Friday, January 25, 2008


Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Graham McTavish
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Runtime: 93 min.
Rating: ****
Genre: Action

I was three when I first saw John Rambo drifting along the road, to Delmore Barry’s house, seeking the only remaining member of his Special Forces unit. When he unsuspectingly walked up his widow, with the faintest of smiles, little did he know what that road awaited him. Neither did me, and as years passed by that image still remains one of the most clearly etched memories of mine. People might reduce, and classify what ensued to a rather common tag – a super rocking series, which last hit us twenty years back. I would think otherwise; this series was much more than simply the ultimate action trilogy of all time.
And that was then.
In the meantime, the action genre as we knew it, is slowly dying amongst a plethora of wussy poor excuses. There’re some films trying to revive it and all, but the ultimate period for them was the 70s-80s. Those guys kicked posterior, and I mean real bad. No one can even stand up to them, not even the supposed superheroes. There sure is one relic named Jason Bourne, but he can only do so much. These bad guys are ruling the roost making action films for toddlers, and families, with fake explosions and hoping they could get the same share of audience as the next Drew Barrymore romance.
And that is now.
Well, John Rambo is back. And with him is Sylvester Stallone, who after successfully resurrecting Rocky Balboa, has made an absolute blinder of a film. This is action as it is supposed to be, gritty and no holds barred. Not fake, no Sir. Sock em up, Rambo style, in the guts. If you pass for a Rambo fan, and an action fan, you would find yourself thanking heavens. And I don’t see the film breaking into any new fans. We, meanwhile, have grown into adults, and it feels so has John Rambo for us giving a scale of violence Saving Private Ryan would have been proud of. The body count raked up is somewhere between Rambo III and Rambo II, but wouldn’t you be surprised when I tell you that Stallone has done it again – John Rambo is the best installment since, well, First Blood. And that is something, since there were two real killers in between.
The country is Burma, and John Rambo is living for nothing out there. Meanwhile human rights atrocities are setting new world records, as the Burmese army is crushing its way through the Karen territory. A group of missionaries turn up to this stranger, John, to ride them through the river, and help them serve lives. The Burmese are as bad as any bunch of villains have been in any action flick, with snarls, and grunts, and shrieks. But little do they know their worst nightmare is down, but not out. And when Rambo is pushed, let me tell you, killing is as easy as breathing.
There’re moments scattered all over the place, where the action junkie long dormant inside of you would want to exclaim in joy, and shout. Sitting in the fourth row from the screen, and although there were a few souls around, I gave it my howl. Come on, you get action this hardboiled only once in a while, and when it is bestowed on you, you got to be wise enough to savor every moment of it. Stallone amazes me with his physique. Throw away, in the nearest dumpster bear in mind (Environment Awareness Week), all the lingering doubts that he’s feels too old for this, or doesn’t look the part. He is as capable of throwing real hurting bombs, as throwing iron-melting stares. Not that he speaks all that often, as Rambo barely as lines, but the slurred speech still works wonders and can still intimidate a whole army of fake tough-guys. Because why? Because he’s the ultimate tough guy. Period.
What did I say though – this series is much more than rocking and socking the whole world, which it is, and in a superbig way. Scratch the first film, and you’ll find one of the best dramas about the soldier in war, and what he has to face. John Rambo is much more than your average action cutout; he is as psychologically complex as Jason Bourne. Maybe that is why Bourne rocks, for he seems to be an urban version of John Rambo. He is the ultimate man of action, and at its core is Stallone who has created a character believable at first, but at the same time larger-than-life and parody proof. In that, he’s similar to Eastwood’s the man with no name. Come to think of it, what kind of a name is John Rambo anyway. The kind of name that superheroes would be proud of, and the kind of name that creates legends out of it. Rambo sure is one, and Stallone furthers that here. He understands these characters he has created, he knows them, and he hits the bull-eye.
Stallone does understand too, what makes this series of his so dear to his fans. Remember he was co-writer on the first film. Between all the action, he creates quite nice moments with the character and his inner demons. Rambo has been the best at quelling them; he’s the classic crowd pleaser for he is a killing machine yet he has guilt inside him, and he is vulnerable. Stallone is often not given his due, for he’s a sublimely excellent filmmaker. His methods aren’t loud, they do not show off, and he’s one of the best narrators. He has this knack of pulling out sequences nothing of which seem to be false, yet when we sit back and think of them, we realize how easily they could have gone laughably wrong. This is old school action, and by that I mean almost all the action is clear, comprehensible and most importantly gut wrenching. The themes he touches, under the pretext of an action film, shouldn’t be lost track of. There is a hell of a lot of violence, and blood, but the film doesn’t seem to be reveling in it. And not that it shies away from it. It is criticizing it, and at the same moment we enjoy it, and that is what makes these movies so very special.
It was almost a year back when I watched Rocky Balboa, and reviewed it. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to 2008. It has been made at a comparatively lesser budget of $50 million. The studios should have had more faith in Stallone, and at 93 minutes I wanted it all the more to continue. How I wish I was a child to experience it all over again, anew.
One might wonder what made the legend stay back in the jungles of Asia, within the darkest confines of the heart. I guess John Rambo was waiting for someone to tell him that the mission is over. Little did he realize, all these years that the voice was within him. What that voice required was catharsis, and in a final shootout, which could easily be overlooked as mere turkey shooting, Stallone makes Rambo enjoy what he does best. And when he looks back at it, what he has done, he realizes it is time to go home.
We couldn’t have asked for a better journey. Stallone, take a bow.


Anonymous said...

Just read ur Rambo review. I was totally charged up. I just had to tell u about my experience. I saw the movie at the Infy multiplex in mysore. It was a sold out saturday night show. The audience out here majorly comprises of the trainees who you know are just out of college and are very vocal. The moment Sylvester stallone's name showed up during credit the crowd went bezerk hooting and whistling. I was like, oh man this is electrifying. But this turned out to be the least of the electrifying moments. Each killing of Rambo recieved an applause which u've to experience to believe it. People were clapping thru most of the the action peices especially the bow arrow one. People clapped when the closing credits rolled in. I tell u, this was one of the most electrifying atmosphere i've been part of.
And u being a Rambo fan would have relished such an atmosphere.


Emmly said...

Keep up the good work.

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