale “Home Alone“, booby trapping his home and all of the tunnels he dug under his ranch (something about Vietnam something). The sex trafficking ring is run by two brothers, so the man cuts the head off of one of the brothers, infuriating the other.
The second brother, infuriated, gets his crew together and they drive across the border to the ranch to kill the man. Just like Marv and Harry, they get all tore-up going through the man’s underground tunnel funhouse.
Finally, the man takes a knife and cuts into the second brother’s chest with a knife before ripping — literally ripping — out his heart. If you enjoy horror movies, you’ve already seen this scene in films like Hostel or Saw. But in this film, the man is a True American Hero™ Instead of a deranged psychopath killer.
Now, as someone who has seen all of the Rambo movies, the Arizona ranch and the adopted “family“ is a setting that feels out of step with the previous films. John Rambo rides solo, and a simple life in the far east is more his speed. Had the last film not taken place in Thailand and Burma, the setting for this film would be more believable.
Second, there is absolutely no character development whatsoever. From a storytelling perspective, the absence of character development would normally require you to rely on the previous films and the development that happened there. But that is not a requirement when watching this film, except for one thing: if you grew up in the 80s or 90s, then you already know that John Rambo is a bad ass that can murder anybody. And that’s really all that you need to know going into this film. They could’ve named the main character John Smith, and it wouldn’t have made any difference. Heck, it could’ve even starred Macaulay Culkin.
Lastly, as a fan of horror and action films, I must say that the sound and effects teams did a magnificent job making the gunshots, grenades, burning bodies, and the potpourri of sharp edges slicing through human flesh feel extremely visceral. Kate Beckinsale and her Underworld death dealers, beware. John Rambo will kill you until you are dead. Twice.
Half a star for the characters and plot. Two stars for the violence and death so you could actually feel. 2½ out of 5 stars.