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RAMBO

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Lions Gate
Features: See Review
Length: 91 Minutes
Release Date: May 27, 2008

“When war is in your blood, killing is as easy as breathing.”

Film ***1/2

Who could’ve predicted that Sylvester Stallone would be able to resurrect his two most legendary characters successfully in back to back movies? His final bout as Rocky Balboa was about as perfect a finale as anyone could’ve hoped for the franchise. By having the story focusing on Rocky’s age, Stallone had us believing once again that he had it in him to get back in the ring.

But when I first heard that he was going to be suiting up once more as military killing machine John Rambo, I was curious to see how this one would turn out. Could Stallone, at age 61, pull off another go around in this most physically demanding role? An aging Rocky is one thing, but the machine gun-toting Rambo is another.

Well, folks, I’m here to say that Sly hasn’t lost any bit of his action mode. In fact, I don’t think he’s been more ferocious on screen than in Rambo. This marks the first movie in the series in 20 years, as well as the first one that Stallone himself has directed.

And Stallone’s creative control can be seen throughout the movie. If you were able to catch the 3-minute online trailer early last year, then you caught glimpses of the graphic brutal carnage that was going to be hitting the screen. And yet, I was still blown away by how much brutality the movie was able to get away with.

To simply put it, this ain’t your daddy’s Rambo. This is a fully orchestrated grindhouse version of a Rambo movie. In fact, if you were to tally up the violence in the previous three Rambo movies combined, you’d still be nowhere near the amount of this one. And no matter how much I keep stressing to you how brutal this movie is, you still won’t be prepared for what you see.

But damn if this isn’t close to being the best movie in the series, which at this point is really something of an achievement. In fact, I’d say that it pretty much ties with Rambo: First Blood Part II. The main reason it’s such a strong entry is because of Stallone pushing the envelope in movie violence, because if there’s any movie suitable for doing so, it’s a Rambo flick.

After fighting battles in Vietnam and Afghanistan, not to mention here in the states, Rambo sets its sights on war-torn Burma. John Rambo (Stallone), now officially retired from service, lives quietly in the shadows of Thailand. His daily life consists of catching snakes and taking any form of metal to make weapons out of.

His simple life is soon interrupted by a Christian missionary group requesting his service. They want him to guide them up the river into Burma. By converting the villagers to Christianity, they feel that it will help in ending the bloodshed and change lives, to which Rambo responses one of the most chilling and perfect lines in the movie.

At first he rejects their offer, but the sole female of the missionaries, Sarah (Julie Benz) manages to convince him otherwise. On the way up the river, Rambo is forced to resort to his killing tactics when his boat is stopped by vicious pirates. Despite saving the missionaries’ lives, the leader of the group (Paul Schulze) is turned off by Rambo’s actions, and tells him when off the boat, his services will no longer be needed.

Before long, the missionaries have fallen captive under a deadly army led by a most sadistic colonel. Once Rambo receives word of this, he wastes no time in hopping back in his boat and heading back into the war zone. And he’s not alone on this mission of killing, as a ragtag group of mercenaries have been recruited to take part in the ass kicking.

That’s another angle of Rambo that I found very refreshing. Of course we know that Rambo can take out an entire army by himself, but once they get to Burma it’s easy to speculate that without these mercenaries as backup, Rambo may have become extinct. The standout of the group is the sniper known as School Boy (Matthew Marsden), and after seeing his killing methods I can possibly see this character establishing his own action movie franchise.

The final 20 minutes of the movie have to be seen to be believed. All I can tell you is that if there exists a market for the 50-caliber gun, they should start using clips from the movie’s climax in advertisements. I really lost count as to how many human heads, as well as various other body parts, were lopped of by this weapon alone.

Rambo is without question a movie made for devoted fans of this franchise in the same way Rocky Balboa was for its series. If the final shot of the movie is any indication, this might be the last we see of John Rambo. It’s everything a true Rambo movie should be, and a fitting end to a one of a kind action movie series.

Video ****

The video presentation from Lions Gate is top notch from beginning to end. The entire movie is set in outdoor settings, and mostly in bright daylight, and that element mixed in with the realistic settings make for one fantastic looking disc.

Audio ****

I knew from seeing this movie in the theater that this was going to be an outstanding sounding release, and the 5.1 EX sound mix does everything short of blowing your house/apartment building to the ground. The action, which is the real star here, rocks the surround sound system in every way imaginable. That last 20 minutes will have you ducking for cover. Music playback and dialogue delivery are also in top-notch quality.

Features ***1/2

This 2-disc Special Edition release from Lions Gate is locked and loaded with a perfect arsenal of extras. Disc One includes a commentary track with Sylvester Stallone, as well Deleted Scenes and six very well handled  featurettes; “Legacy of Despair: The Struggle in Burma”, “It's a Long Road: Resurrection of an Icon”, “A Score to Settle: The Music of Rambo”, “The Weaponry of Rambo” and  “A Hero's Welcome: Release and Reaction”.

Disc Two features a Digital Copy of the movie.

Summary:

Rambo represents another outstanding movie series finish compliments of Sylvester Stallone. If you’re a devoted Rambo fan, and somehow haven’t seen this one yet, do I need to tell you to claim your copy immediately? Hopefully after these final chapters for Rocky and Rambo, I’m hoping Stallone will fulfill my lifelong dream and make one more Tango & Cash movie!

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