It’s not very often you walk into a theater about to see a sequel to a franchise that already churned out two unplanned sequels based on a character that should have killed himself in the first movie (he does in the novel)…and still leave satisfied. The original Rambo tale, First Blood, is a classic story of a war vet that can’t adjust to an unwelcoming homeland. The second two? Wanton destruction of the Soviets in exotic locations with a burly American doing what’s right to protect his country. Thankfully, that’s not what the new Rambo is about. Sylvester Stallone steps up to write and direct this new sequel (that makes reference and flashbacks to the first film) and I’m glad he did. Yep. Glad. I think Stallone is starting to develop a real eye for directing, and as soon as he stops writing all his own movies, I think he’ll be a very accomplished director one day. This left me very satisfied when the end credits rolled, and not just because it was over…which is what I find myself feeling lately at most Hollywood offerings; but because I was entertained.
Rambo was a very competent war movie. Well shot, followed the original character, and was short and to the point. A woman next to me said to her husband “wow, that movie was short”. So what, I say? It didn’t need to be. I’m not paying to fill up 2 or three hours of my day, I’m paying to be entertained with a quality film. With that, let’s talk about what I liked. The film was rough and gritty, and did not waste any time getting you acquainted with how perverse and violent war can be. Set in Burma and the surrounding areas (a long time war zone since WW2) Rambo, now a blacksmith/snake hunter gets asked by some missionaries to take him into Burma so that they can help the people or some such nonsense.
Rambo knows what is there and doesn’t easily take them, but his soft spot gets the best of him and he eventually bends. Of course it doesn’t go as planned and he tags along with mercenaries sent to rescue them, commence violent rescue.
I’m not going to explain the movie shot by shot, but I will say that it was necessarily gratuitous with scenes of rape, murder, and general war violence. Seeing innocent women and children killed by power mongering armies really drives it home with the level of danger that is around them, which also leads me to a complaint I had about the commander of the “bad guys”. It seemed as if they were trying so hard to establish him as his own character, someone so awful and ruthless that being in command of people that rape, pillage, murder, and play violent games with prisoners just isn’t mean enough. They had to go any make him a pedophile…but not just a pedophile, but a homo pedophile. Maybe because you were supposed to enjoy his death that much more? Personally I thought it was a bit much. Of course the movie had its fair share of Hollywood fluffery, specifically the end where we’re supposed to be happy that the two white missionaries are safe after a near endless body count. Though, if you pay attention, you can tell that John Rambo isn’t happy. It almost ends on an “I told you so” note. The final scene takes us right back to First Blood, where he’s giving his home another chance and really lives up to the original film as he walks the road to the Rambo theme “It’s a long road” by Jerry Goldsmith.
As for the music in this film, Brian Tyler did a great job capturing the classic Goldsmith score and giving it new life without being too tacky. There are plenty of loud rompy overtures as our man is going about blowing up Burmese soldiers, but an equal amount of somber and haunting cues when they are going through the rivers of Burma. I can’t wait to pick it up and give it a solid listen.