No country for old 'Rambo'

Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2008

I will say this for Sylvester Stallone: The man ain't a quitter. He may almost be a senior citizen (62 in July), but in age only. Sly apparently frequents the same plastic surgeon Sharon Stone does, because he could easily pass for 40. And so what if his head size has increased over the years more than anyone not named Barry Bonds? The dude plays John Rambo, and he is appropriately ripped. You will have to forgive the T-shirt in this one - chalk it up to maturity.

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Courtesy Of Rogue Marble
Courtesy Of Rogue Marble

Bottom line: Stallone, for all intents and purposes, was put out to Hollywood pasture years ago. Yet, thanks to his resurrection of the characters that made him famous decades ago, his name is still on the marquee.

His perseverance, however, does not change the fact that his movies, and his acting, are bad. His current vehicle, "Rambo," is a curious mixture of said bad acting, bad writing and enough gratuitous violence to make the warriors of "300" blush.

In this latest installment of "Rambo," the sullen Vietnam hero is living a quiet, peaceful life in Thailand. Neighboring Burma is anything but peaceful, and the opening frames of "Rambo" introduce us to the atrocities taking place there, as well as the villainous general in charge of the mayhem. Rambo is content to stalk about his daily routine, looking sullen and giving off as grumpy a vibe as possible; the evil taking place in Burma does not concern him.

Insert predictable plot twist here. A group of American missionaries convinces Rambo to take them by boat into Burma so they might spread the good word and offer medical assistance to the people. The group elects to continue onward even after Rambo has to kill several Burmese pirates on the river to protect them.

Everything about the leader of the missionary group is a cliché. He gets angry at Rambo for the killings because murder is never justified. This leads to my favorite moment in the film: Rambo grabs the obnoxious man around the throat and in a classic Stallone guttural growl explains the pirates would have raped the female missionary "50 times" and then killed her.

The group does make it to the village. Soon, though, the village is attacked and the Americans are kidnapped. Yada, yada, yada, Rambo winds up unleashing the killer within and along with a few mercenaries penetrates the enemy camp and rescues the missionaries.

Stallone has never been an actor that has demonstrated... um ... skill. But his work here is dull even for him. I get that Rambo is tough, but the countless moments in which he chooses to coldly stare at somebody instead of speaking come across as if Stallone has forgotten his lines. That probably is not the case, of course, since he also wrote those lines in the first place.

Depressingly, there is not a single moment of humor (at least not intentionally) in the film. Rambo is clearly clinically depressed. The missionaries are not exactly happy-go-lucky, and the Burmese village folk are lucky if they don't get limbs hacked off by their oppressors. Every single character is 100 percent cookie-cutter. Every plot turn is easy to see coming.

To top it off, "Rambo" is packed from beginning to end with bodies being torn to shreds by bullets, limbs being hacked off by blades, heads being blown off by sniper rifles and people being blown up by land mines. Gratuitous seems an unqualified adjective to describe how graphic the onscreen bloodshed is.

Yes, Sly, your name is still on the marquee. Maybe, though, for Rambo's sake, quitting wouldn't be so bad.

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