Friday, 14 March 2008

Rambo - Review by Carmody Wilson

Director: Sylvester Stallone
Screenwriter: Sylvester Stallone
Running Time: 91 mins
Certificate: 18
Released: Out Now

There will be blood. There will be decapitation. There will be disembowelment. There will be people cut in half, blown to bits, grabbed, have their necks broken, and thrown to the floor, lifeless eyes bulging. And through it all (and responsible for it all,) is Rambo.

After the carnage of the opening scenes, containing actual news footage, we surmise that we are somewhere near Burma, where the fighting is taking place. So it is almost a relief when Rambo enters the frame, but not in the way you’d think. We first see him, pastoral-like, in a lushly greened valley, searching for his quarry, and finding it hissing in the grass, expertly bagging it. Gentle strings guide us through this lovingly filmed scene. On the way home, Rambo and his companion catch a fish, (well, knife a fish until it is killed,) and hand it off to some grateful peasants as he steers his rig into dock. Then Rambo gets dark. His landed environs are a snake pit, literally, where agile men swivel and dance out of the way of hissing, spitting cobras, presumably to show their mastery over the serpents. It is here that our fallen Rambo makes his filthy lucre. Warned by his boss “we don’t need any more cobras!!!”, Rambo slumps to his snake cages, malevolently plotting...seemingly nothing. This Rambo is as blank a canvas as ever, and with Sylvester Stallone doing the writing, directing AND acting, that’s a lot of blank canvas to watch.

Approached by soppy Christian missionaries who need his boat , Rambo , maudlin, taciturn Rambo, warns croakily that “you don’t want to get involved.” But they do, he does, and with Rambo, you’ve got to know his involvement doesn’t mean backbench negotiations. And so the most awesome carnage in cinematic memory is presented, with the aforementioned butchery complemented by a truly breathtaking explosion that still has me quivering with awe many days later.

What works against Stallone is his earnestness. He really, really wants the audience to take this film seriously. As a reluctant Rambo, leaving his killings of holocaust-like proportions behind-him, Stallone conveys a man whose cinematic legend renders every encounter with him a bloodbath. So unless he expects us to forget the other Rambo movies, it’s hard not to expect a bloodbath of the first order with every appearance of the central character. Flashbacks to the original film have Rambo being reminded of his kill-y destiny, even as he fights to retain his non-existence as a snake catcher for a Thai lowlife. He is strangely validated by killing- on a mass scale, with numerous weapons, or one-on-one where he can personally feel his victim’s hot blood rolling down his arm-but not made glad by it. So in his “I don’t want to get involved but it’s my destiny” bit, Rambo isn’t even redeemed, simply saddened by the brutality of man. What Stallone doesn’t quite manage to pull of is that irony-Rambo is as much of a problem as the brutal government forces. And in spite of all this bloodletting and looking inward, Rambo can’t save himself. Or Burma.

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