Release Date: January 25
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Writers: Sylvester Stallone and David Morrell
Cinematographer: Glen MacPherson
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Matthew Marsden, Michael Burnett
Studio/Running Time: Lionsgate, 93 mins.
“I been livin’ like a star cause it’s gettin’ me high
Forget the hearse cause I never die
I got nine lives, cat’s eyes
Abusing every one of them and running wild
Cause I’m back! Yes, I’m back!”
-AC/DC “Back in Black”
“Heroes never die. They just reload,” reads one of the advertisements for Rambo. If this is truly the case, will somebody please take away his bullets already? Sylvester Stallone has returned as the anti-social war mongering loner John Rambo. In his quest for tranquility, Rambo chooses this time to live near the site of a violent Burmese civil war, a contradiction matched only by the film’s title. After all, the last entry in the franchise, Rambo III, was 20 years ago. But in this film, reason and originality are replaced by body counts, and these counts are extremely high.
While living in Bangkok as a snake-hunting boatman, Rambo is convinced to take an attractive missionary (Julie Benz) and her husband (Paul Schulze) upriver to administer aid to villagers who are being systematically killed and tortured by a sadistic army. Before long, the missionaries are captured and the church hires Rambo and a group of mercenary soldiers to perform another type of rescue.
The best parts of Rambo are also its most disturbing ones. The incredibly realistic shots of automatic weapons and land mines annihilating human bodies are violently impressive. They are also continually on display, just in case you miss the first several times a head or limb flies across the screen. If just a fraction of that effort had been used for the film’s tired storyline, the once-Academy-nominated screenwriter Stallone might have earned some small sense of credibility. Turns out what we’ve learned is actually half true: action heroes never die, they just rewind.