In 1982, film fans were introduced to an unstable, uncontrollable and unstoppable Vietnam veteran named John J. Rambo. The Rambo trilogy gave actor Sylvester Stallone an on-screen character that would be immortalized alongside another all-time great – Rocky Balboa. After 20 years of life without combat, the fourth installment of the series, simply titled Rambo, gets the ex-Green Beret back on the battlefield.
When audiences become reacquainted with Rambo, he is living a very simple life in the jungles of Thailand. He earns money by capturing exotic snakes for a local business and owns very little, save for an old rickety boat.
It’s not long, of course, before Rambo is asked for a favor.
Michael Burnett, played by Paul Schulze (Zodiac, The Sopranos), is leading a mission trip to Burma, a country crippled by 60 years of civil war. Burnett and his group of missionaries hope to administer medical attention to a group of Karen villagers. They need Rambo to take them upriver from Thailand to Burma.
Rambo resists at first, but Sarah, played by Julie Benz (Jawbreaker) convinces him of the nobility of their cause. Despite thinking that the group should stop wasting its time, Rambo agrees to take the group into the war zone that is Burma.
Naturally, the missionaries are taken captive by the brutal Burmese militia. Rambo is tracked down and asked to lead a group of mercenaries to Burma to rescue the missionaries.
Rambo, however, has no intention of being left out of this fight. Once in Burma, the movie becomes littered with graphic battle scenes as Rambo seeks to complete the rescue attempt.
This installment differs dramatically from the first three movies. Rambo, who is typically light on talking, is more personable in this film. He’s not the ruthless killing machine from the original movies – not at first, anyway – and has come to certain realizations about not only his background in the military, but the rest of his life.
The movie is intensely graphic and violent from the opening credits. The violence, however, is employed to demonstrate a dominant theme of the movie – civil war.
The film portrays the brutal treatment Karen villagers face every day from the country’s militias. The country’s 60 years of civil war – or genocide, as some people see it – have left it a war zone.
The Burmese militia in Rambo is a viciously ruthless group of people. They swoop into village settlements in the middle of the night to ‘recruit new soldiers’ and force prisoners to take part in ‘landmine races.’ The group not only shows the horrors of war, but also makes the audience long for the protagonist to get his hands on Major Pa Tee Tint, the leader of the militia.
Rambo may be the most graphic movie ever to grace the big screen. The war scenes will make the squeamish turn their heads. Stallone does an excellent job capturing the violence of war in Rambo. Despite the violence, the series has come to a tranquil and – for fans of the original series – very familiar conclusion.
Grade: A-Rating: RRun Time: 93 min.