Tuesday, September 14, 2010

John Rambo [Sylvester Stallone]

As of now there’s one video game property that doesn’t need a movie to be made of it. That’s Soldier of Fortune, because the movie is already made, and it’s called John Mullins…er, John Rambo (aka Rambo 4). 

Sylvester Stallone’s latest franchise revival first started making waves when a small trailer skimming some of its brutal action sequences wended its way through the inter-web. Although causing some anxiety with the specter of intense annoyance from the lamely pontificating human rights activist female character, the promise of the gloriously exaggerated gore elements was unmissable. The question was…would the rest of the film live up to it?

The answer is a fist-thumping resounding YES! John Rambo is the ultimate blood n’ guts adrenaline junkie’s fantasy. There’s nary a scene where someone isn’t getting blown off or impaled or completely eviscerated. The makers of this film have delivered on that very rare count in today’s world…given the target audience exactly what they want, and actually surpassed all expectations on it.

The setting of the new installment is in the Thailand-Burma border where the Burmese army is orchestrating its reign of terror on the people, conducting such charming exercises as making them run through impromptu mine-fields. Rambo, who is first seen working as a snake capturer in the Thai side leads a coterie of missionaries looking to carry medical aid and bibles to the Burmese war-zone. It’s not long before these bleeding heart Yesu Christis are captured by the military and introduced to Burmese PoW hospitality (including having one of them eaten by pigs, hell yeah!). Rambo, along with a motley of other mercenaries, must go in to save their asses. Sly Stallone co-wrote the script which thankfully avoids any excess of emo-core heavy-handedness and concentrates on serving up the blood-filled thrills.

Before the film opens you get a notice that says that the film is entirely a work of fiction and has no bearing to the actual political situation. That’s the cue for all the sensitive people to get up and walk out because if you’re expecting any respect to the real suffering of the people in this part of the world you’re watching the wrong movie. Rambo 4 is glorious and unabashed war-porn, and it works brilliantly at that.

The film has an unmistakable video-game sensibility to it. Several of the action scenes could come right out of the SoF games…tankers worth of not entirely realistic gore, exaggerated death animations, and bad AI too. Even the few scenes of conversation have a game cut-scene quality to them. Rambo continues in his vein of taciturn toughness, successfully twanging the chords of nostalgia with the audience that grew up on his adventures. His interaction with the mercenary team has some hilarious cool moments, especially with the Cockney merc (Graham McTavish), who is a glorious piece of caricature.

The film aims for a grimy unfiltered look which gives it a very in-your-face quality, especially during the many frantic firefights. The CGI and other visual effects eschew the obsessive pixel-perfect look that most bigger budget Hollywood films aim for, the gore appearing somewhat cartoony,  but still gratifyingly punchy. In fact Stallone as director cannily uses this unrealism to his advantage, incorporating all manner of hilariously OTT elements.

I could go on, but the message in short is, John Rambo is a must-see for all visceral action junkies that won’t let their real-life political concerns hinder their enjoyment of this fat-laden rich-tasting delicious gore-burger.

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