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Rambo will rock your world

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ar is hell, and Sylvester Stallone’s ultra-violent “Rambo” hammers the point home with bloody brute force. Dispensing with much plot or subtext, “Rambo” instead goes right for the jugular—literally. With more exploding heads than “Scanners,” “Rambo” may well be one of the gorier action flicks in film history. “The Thin Red Line” this is not. Still, for what “Rambo” is—a formulaic 80’s revival action flick with dizzying fight sequences, stock characters, and slight pretensions of social conscience—it delivers. The film opens with John Rambo—the ex-Vietnam veteran killing machine—steering a river boat and rustling poisonous snakes barehanded for a couple of extra baht in Thailand. Life has never been good to Rambo, and the years seem to have worn on him. He appears beefy, but blue. “When you’re pushed…killin’ is as easy as breathin’,” is his mantra. Christian missionaries, led by Michael (Paul Schulze—Father Phil on “The Sopranos”) enter the picture, and try to convince Rambo to steer them upriver to Burma (also called Myanmar) where a civil war is raging. Only fair-haired Sarah can convince Rambo to help. The dialogue between the two is particularly wooden—it is as if she is trying to implore a great ape, and the beast happens to speak English. “What you are trying to do is change what is,” a nihilistic Rambo tells her. “Trying to save a life isn’t wasting your life…is it?” she answers. It’s not long before the missionaries are captured, and a ragtag crew of mercenaries is quickly hired by the church to extract them. “Live for nothing’ or die for somethin’…Your call,” Rambo tells the men, largely indistinguishable from each other save for an Australian accent on one, a beard on another. Don’t expect nuances in the portrayal of the Burmese military either—each one is a bloodthirsty sadist. Their leader, who orchestrates the violence through sunglasses and thick whirls of cigarette smoke, is of course the most loathsome of the lot. Suffice it to say that Chris Hansen from “Dateline NBC” might need to pay this bloke a visit. Sixty-one-year-old Stallone, who stars, directs and co-wrote “Rambo,” ratchets up the violence to such a degree that it borders on pornographic. The point, over and again, is that in real life, this is the face of war and suffering, and it is gruesome. But Rambo is far from real. He’s a samurai with a mullet, and he’s a hard guy not to root for. When he creeps up behind some enemy thug, you may just cheer…and then look away. Rambo. Rated R for strong graphic bloody violence, sexual assaults, grisly images and language. Running time: 93 minutes. With Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, and Graham McTavish.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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Reader feedback

Joseph Van Buren says:
I am sick of you critics calling violence pornographic, there's nothing erotic or sexual
about violence unless you're into that ——.
Jan. 29, 2015, 5:39 pm

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