Last year Sylvester Stallone successfully revitalised the Rocky franchise with Rocky Balboa. After a number of dud sequels, Stallone breathed life back into the pugilist by revisiting him in his decrepitude to winning effect. He tries and fails to repeat the feat with Rambo, the fourth instalment in the series that started with the dynamite First Blood in 1982.
John Rambo is now living in isolation on the border of Burma. It’s not clear if he’s still a Buddhist, content to pass out his days in the jungle and avoid engaging in combat. His peace is disturbed by a group of Christian Missionaries who want to help the local Burmese, caught in the grip of a civil war. Inevitably, our favourite ex-soldier has always hated pen pushers and liberal do gooders more than anyone and is only convinced to help them by the charms of a beautiful woman (Julie Benz).
In this post 9/11 world there is no way that Rambo could be allowed to align himself with the mujahadeen, as occurs in Rambo III. Indeed, after a black and white flashback sequence rolls across the screen, Rambo’s regret at his past is largely concerned with his failure to reintegrate into American society and his fear that he’ll always have the mentality of a soldier rather than remorse at helping the Taliban. But the real benefit of the flashback device is that it allows the filmmakers to pay homage to actor Richard Crenna who died of pancreatic cancer in 2003. A huge proportion of the audience for this Rambo will, no doubt, be uninterested in any semblance of a plot while they wait for the Vietnam War veteran to get his machine gun out and kill. In this department Rambo delivers in bullets. As director and co-writer, Stallone has upped the ante with scenes as graphic and stomach churning as anything played out in the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. The problem is that, with no real rational or moral core to the narrative, this boils down to cinema as computer game, with Burmese military bad guys held up for target practice. Predictably disappointing.
General release from Fri 22 Feb.