Rambo's Horror

So, I buckled down and watched Rambo (2008) the other night. I distinctly remember when this sequel (if you're counting it's the 4th in the Rambo series, with the original First Blood released in 1982) came out because I was visiting New York City for the first time. I was having lunch with my St. Martin's Press editor and he asked me if I was going to go see Rambo-at first I thought he was joking, as any continuation of the Rambo series in 2008 had to be some kind of horrible joke, but he was serious. He wanted to see Rambo's big square jaw jutting out one more time, taking one last stand.

Cut to my apartment five years later. Old Rambo is living in Thailand, trying to just chill out and enjoy his snake collecting business and hammering the shit out of various metals at his forge (really, he uses a forge, as if dwelling on the edge of Mordor). Suddenly, some white people missionaries from the States show up and generally annoy him until he agrees to take them on his boat into Burma, where a civil war/atrocity is happening. Now, anybody watching this knows two things right off 1) these whiny missionaries are going to get their asses kicked 2) Rambo will reluctantly be drawn in to save them.

Which is what happens, right after a village burning scene which is a mix of Apocalypse Now and the Normandy invasion opening in Saving Private Ryan. We're talking some pretty realistic death and destruction here, people. As if Stallone, who is also the film's director, has taken the hyper-violence prevalent in modern cinema as a personal affront to his own manhood and has decided to one-up it (which nobody can really do anymore, since we jumped the violent shark a while back).

From there, Rambo heads in with a group of mercenaries to rescue the surviving missionaries (huh, the words missionaries and mercenaries sound similar, don't they?) and shit gets real. From here out the action is tight, well-done, and suddenly we're flying along to the movie's ending.

As the credits roll, however, we're still left wondering what the fuck this movie has been about, exactly. Do we agree with the missionary lady's theory that trying to save a person's life is never wasting yours, even if (as it turns out in Rambo's case) you've killed literally a hundred people to save one or two lives? Do we believe that even after so much horror, we can, like Rambo, finally go home again? Or is all this violence simply meaningless, totally meaningless, and, by extension, the human lives it affects?

There's an interesting scene right before Rambo's drawn back into the violent world he's left for so long. He's hammering himself a homemade machete and having all these black and white flashbacks from the previous Rambo films. On top of the flashbacks is an interior monologue. During this monologue, Rambo tells himself, "You know what you are... what you're made of. War is in your blood. Don't fight it. You didn't kill for your country. You killed for yourself. God's never gonna make that go away. When you're pushed, killing's as easy as breathing."

So Rambo just kills and killing is an end to itself?

I guess it's a good thing he's on our side.


(Note: Apparently Rambo V is in development. That's right: Rambo saves his nursing home from the Vietcong!)


Post a Comment