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Rambo (2008)

Rambo. Feature film. (2008, 92 mins) IMDB

...action films won't die, or John Rambo...

I

was surprised to see Stallone directed this film and surprised even further how effective it was. RAMBO is another action film, but there's a level of visuals and direction that hasn't been seen before (at least by me).

The film works on this principle: create some nasty baddies, so bad we want to see them harmed and stopped. With that in place, enter our hero to make it happen and smile as it happens. Pump a fist into the air in triumph. If you feel those moments, you'll probably like the film. I felt those moments in this film.

I can remember watching the film in the theatre that started it all way back when. FIRST BLOOD, based on a novel by David Morrell (we went to the same high school but at different times), changed the lexicon of the public. The word Rambo had meaning. That film was a big hit and I can remember details from watching it even though it's been 25 years. Some films are like that.

The story line for this edition of the franchise is straightforward. John Rambo lives a meek existence in Thailand. He owns a boat for travelling up and down the rivers. He catches cobras and other wild snakes for money.

Enter the inciting incident. A bunch of missionaries and health professionals want to hire him to take them and their supplies up the river to a spot in Burma. He doesn't want to do it and advises against it. Burma is a war zone. Don't go there. The sole woman in the group convinces him to do it and he ferries them north. There's an encounter with pirates along the way which he handles with deadly force. He takes them to a village and returns downstream.

The village is attacked by a gang of military thugs. Here are the ultimate baddies. They kill indiscriminately, they pillage, they rape. They aren't solders, they are merciless thugs. In the process of the attack, several of the visitors are killed, the rest are taken hostage and imprisoned.

There were scenes in this film that reminded me of APOCALYPSE NOW. A boat on a river. Danger lurking everywhere. Bamboo cages.

Rambo isn't anywhere near the attack and has no reason to get involved further. Enter a man who wants to hire him to ferry mercenaries up the river to rescue the people. Another step in the story.

The mercenaries don't know Rambo and don't respect him. They think he's a wimp. It helps to have a Brit play an arrogant asshole.

What follows is a great deal of violence as the team infiltrate the thug's compound, rescue the prisoners and make their escape. It's predictable but since we want to see certain people get theirs, we want to watch.

The level of violence in this film goes to new heights it seems to me. When a local steps on a land mine in a rice field, the explosion isn't simply a cloud of grey smoke. There's water and it's saturated red from the blood and flesh of the victim. A giant flash of red.

When someone is shot, blood spurts out. When Rambo fires a .50 cal on the soldiers, arms and legs are severed.

The level of realism is gruesome. I'm sure it will upset some people.

How were these effects created? Most likely with CGI. If that's the case, it's not obvious and cheap looking CGI and not over done.

Posted 2009/05/11 at 20h31ET in Movie Commentary.

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