Wednesday, January 30, 2008


In 1982's First Blood, during an exchange between Brian Dennehy's out-of-his-league small town sheriff Will Teasle - who is trying to flush rampaging Vietnam vet John Rambo out of the woods - and Richard Crenna's Col. Trautman, Teasle is incredulous at Rambo's ex-superior officer's claims as to Rambo's combat skills - "Are you telling me that 200 of our men against your boy is a no-win situation for us?"

To which Trautman replies that if Teasle plans to send that many men against Rambo, he should bring a good supply of body bags. That same advice applies to this latest installment of the Rambo saga, except that much of the carnage that Rambo leaves in his wake here calls for a mop more than it does for body bags as Rambo reduces most of his adversaries to wet red stains.

When Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem's red-band trailer was released last year, fans were amped at the promise of that trailer's violent highlights only to be disappointed to find that the trailer contained almost all of that film's gore shots. Well, Rambo's early trailer created the same fan excitement with some spectacularly brutal clips. But what's shocking about the film is that its trailer proves to be only the tip of the iceberg! They actually left at least a half hour of good shit for the movie itself! I only wish Joe Bob Briggs could step in to deliver the Drive-In Totals on this because they'd be some incredible numbers.

As a bloody last hurrah for the Rambo franchise, this is right up there with Stallone's well-recieved final bell for Rocky Balboa last year. Of course, Rambo isn't all about heart like Rocky is - Rambo's all about dealing out death. And writer/director Stallone gives his steadfast sociopath ample reason to maim and kill by putting him at odds with the military dirtbags of Burma.

In showing us the kind of atrocities taking place in this far-flung region (highlighted by a prolonged village raid that single-handedly earns this film its hard R rating), the first half of Stallone's Rambo will have many a genre fan flashing back to the Italian-made 'mondo' films popular in the early days of home video such as Shocking Asia and Mondo Cane that traded on exploitative, documentary-real imagery - films where you could practically wave the gathering flies off the death on the screen. Call this Mondo Rambo.

And when the reclusive Rambo ("Fuck the world" he declares at one point) decides to save a group of missionaries he had reluctantly agreed to transport into a volitile area only to be later informed that they'd been kidnapped by the Burmese Army, the violence that ensues could only have been topped if Stallone personally came into the theater to murder you.

Not only is this one of the most violent films ever to play in U.S. theaters but as a director, Stallone should be commeneded for making a contemporary action film where fast edits and shaky camerawork never take the place of coherence (I'm looking at you, Paul Greengrass!). During Rambo, even when the screen is filled with various warring factions engaged in mutiple battles, confusion never sets in.

I just hope that audiences turn out to support Rambo. Not that I'd want to see the series itself continue (why run the risk of spoiling a perfectly good finale?) but I would love to see Rambo's success spur current action films to follow its lead.

Oh, and if Stallone has any thoughts on what he'd do with a sequel to his underrated cop flick Nighthawks (1981), I think there's an eager audience waiting to see that movie. Bring back Billy Dee, man!

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