Rambo (Maple, 2008) D: Sylvester Stallone, w/ Stallone, Julie Benz. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNNN
The on-disc hype for the earlier Rambo flicks mentions an “alternate suicide ending” to First Blood. Good idea. Rambo dies in the novel (which is terrific if you like hard action), and he definitely should have died onscreen. That would have spared us two embarrassing sequels and the nauseating sight of a symbol of American military failure turned into its flag-waving opposite.
Happily, the new Rambo ditches the jingoism to give us a not-bad movie on the horrors of war, the atrocities of Burma’s military junta (check out the doc in the extras) and the psychological suffering of John Rambo, who, as always, is embittered, psychotic and lethal.
This time he gets roped into taking a group of missionaries into Burma, then into helping a group of mercenaries rescue them from the Burmese army.
Sylvester Stallone, director and co-writer as well as star, tells us on his commentary that he designed the movie to look as though Rambo himself had made it. This means realism over glamour, shattered bodies and gore everywhere, with no quips or impossible stunts to soften the blows. Rambo isn’t heroic; he’s just another soldier among several, and he tells us going in that all this is futile. No happy ending here, and very little that makes for action-adventure fun time.
Stallone takes his Rambo seriously. Onscreen, he’s nasty, brooding and savage. In the commentary, he spends serious time on Rambo’s inner life.
Usually, that’s the sign of a bad movie, but Rambo is one of the more interesting popcorn heroes – Frankenstein’s monster forever searching for his soul – and Stallone’s insights add perspective on his career as an actor and director.
EXTRAS Disc one: Stallone commentary, six-part making-of doc. Widescreen. English, Spanish subtitles. Disc two: a copy to transfer to Mac or PC.