Saturday, January 26, 2008

JOHN RAMBO: Dinosaur Hero Returns!

JOHN RAMBO (actioner)

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Graham McTavish & Matthew Marsden
Scripter/Director: Stallone
Time: 85 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? First, a bit of world history is in order. In the 70s, America lost the war in Vietnam and had to leave with its tail behind its back. The gungho US Marine spirit was at its ebb. Hollywood then decided to refight the war in the fantasy celluloid world - and it sent in John Rambo (Sly Stallone) in the movie "First Blood" to single-handedly wipe out squads of armed Vietcong.

"First Blood" became a hit and the Rambo sequels followed, with one taking our hero to fight the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Nice way to allow the Yanks to be hero - or feel like one again. It was also good for the career of Stallone, who, with his Rocky franchise, was one of the most successful action star of the 80s and early 90s. When the Berlin Wall fell, the usefulness of Rambo seem to have vanished...

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? But not quite the career of Stallone. After showing that he can revive the "Rocky" franchise at age 60, he is doing an encore for John Rambo in this tale that takes the ex-Green Beret hero from Thailand to Burma where kicks more bad asses as he guides his Christian missionary friends, Michael and Sarah (Paul Schulze of TV's "24" and Julie Benz, as a popular TV actress, respectively), on their way up the Salween river. He takes some persuading but ultimately can't resist a pretty face.

Rambo has to wipe out a lot of nasty pirates to keep them from raping Sarah and beheading her colleagues. Michael doesn't approve of Rambo's tactics and, once they reach their destination, he fires our hero. Of course, the missionaries are soon captured and Rambo is retracing his path upriver with a bunch of mercenaries in tow. The rest are typical Rambo moments and the climax has a rather high body count.

HITS & MISSES: We must credit Stallone for not having Rambo go to Iraq to help in the war there. That would have been politically messy. What we have here are the usual ridiculous Rambo tradition of cutting, shooting, and blowing his way through enemy lines from start to end. If you want more than these, you are in the wrong movie. Also, there is the nostalgia element in seeing Stallone staring daggers at the villains, before kicking their butts.

THE LOWDOWN: This is one movie where you can take your kids or grand kids to see a dinosaur action hero trying to redifine his place in the movie world.


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