RAMBO saw no need to add ‘IV ‘ to its 2008 knee-deep wade into blood, sweat and more blood, 20 years after the stupid third go-round, a full 25 since Sylvester Stallone originally unleashed his sullen warrior upon stunt-men of many lands. This one has a body count of two hundred thirty six, enough to give even John Wick pause (to reload, if nothing else) and sure to repulse the Worthless & Weak not into Gnarly Guys going Full Stud being Total Dudes doing Man Stuff. In Burma.
Living in neighboring Thailand, Zen killing machine ‘John Rambo’ (must we insert star name here: are you from Mercury?) makes a rice-living as a snake-peddler (been there: you’d be surprised) until paged to help hopeful missionaries and the desperate Karen rebels in the big jungle dictatorship (lot’s of those) to the immediate left. Heading Left entails veering Right, getting a team of dead-serious mercenaries to help Our Man Ram fight the sadistic Burmese military—the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council). Bastards shall sow vengeance.
Expertly directed by Stallone, who co-wrote the tough script with Art Monterastelli, it’s a blistering 91 minutes made for $50,000,000 on locations in Thailand (near Chiang Mai), Mexico and Arizona. Critics naturally veered from the mayhem, but acknowledged it was at least much better handled than the previous daft entrees. Untroubled by look-good-for-your-readers ethical-handjobs, atrocity-outraged, catharsis-bound audiences locked & loaded $113,200,000.
The violence, while unremitting and extreme, feels apropos to any pass at the horror-show visited upon Burma’s peoples by their rulers, and in keeping with long-established Guy Movie code—if this is what they do to innocent people, then they’ve got it coming in spades. “Re-lease the Sylvester!” **
Charged cinematography credits Glen MacPherson. The movie is—no surprise—banned in Burma. With solid work from Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Tim Kang, Ken Howard. Maung Maung Khin plays the head sonofabitch-who-must-pay. *
“That we’re like animals! It’s in the blood! It’s natural! Peace? That’s an accident! It’s what is! When you’re pushed, killing’s as easy as breathing. When the killing stops in one place, it starts in another, but that’s okay… ’cause you’re killing for your country. But it ain’t your country who asks you, it’s a few men up top who want it. Old men start it, young men fight it, nobody wins, everybody in the middle dies… and nobody tells the truth! God’s gonna make all that go away?….Don’t waste your life, I did. Go home.”
* Alas, and dropping the wisecracks, Life imitates Art and not always in a good way. Burmese-Kachin actor Maung Maung Khin played the fearsome ‘Tint’, main SOB of the bad guy array. Now going by the name Ko Min Htay, for decades he was an anti-government insurgent, and in 2017 was arrested by the Burmese authorities. His fight for Democracy and justice in that torn and bleeding land continues. “These boys are now our soldiers! They belong to me now! If you try to get them back, your whole village will burn! If you ask the Karen Rebels for help, I will cut out your tongues! If you go against me, I will feed you your intestines! Hear me, believe me, and fear me!”
** Unless you’re rich and powerful, you are—like most on the globe and the countless fallen ranks of our assorted ancestors—at the mercy of those with wealth, clout and the means to use it. People have always clung to the idea of a Hero, real or mythical, who will deliver them from fear and servitude. Peaceful—Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King. Martial—Spartacus, El Cid, William Wallace. It should be no nail-to-foot surprise that people react to a fantasy figure like Rambo, especially when his righteous fury is unleashed on deserving fiends like the Burmese military. Have him go after pretend evil Russians (Rambo III) or devious North Vietnamese (Rambo: First Blood Part II ) and the b.s. right-wing revisionism is enough to gag a crocodile. But turn his sweaty sites on murderous warlords (this film), drug cartels, Congolese militia and sundry other of the planet’s hellhounds—then we’re on his side (from the safety of theater and couch). Send him to Washington D.C.—maybe he can do a better mop-up job in that whorehouse than Billy Jack…