Movie Review: Rambo

The 4th installment of the Rambo franchise opens up with John Rambo in Thailand, doing exactly the sort of things you’d expect him to do when he’s not killing people: capturing Cobras, fishing….with a bow, and pounding metal on an anvil.

Our man Rambo seems to have gotten bitter over the years and lost his faith in humanity when suddenly, into his life comes a group of missionaries who want him to transport them into Burma, which is engaged in a very bloody civil war.

Although Rambo is initially reluctant to take them into a war zone, a pretty missionary talks him into it. Then, long story short, they get into trouble, Rambo takes a team in to get them, and he regains his sense of purpose in life by killing lots and lots of people.

And there is no scrimping on the killing. This may be the single bloodiest, goriest film that I have ever seen. What’s it like? Think about the first 5 minutes of Saving Private Ryan — are you picturing it? The action scenes throughout the entire movie are like that. In fact, surprisingly for a franchise as cartoonish as this one, they seemed to put a great deal of effort into showing people the ugly side of war. Large numbers of innocent people, including women and children are butchered and left to rot, there are multiple sexual assaults, and people in combat are blown apart, pulverized into a fine mist, lose limbs, and are disemboweled during the course of the movie.

Had the sadistic violence been committed by American troops, Rambo would probably be up for an Oscar and you’d have critics lauding the movie for showing us the ugly face of war. But instead, the critics hate the movie.

Part of that is because, well, it’s Rambo. But also, I think it’s because, intentionally or not, the movie has a very conservative view of the world. There’s one scene from the movie that sums it all up.

One of the missionaries asks Rambo to take them into Thailand so they can help change people’s lives for the better. Rambo asks him if they’re taking any weapons. The missionary says, “of course not,” and Rambo replies, “You’re not changing anything.”

The message is that the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, and all these NGOs are well intentioned people and they probably do some small amount of good, but ultimately, it’s the people with guns who change things in a country like Burma and in the process, a lot of people die — and not just the bad guys. Lots of innocent people die, some of the good guys die, and the whole effort is ugly, cruel, and chaotic.

That is the truth, it goes right down to the core of this movie, and it doesn’t just apply to Burma, it applies to Iraq, Sudan, and 50 other hellholes around the planet. That is the biggest reason why the film critics, who are very liberal, don’t like this movie. Now me? I give it a big thumbs up. It’s an excellent action film and if you’re not too squeamish — it really is a brutal movie — I’d strongly recommend it.

PS: Here’s my favorite Rambo trailer. This one hints at the level of violence in the movie although I was little disappointed that the prayer wasn’t actually featured in the film.

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