"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Rambo

RAMBO: JUST RAMBO, NOT RAMBO FIRST BLOOD PART 2

Poor John Rambo. Drafted into ‘Nam, transformed into a killing machine, trained to eat things that would make a billygoat puke. He came home, butted heads with an asshole sherriff, fought a bunch of cops, got a pardon so he could rescue some POWs and “win this time,” lived at a monastery I believe, real good stickfighter, made some allegiances in Afghanistan that in retrospect were not so hot but you know what they say about hindsight. Now he lives in a shack in Thailand where he catches deadly snakes for a living. His first line in the movie is telling a guy to go fuck himself. He’s real cynical about the state of the world and the inevitability of bloodshed, but some Christian missionaries convince him against his better judgment to take them in his boat and drop them off in a war zone in Burma. You guys run along now, don’t get raped or blown up. Then when they don’t come back on time he has to go back and drop off the team of mercenaries the church hires to rescue them. I wish the team had a cool name like The Holy Rollers and had pictures of Jesus, Joseph and Mary airbrushed on their weapons, but no, they’re just regular guns for hire, they don’t give a shit about that stuff. They don’t even care about the money that much, so they’re gonna turn around when things look bad. But Rambo (to them “the boatman”) changes their minds. Using a bow and arrow.

RamboRambo’s changed over the years, at least physically. He no longer looks like he’s chiseled out of stone. Now he’s chopped out of wood. He’s a fuckin tree trunk wearing a headband. Wide and thick and definitely not pretty anymore.

I like the character of Rambo, and I always like seeing him, but the mentally ill can make some bad choices. In his case that includes going on a rampage as well as making three ridiculous sequels to his classic original. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy that crap too, to a certain point, but FIRST BLOOD is a legitimately great movie that towers above them and tries to be polite about it but most likely would not want to hang out with the other ones if at all possible. The idea of the original book and movie was to “bring the Vietnam War home,” but the idea of the sequels is just to send Rambo off to different wars.

FIRST BLOOD is great because you can get behind this poor bastard, even if he’s crazy, because he’s a vet and people shouldn’t be treating him like that. But him and the sherriff are just so stubborn that their dislike of each other escalates into a fucking war! In the first one he’s Travis Bickle, you’re disturbed by what he’s doing. In the sequels he’s Michael Jordan, you’re supposed to clap for him. The sequels are a bunch of gun battles, the original is an epic personality conflict that builds until the classic scene where Rambo breaks down and blubbers about what happened to his buddies. It’s a better story and a better character and it offers you all that violence you ordered but still in the end is about emotions. It assumes you’re a human and not just a sadist.

After the first blood though, what are you supposed to do for second blood? Is he gonna go on another rampage until he breaks down and cries about how guilty he feels for the first rampage? No, all they could really figure out to do is some more UNCOMMON VALOR type war and rescue movies that aren’t as original or as meaningful as FIRST BLOOD.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed RAMBO. By which I mean the new one which is titled RAMBO and not the first sequel which is subtitled RAMBO. I’m talking about RAMBO: RAMBO FIRST BLOOD PART 2 PART 3. Even while being confused by the title it’s nice to see a serious old fashioned action movie in this day and age. Except for some gratuitous skipped frames (and digital touchups on the violence) it’s pretty old school. No attempt to seem modern or hip or make jokes or even point out that it’s old school. There’s not some young wiseass character making comments about Rambo, serving as the voice for the younger viewers. Fuck the younger viewers. If they need a babysitter they shouldn’t be here. The movie is very sincere so I had to kind of like it.

The action is very good and gruesome. Lots of limbs flying, people flying, blood flying. Rambo tears a guy’s throat out. He shoots people into goo. He shoots alot of arrows. He turns an unexploded WWII bomb into a PREDATOR bomb. He’s a little more down to earth than in part 2 and part 3. He has help from other badasses, he uses powerful guns as a crutch, his arrows do not have explosive tips, he runs around but he’s not being a ninja or anything. The guy’s in his 60s. The villains are hatable, though less than one-dimensional (and why does the main guy have to be gay?) The mercenaries are pretty tough, but not memorable characters.

And to be honest you gotta kind of wonder why Rambo hasn’t learned more over the years. Maybe he doesn’t have a TV out there in that shack but I’m betting somebody told him what became of his buddies in Afghanistan. He was fighting for the underdog there but it turns out the world is more complicated than just pick which side you think is the good guys and then kill and maim 500 people on the other side. Maybe he does understand that and that’s why he tried to stay out of Burma, but the way he talks about not changing things if you don’t have weapons, I think maybe he really thinks one of these wars he fights some day will actually work. He used to seem more aware, even kind of enlightened about his violence, he just didn’t know how to turn it off. Your classic asskicking pacifist.

And it’s kind of a problem that the movie is all about how bad this genocide is, and yet the high points of the movie all involve Rambo horribly murdering person after person after person after person after a whole bunch of other people that he just shot and blew up and arrowed and tore a throat out and knocked onto a landmine and blew up and etc. This is a movie that opens with a montage of real dead bodies and mutilated people in a real war and yet the audience is laughing excitedly at all the carnage that happens later. And you can’t really blame them that much. They want fun even if the movie is sitting there moping.

If you ask me ROCKY BALBOA was a way better revisiting because it was all about a character. The boxing match is thrilling, but most of the movie is about what’s left of Rocky’s life and what he makes of it. I like watching the different ways Rambo can kill people, but I’d rather know about what else is going on in there. Will he ever get his humanity back? At the end of the movie he takes the advice of one of the missionaries and finally comes home. It’s great to see him back in the U.S., walking down a road wearing the same clothes as in FIRST BLOOD. It’s like a second chance at coming home, hopefully not going on a rampage this time. If some cop gives you a hard time just turn the other cheek, Rambo. Seriously.

Anyway it’s a nice ending, probaly my favorite part of the movie, but to be honest I’m not sure how he got to that point. I’m not sure what lesson he learned or how he changed as a person. He just killed alot of people for what he thought was right. Again.

If they’re not going to do a more involved character study then I hope if there’s a part 5 they go huge. They gotta have Rambo at war in a city. What if in DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE Simon had said he wanted to talk to John McClane and they said McClane? He’s suspended and he has a hangover. I’m gonna have you talk to this other guy, John Rambo, is that okay? If Rambo had to deal with some guys like that it might be new, but no more of these rescuing prisoners in the jungle stories, okay guys?

Also I was disappointed that he never ate anything that would make a billygoat puke, or even gag a little bit. Nice to see Rambo back though

This entry was posted on Saturday, January 26th, 2008 at 12:13 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

65 Responses to “Rambo”

  1. So apparently the new one is not going to have Rambo fight a monster, he will end up in a city “where young girls are mysteriously disappearing.” Could be good.

  2. Somebody talked him out of the monster thing? They had a poster and everything.

  3. Man, that’s a relief. That whole thing sounded like something they’d do on the Rambo cartoon.

  4. Okay, so I guess the word is he’ll still be doing that movie but the character won’t be Rambo.

  5. What’s weird is, the whole movie seems to be diametrically opposed to that ending. They had that whole montage whcih to me was Rambo finally excepting the fact that he is a killer and can’t change that, but he can channel it into saving an innocent. That’s a perfectly valid place to leave the character of Rambo, but then at the end he sort of unlearned the lesson and went back to trying to redeem himself for his life of violence. Kind of confused. Good movie though.

  6. How do you know he was trying to redeem himself for his life of violence? I think the ending is about him finally coming to terms with what he is and going home. Since there’s another movie coming out, it looks like he has decided that although he is a weapon, he can be wielded for the forces of good. He’s not hiding himself in the jungle anymore, pretending to be something he’s not. He’s going back to his hometown where everybody knows that he’s a killer.

    Or maybe they all forgot about him. After all, he probably hadn’t been back in 30 years. Still, you know how small towns are. They probably still brag about that hometown boy who led the police and National Guard on the biggest manhunt in American history.

  7. Well, in Vern’s review he talks about how Rambo says that nothing gets solved by violence, and then he goes out and solves his problems by being violent. To me, it wasn’t an issue of redeeming himself (I worded that part of my post badly) it was that he came to accept that he was a killer, so it would have made more sense to me if Rambo started wandering the world like Kane or Vincent or something, using that animal inside of him to do the things that the peaceful wouldn’t and couldn’t and shouldn’t. But then at the end, he seems to throw out that lesson and try (again) to be a peaceful guy. Since there’s a new one coming out (sans monster) I would assume that Sly’s going to toss out that epilogue and make Rambo a psycho again. Hopefully, he doesn’t make it one of Vern’s beloved “I am a peaceful guy but I just have to kill this motherfucker” movies. I don’t want to watch Rambo sit around and avoid violence until the third act, he needs to be front and center dispatching gruesome justice to everyone in his path. In my opinion.

  8. I bought the whole thing: in the beginning of FIRST BLOOD he’s floating around USA, postponing going home because he hasn’t accepted himself (as a guy to whom killing is nothing: a psychotic war machine). Also ending up in jail is easier for him in the end because there “he knows where he belongs” (his quote from FB2).
    But, as a human, he’s still hopeful. Trying to find justification he re-recruits himself in part 2. For what? By 2008 his enemy, Vietnam, has become a tourist country for back-packers; Russia is friendly; and the people he fought for, the Afghans, have become the new enemy. So, wouldn’t it be only logical for Rambo to feel betrayed, angry and lonely (“FU all and leave me alone”)?
    Rambo ends the arc of which Vietnam is the epilogue, FB is Act I, FB2 and FB3 Act II, and Rambo is the conclusion. The old story of a guy who gets made into a war machine and loses his way, then struggles to find the human inside him, only to come into the acceptance that he was so good at killing because that’s his gift. But that shouldn’t mean he can’t go home again. He’s been a POW, been in jail and then buried himself in various places around Asia, but in reality, he’s been the prison of his own mind – THIS is what he realizes in part 4.
    What I also like is that Sly doesn’t try to sell us a botox/photoshopped/polished version of himself. He looks like a 60-year old war machine should; the human equivalent of a rusty panzer tank, or for this context: a land mine. Not the polished, disarmed kind you see in war museums, but a rusty, forgotten, but ARMED one that will go off if you get too close to it. Now it doesn’t want to do that, but that’s what it was made for, sorry. Like the little pyrokinetic girl in Firestarter, Rambo struggles with his “talents”. All the more he is driven to use it, he’s also trying to push it away.
    Everything culminates in the epic end battle, which to himself is an outburst; an expression of the battle inside him. Why would old John J give a flying fuck for those religious nuts, or their cause, being deceived so many times already by other people’s idealism and the changing world already? He just can’t turn off anymore, and giving little thought even for his own safety, he sieges a .50 cal and… oh my…
    Like Daniel LaRusso winning with a Crane kick. ET getting home. Luke Skywalker hitting the ventilation shaft of the Death Star with a proton torpedo. Wall-E saving the day. The manly version of those. Manly tears. Like when Capt. Brody hits the air tank with his last bullet at the end of Jaws and the huge shark blows the fuck up, plus bittersweet.
    MAN. I swear I almost cried manly, manly tears at the end of Rambo. The guy isn’t laying suppressing fire, making every bullet count or sparing his ammo. He is pissing god’s wrath on piss-ant soldiers! At the same time practically yelling “Leave! Just leave!”. Because as much as Rambo doesn’t care about the “good guys”, he doesn’t care about the bad. If those Burmese dudes had just dropped their guns and started running, Rambo would have spared them. But no; they shoot back. They send in a truck. They send in a boat. They should have known better.

    After massacring a healthy three-digit number of baddies Rambo performs one more kill; the “this is personal” kill of the boss baddie. There is no man to man – fight, speeches or even a chance for the bad guy to try any of the usual bad guy dirty tricks (knife on the boot etc); Rambo just snuffs him off. Doesn’t tell him who he is or why he did it. Doesn’t even tell him the bad guy should have known this is coming to him. Cold. Borderline psychotic. And fitting.
    And then, just like that, Sly pulls yet another ace from his sleeve: instead of cutting into a “goodbye at the airport” scene, voice-over, one-liner or shit like that, Rambo stands on the hill, looking at the dead bodies and the blood, and says absolutely fucking nothing for a long time.
    This is the revelation: we, the audience, are not supposed to be able to relate to him, ever. He’s not like me or you. There’ll be no “Now I can stop killing” or “Now I see this and that”.
    The thing is, he’s only witnessing yet another pointless brutal killing and letting it sink that things will never be different for him if he just runs away. So he might as well stop running and accept it. This “alienating the hero from the audience” is just so fucking morbid and nihilistic and straight from the 70s that it should deserve an oscar! Sly, you got fucking balls!
    And to wrap things up, continuing without dialogue, we cut straight to the last picture, which is a replica of the first picture of FIRST BLOOD along with the beautiful score (by Jerry Goldsmith). Did Rambo find peace? Yes. Does it mean he won’t kill again? Probably. Unless something or someone pushes him.

  9. I like the cut of SPaS’s jib.

  10. SPaS that is a wonderful analysis. First Blood is my favorite Stallone movie because the Vietnam issue resonates with me. We need Rambos but we don’t know what to do with them. I did enjoy the progression to revisionist Vietnam winner and wise cracking action hero, but Rambo brought it back home. Stallone is a national treasure.

  11. Hey, I’ve got Fred in the office with me while I rewatch one of my most rewatched movies of the past several years.

    http://i50.tinypic.com/hs6bk5.jpg

    Tried to focus on John Rambo’s weapons this time. What do they mean? What does the order of appearance & usage mean, from

    snakes (Do they count?)
    to small caliber sidearm semiautomatic
    to knife
    to bow & arrow
    to bare hands
    to using a buddy’s sniper rifle just to make a diversionary noise
    to rigging a claymore onto a WWII bomb (Rambo’s war’s anti-insurgent big boom weaponry + “The Greatest Generation”‘s war’s big boom weaponry = super big boom PREDATOR bomb = what does it mean??? Is Rambo teaming up with the ghost of the Army Air Corps and American heroes Generals Stilwell & Merrill? Yeah, that’s probably what it is.)
    to rusty truck-mounted .50 cal
    to machete

    What does it all mean? Also, I might have messed up the order of weapons or forgotten some stuff because I always get so caught up in the beautiful carnage and lose track of my attempt at intellectual analysis. Sign of a successful, extremely entertaining movie, that.

  12. I could do a separate post about this, but let’s keep it on the down low so we don’t jinx anything. Yesterday Stallone did some tweeting. He said he was about to start filming CREED, and then:

    “Doing Scarpa based on Gangster Greg Scarpa after LAST BLOOD RAMBO…”

    Hopefully it really will be called “LAST BLOOD RAMBO” just to be weird. Also, I’d like if it’s *not* the last one, so it can continue its reign as the most confusingly titled series of all time.

  13. Mouth, please inform us: is “last blood” in any way terminology the military actually uses?

    If cinema’s FINAL CHAPTERs have taught us anything, this won’t be the last.

  14. Rambo's 1st Look | Tiger Shroff In Action Mode

    Check out the 1st look poster of the upcoming action film Rambo featuring Tiger Shroff in the titular role.

    Well shit. I had no idea this was happening.

  15. Rambollywood?

  16. I’m sure Tiger Shroff will put heart, soul into Rambo remake: Sylvester Stallone

    Tiger Shroff is all set to step into the shoes of Sylvester Stallone with the Indian remake of Rambo.

    After initially saying “I hope they don’t fuck it up”(paraphrased by me), Stallone gave them his blessing and best wishes.

  17. Original 'Rambo' Sylvester Stallone now wishes Tiger Shroff GOOD LUCK for Indian Rambo remake! | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis

    Original 'Rambo' Sylvester Stallone now wishes Tiger Shroff GOOD LUCK for Indian Rambo remake! - Did the Hollywood star just take a U-turn on his previous message?

    After initially saying “I hope they don’t fuck it up”, Sly gave his blessing.

  18. Did anybody see this new Rambo trailer? I really hope it’s not actually Rambo vs Mexicans but that it’s actually Rambo and Mexicans versus white nationalist militia types.

  19. Looks pretty good. Understated. Rambo IV was great, I thought. Interestingly, whereas par IV had a very part II feel in terms of the Southeast Asian jungle and long jet black hair and maximum swollness, this one doesn’t really look or feel like any previous Rambo in terms of the general aesthetic, but it seems like it could be a more rooted, brooding deal (but with a lot of the bloodiness of part IV, which is just fine w/ me). Agree, I hope they don’t go all jingoistic alt-right on this one, but I kind of feel like if they were going to do that, they’d have played it up more in the advertising than they appear to be. I could imagine any number of really horrifically (effective) pandering-to-the-right types of trailers, and this is not one of them.

  20. I like the idea of a serious brooding Rambo. He’s a tragic character and taking some time to deal with that before the bloody action would be warranted.

  21. I mean, FIRST BLOOD is basically about the devastating effect of PTSD and how violence only creates more problems, so I’d honestly be more interested in a lower-action version of whatever the story might be. I always thought the high-octane Rambo sequels were kind of a weird development given the tone of the original. Like if the first FAST & FURIOUS ended with Dom dying in a car wreck and Brian giving a passionate speech about the dangers of careless driving but then the series just continued as normal after that.

  22. Popped by here to re-read this review. Very excited for the new Rambo film, bought my ticket for Thursday night.

    I really loved this movie, it is a fantastic action movie. I find myself watching it every few months.

  23. Popped by here to re-read this review. Very excited for the new Rambo film, bought my ticket for Thursday night.

    I really loved this movie, it is a fantastic action movie. I find myself watching it every few months.

  24. Anybody else have this problem? I keep forgetting THE LAST BLOOD exists. I don’t know why. I loved RAMBO. Easily my favorite action movie of that decade. Yet I remain almost completely indifferent to this new one. Why is that? Is it because I was happy with how the series ended and don’t want them to screw it up? Is it because all the terrible aborted ideas for this franchise that were kicked around a few years back left a bad taste in my mouth? Is it because the EXPENDABLESes killed any interest I might have in Stallone as an action hero? Or is it because I look at the poster and I’m just like “Goddammit, that is not Rambo’s haircut.”

    I don’t know. All I know is this movie feels like an obligation to me. I’m sort of dreading it and I don’t know why. This could very likely be the last Rambo movie I ever get to see in the theater and for the life of me I just can’t get myself excited about it.

  25. I would say that when RAMBO came out, it was after Stallone revitalized not just his career, but also his whole image with ROCKY BALBOA, so the possibility of him doing the same with the popculture punchline that was the RAMBO series at this time, was super exciting.

    Now we had more than a decade of back-in-the-A-list Stallone, but also with a bunch of misfires like the whole goddamn EXPENDABLES series. Plus nothing about LAST BLOOD seems exciting. From the trailers it’s just some guy killing people in a house in the desert. Not saying it has no chance of being good, but it has a strong DTV vibe. (I know, we don’t discriminate DTV action movies here, but you know what I mean.)

  26. It’s weird – it’s perfectly realistic that John Rambo would get a different hairstyle at some point in his life, and not be going around wearing a headband or anything. But I look at those posters and it’s Stallone, it’s not Rambo.

    Still, I’ll be seeing it Friday.

  27. Yeah I’m not as hype for it as I was for this one. This was my 2nd most anticipated movie that year after the Batman joint. But like CJ said the context was different. This is post-BULLET IN THE HEAD (which I like) and after the EXPENDABLES 3 strike disappointment combo. That honeymoon phase of “Sly is truly back” is long gone. Still watching it on a double bill with IT CHAPTER 2 this coming monday and put of the 2 it’s still the one I’m more hype for. I guess that counts for something.

  28. Hearing rumblings about the new one that has me being hesitant and not holding up too much hope. Still got my tickets for Saturday morning. I’m hoping for the best…

  29. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 17th, 2019 at 1:47 pm

    Well I can’t fucking wait. The trailer makes the story seem simplistic but I love that – it seems like a perfect recipe for some hardcore shenanigans. I’m so glad they went with the Rambo VS Mexican cartel story line that was floating around for ages as it seems like the absolute perfect enemy for him to fight. The director seems like he might be good as well – I really liked GET THE GRINGO in any case.

    So yeah… I’m super excited, short hair or no.

  30. RAMBO (2008) was loads of fun, fit perfectly into the canon and gave his character a touching send-off. LAST BLOOD seems like someone dusted off an old DTV action script and put the RAMBO name on it. Nothing about it seems like anyone had a great creative reason to exhume the corpse of this particular series. Hopefully I’m wrong.

  31. Mr Majestyk, I think you’re secretly pissed off that this wasn’t the movie version of FARMING SIMULATOR, with 2 hours of Rambo ploughing, that you thought it would be.

  32. Not liking the review embargo still being up, but I guess reviews don’t really matter in this case. The last Rambo is below 40% on Rotten Tomatoes. BTW, it is hard to believe the last Rambo came out 11 years ago. And Stallone looked old as shit in that. God Bless Him.
    Going to the first show Thursday night, I will keep y’all posted.

  33. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 18th, 2019 at 11:01 pm

    Been reading the available reviews just now, I think we’re safe. The negative ones seem written by people who never would have liked something like this while the positive ones seem to be more on its wavelength. Although we shouldn’t expect anything near as good as the last one, sounds like it will still be a perfectly enjoyable, hardcore 90 mins at the theater. Looking forward to seeing it tonight.

  34. Franchise Fred approves so I feel a lot less skeptical.

    'Rambo: Last Blood' Movie Review - Home Stallone

    'Rambo: Last Blood' delivers a brutally savage and satisfying one-man war Rambo-style, and even hints at the potential for John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) to find some peace.

  35. Read some of the reviews and I’m definitely excited about the tight runtime (barely 90 minutes YESSSSS) and the booby traps.

    At first, I dismissed LAST BLOOD because Stallone wasn’t directing. Then I realized the director of the super-underrated GET THE GRINGO was involved and got a bit excited.

    Still, I understand why some people are forgetting that this is a Rambo movie. The ads make the movie look similar to something like HOMEFRONT– a script Sly had in his filing cabinet for years and eventually gave to Jason Statham because he was too old/too busy.

  36. Fred’s review actually got me pretty excited. Gorier and more brutal than RAMBO? This I gotta fuckin’ see.

  37. If LAST BLOOD is gorier and more violent than RAMBO, that would be insane. Most of the reviews I’ve read seem to be in the ‘extremely violent but not as violent as the last one’ camp, though.

    I also thought it was weird that Sly killed the “Will Rambo die in this one?” speculation earlier in the week by saying he’s open to making more Rambo movies in the future. You’d think he’d want to keep people guessing about Rambo’s fate up until the opening.

    Maybe he just really wants to make that RAMBO vs. FERAL MONSTER movie he’s been talking about for years.

  38. RAMBO was so over the top at times, I thought I was watching the parody from UHF. Hard to believe that the new one could top this.

  39. in the 40%-50% range on Rotten Tomatoes is perfect for this, that means we will all love it. And if it is close to as violent as the last one, I will be in Heaven. Going at 7 tonight, might stay for the second showing at 9.

  40. To remind myself of how much I love Rambo, I reread my old review of RAMBO, which I thought I’d share with you fine people in its entirety:

    Unspeakable awesome. That’s the only way to describe the new Rambo.

    Over the weekend, I walked around telling anybody who would listen that RAMBO is the greatest movie ever made. I said it without hesitation, without qualification, and for damn sure without shame.

    But now that some of the initial elation has worn off, I have to amend that statement. It’s probably not the greatest movie ever made. It’s only the absolute no-contest best American action movie since TERMINATOR 2.

    The lukewarm and/or condescending reviews this landmark in no-nonsense action cinema has received from mainstream critics mystifies me. I don’t know what’s up with these people. It doesn’t seem like they saw the same movie I did. Maybe it’s just that they grew up in some parallel universe where justice always reigns and hatred doesn’t congeal in the bone marrow, so they’re missing that hard chunk of black diamond that the rest of us carry around in our hearts that makes us scream for violent retribution against an unfair world. But for people like me, Rambo is 100% emotion. It angries up the blood in the most beautiful, life-affirming way.

    Rambo is not a complicated film, but it is a powerful one, if you can allow yourself to experience it on a purely emotional level. George Lucas once said that engaging an audience emotionally was easy: Just strangle a kitten on camera. (Too bad he didn’t follow his own advice. A few kitten-stranglings might have injected some life into the prequels.) Sylvester Stallone agrees, so the whole first half of Rambo is just one metaphorical kitten being strangled after another. Then the second half is Rambo killing the fucking shit out of those dirty kitten-stranglers. Simple. Basic. Primordial.

    The plot: Rambo now lives in self-imposed exile in Thailand, running a riverboat service and catching deadly cobras for snake shows. He fucking hates everybody and has lost all faith in both himself and the world. Then some Christian do-gooders come to town, asking him for a ride into Burma (a.k.a. Myanmar). I don’t know if you know this, since Britney’s custody battles seem to take up a lot of space in the papers, but there’s been a bloody civil war going on over there for over 60 years, the longest in history. It’s basically a genocide, with the Burmese government using profits earned from crystal meth trafficking to systematically eradicate a tribe of independence-seeking rebels, the Karen. So these Christians want to bring food and medical supplies to the Karen. Rambo knows that passive resistance won’t do shit against a methed-up army of killers trained to see their enemies as subhumans worthy of extinction, but he lets himself get talked into it by the foxy blonde of the group. I don’t see a lot of sexual tension going on here. I think he’s just reacting to the earnest idealism he sees in her, as opposed to the self-aggrandizing “My morals are better than yours” dick-swinging of the other missionaries. Community service as masturbation.

    A lot of people in the theater were laughing at this part. I think that’s part of Stallone’s plan. He lets you chuckle at the over-baked dialogue that blatantly poses the philosophical question: Is it enough to merely do good, or must you also destroy evil? This question is posed in as blunt a manner as possible, as befits a Rambo movie. It’s not ironic. It’s not post-modern. And it’s definitely not cynical. As he proved in Rocky Balboa, Stallone doesn’t have time for cynics who keep themselves insulated from both the darkest and brightest aspects of human nature by a buffer zone of cosmopolitan irony. Stallone isn’t talking to them, because they’re not listening anyway.

    So he lets them laugh at the beginning of the movie. Ha ha, isn’t this corny, the way this weird-looking old man discusses age-old ethical quandaries in the rain. Thank God I’m young, middle-class, and white so I don’t have to actually give a fuck about anything.

    But nobody’s laughing once the killing starts. At about the 20 minute mark, there’s a massacre that shuts everybody the fuck up. It is absolutely punishing. Body parts blown off. Women raped and executed. Babies bayoneted and thrown into burning huts. It is the hardest action scene I have ever witnessed, and it hurts. This isn’t fun action, with exploding arrowheads and pithy one-liners. This is man’s inhumanity to man. This is war, and Stallone shoves it right in your face. It’s like he’s saying to the skeptics, “Why aren’t you laughing now? Isn’t it funny? C’mon, you fucking hipster, laugh this shit off. I dare you. Laugh.”

    Lots of people have a problem with the fact that Stallone is showing this shit the way it really happens. They think it’s wrong for him to portray real-life atrocities in his cheesy action movie. They’d rather have him fight the Russian mafia or Eurotrash mercenaries or even not-explicitly-Muslim-but-probably-Arab terrorists. Because that’s safe. It’s just a campy good time at the movies. They don’t have to suffer the indignity of being forced to think about stuff while sharing space with the unwashed masses.

    It’s like when South Park introduced Timmy, the retarded kid. He was the singer in a band, and his spastic verbal ejaculations were both hilarious and catchy. The audience loved it and he himself had a blast. But nonetheless, the townspeople protested, saying that Timmy was being exploited. But it had nothing to do with protecting Timmy. It was just that the liberal townspeople would rather have retarded people locked away where polite folks wouldn’t have to feel guilty about the fact that they make them uncomfortable.

    That’s like Rambo with this Burma situation. Critics may bitch that Stallone is co-opting a real and ongoing tragedy, but the fact of the matter is that this movie will raise more awareness of what’s going on over there than a dozen newspaper articles and documentaries. So how do you think the actual Karens feel about it? Do you think they feel exploited by Stallone, or do you think they’re just glad (like Timmy) that someone is finally listening? Rambo clearly isn’t a message film (it’s too unpretentious for that), but Stallone knows that Rambo is a mighty worldwide icon, and he has chosen to train this symbolic power on a situation that desperately needs it.

    This no-holds-barred approach also performs a vital storytelling role. The more evil Stallone makes the bad guys, the more righteous his eventual payback. It’s simple physics. The farther you pull back the bowstring, the farther the arrow goes. Well, since he’s Rambo, Stallone pulls that motherfucker back until it damn near snaps, and when he lets it go, that arrow flies several miles and stabs right through some inhuman cocksucker’s face. And the people in the audience who aren’t dead inside cheer and cheer.

    I cannot describe the emotional catharsis of the last act of this movie, when Rambo leads a group of mercenaries into the woods to rescue the Christians. I could try, but I’d fail. I’m not that good a writer. Rambo is like the Roman Coliseum, only nobody really gets hurt and justice prevails in the end. And it prevails in the messiest, most jaw-dropping way imaginable.

    I don’t know any other way to say it, but while watching this movie, I felt more loved than I’d felt in months. When it comes to loving me, there’s this movie and then there’s my mother. And quite frankly, this movie knows me better. It’s never been a secret what action movie fans want, but for some reason, Hollywood likes to pretend that it’s a big mystery. They think we want smirky prettyboys swinging around on cables, bicycle-kicking generic henchmen. They think we want techno music and villains who bleed dust. They think we want our violence to have all the viscera and gravitas of a pinball machine.

    But Stallone knows better. He listened to our pleas and gave us the action movie we’ve always wanted. When people get shot with a .50 caliber jeep-mounted machine gun, they don’t just fall down, clutching their torsos. They break apart. Pieces fly off in clouds of blood. Just like in real life. It’s not pretty, but my God, is it awesome. It is an unholy wail of rage, and if you’ve got the bloodlust in you, the uncivilized caveman fury, then it is absolutely exhilarating. There was a moment at the end, when Rambo is about to waste the main bad guy, and he stands up into frame in slow motion like a fucking mountain rising through the earth’s crust, and I found myself releasing a roar of triumph. It was a goddamn battle cry, and I didn’t plan it. It just bubbled up out of my warrior place, my don’t-fuck-with-me place. After 236 individual onscreen deaths (half good guys, half bad), I felt punch drunk, blood simple, shell shocked, and kill crazy. I felt alive, invincible, and unashamed. And if that ain’t loving me, then God didn’t make the little green apples.

    I’ve never seen a movie like Rambo. I’ve never seen a movie that combines the entertainingly cheesy with the legitimately hardcore in such separate-but-equal measures. It’s a feel-good movie for people who don’t usually feel so goddamn good.

    Maybe some of you can’t relate. Maybe you have nothing but goodness in your hearts and can’t understand how watching an hour and a half of heads exploding can be an expression of joy. If that’s the case—honestly and without sarcasm—I’m happy for you. You’re lucky. Most of the time, this rage that people like me carry around is a curse. Unchecked, it locks us in a shell of resentment and prevents us from evolving. But properly vented, it can be a powerful motivating force—and a fucking rush. People like me spend our whole lives looking for an opportunity to use the power of our rage for something positive (as Rambo would say, “Live for nothing or die for something.”), but most of us never find it, and our anger eats us up inside like stomach acid with no food to dissolve. Because we know that evil isn’t just a concept. It’s made flesh every day by the actions of misguided men and women, and there isn’t much we can do about it. But Rambo can.

    And that’s the secret. That’s why Rambo has remained a hero in the Third World to this day, while we Americans grew soft and weak, reimagining our heroes as video game avatars who fight simply because it looks cool. Rambo is going to be a fucking phenomenon in the Third World, especially amongst the kind of persecuted peoples that those liberal critics are so eager to protect from big, bad Sly’s exploitation. Oppressed people from all over the globe are going to love it, because the poor and disenfranchised know about that hate inside, the one that needs to be vented. They know better than you or I that there is no justice in this world. But there is Rambo. And sometimes, for an hour and a half at a time, that’s enough.

  41. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but LAST BLOOD is a fucking disgrace. It’s very much a lazy Taken dtv with the name Rambo thrown in there a few times. The filmmaking on display is on the level of those Escape Plan DTVs Sly has been pooping out the last few years. So, soooo many bland close-ups. I guess there’s a reason why Adrian Grunberg hasn’t directed a movie since Get the Gringo– Mel must have carried his ass through that one.

    I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic: RAMBO is 100 times better than this shit. There is NO COMPARISON.

    This one kind of hurt me. I couldn’t leave the theater quick enough.

  42. Just saw it too. Should be a lively talkback when the review goes up. Jeez.

  43. Mr. M, that is a really fantastically written review, by the way. Loved it.

    Rewatched Rambo yesterday to remind myself how great it is. Been saying “Cobraaa” “Cobraa” all day.

  44. Mr Majestyk, what do you think Rambo’s thoughts are on the situation in Myanmar today, when the former oppressed people have started to persecute muslims and other minorities?

  45. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 19th, 2019 at 11:25 pm

    “A fucking disgrace” is a bit much, certainly it’s not as good as RAMBO, but not a lot is. I still enjoyed it for what it was. Coming back to which is more gory/violent, I think there is more overall gore in RAMBO, on a much bigger scale, but LAST BLOOD does have its share of messed up moments. One of which messed with me more than anything in RAMBO (hint: it’s what happens with the first proper Mexican baddie he gets his hands on).

    Anyways, so it’s not great, but the thing that people keep saying about the story – “it’s just Rambo thrown into a generic DTV action movie” – is also something I actually find pretty appealing. Plus what we get in those last 15 minutes is not something we’re getting anywhere else. It’s a joy to see Stallone go nuts on a bunch of human traffickers like a damn slasher villain, basically making as many gory kills in one sequence as Jason Voorhees did in all his films put together. Hell, at the end Stallone’s face even resembles an unmasked Jason, he’s legitimately scary. To see him unleashed like that on the worst people on the fucking planet, for me, that still equals a very good time at the movies. I left the theater with a smile on my face.

  46. I loved it. It’s Rambo doing Taken but Taken is PG-13 shakycam. This is gory AF and you can see everything. And the kills are next level after the 50 caliber in Rambo IV.

    I like seeing a bit more of Rambo trying to live life. Obviously bad shit has to happen but i liked the balance. Can’t wait for Vern’s review.

  47. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 20th, 2019 at 6:24 am

    Fred, did you have an opening scene where Rambo assists with rescuing some hikers? I just read in an interview this scene might be cut for the American version for pacing reasons, while it was being kept for Europe. Wonder if that’s what ended up happening. If it did get cut, it’s weird, because it’s a short scene and it opens the film up with a bit of drama, so imho it helps the pacing.

  48. Gaul, no hiker scene in my version here in the USA

  49. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 20th, 2019 at 7:38 am

    Ok, what a weird decision to take out for the US only. I mean, it’s just a quick scene with a bunch of CGI water, but it does tell you a lot about Rambo’s state of mind. Plus it has a quick Louis Mandylor cameo as a sheriff who is sympathetic to Rambo.

  50. Is there a version of the movie where the other Martinez brother didn’t just… go away? He was the better actor of the two and made things more personal with Rambo, so it was weird that he never got his comeuppance. I’m guessing the guy had another movie to shoot.

  51. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 20th, 2019 at 8:37 am

    What do you mean by go away? I mean he pretty clearly got his comeuppance. I do wonder where he went at one point but his end was in the film.

  52. Trying to not be spoilery, but it is difficult/

    Wadew, I think he did, but they just did a really poor job of letting us know it happened. I was thinking the movie would be another 30 minutes but then I realized he had gotten what he deserved before the big finale at the ranch.

  53. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 20th, 2019 at 9:24 am

    I don’t think it was that poor a job. I would have liked to see the actual thing, sure, but it was very clear what happened.

  54. Yeah, you don’t to spoil it. I guess I either completely missed that death or forgot about it seconds after it happened.

    Still, I think the wrong brother got the big, memorable death.

  55. I was thinking about washing the taste of LAST BLOOD out of my mouth by watching the Rambo Extended Cut. Does anyone prefer the extended cut over the theatrical version? I remember liking the extended scene in the rain where Julie Benz convinces Rambo to take her to Burma, but that’s about it.

  56. Stallone says he likes to keep Rambo movies short. For artistic reasons, but probably also to squeeze in more showtimes. I’d like to see the hiker scene. Hopefully it’ll be on the blu Ray.

  57. I guess I am alone in thinking that the first film should have ended like the book .Trautman splattering Rambos fucking brain across America.

  58. Shoot, I don’t know that I think that would have been a better ending for FIRST BLOOD, but I *do* think that every subsequent Rambo picture where his capacity for violence has been played as awesome and cathartic really lets down what is actually special and interesting about the original version of the character. Not that I haven’t enjoyed many of those movies on their own merits as action films, but they really run counter to the tragedy of the character’s spiritual wounds in the original.

  59. That’s why I didn’t notice Louis Mandylor! His name was still in the credits.

  60. Watched this last night, unfortunately in an almost empty theater. It was the longer version with the Sheriff Louis Mandylor scene. I understand why they would cut that scene, the first act is pretty slow. But the finale is amazing, the best slasher movie I’ve seen recently.

  61. Apparently the US Cut is 10 mins shorter.

    Here in Singapore the version i saw has Rambo rescuing some folk from a flash flood.

  62. I think Vern makes a great point about Stallone’s look here – he doesn’t look like Rambo, he looks like Stallone in real life in regular street wear, like in photos on TMZ or something. Seems lazy.

  63. I tried rewatching this as I remembered it being the least obnoxious of the sequels. And it sure is, only it is alsothe most boring as it is void of anything. It is an empty excersise of violence . I was so bored I shut it off. I can not find a single thing in it worthwhile except for the redemption arc of finding something worth fighting for. I genuinely like a Rambo sequel to admit its faults , and the film actually elevate this above all the sequels,but does it have to be so hollow and boring in the process?

  64. Shoot, how would you rank them – if you had to?

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