Human growth hormone, which Sylvester Stallone has reportedly admitted using in preparation for his return as John Rambo, certainly comes in handy when gutting and decapitating soldiers in the Burmese jungle. It’s not that they’re undeserving—it’s just a shame Sly couldn’t pop a supplement to boost his dramatic range and stamina as well. This massacre, directed and co-written by Stallone, suffers from the brutal excess associated with steroid use. No matter how sullen and lonely the heroic perpetrator, or how necessary his killing behavior may be, Rambo is numbingly savage. The government of Myanmar (Burma’s official name) won’t be inviting Stallone to any embassy functions.
Two decades after Rambo III, J.R. is minding his own business in a village in northern Thailand, catching snakes, trawling the river and looking more simian than ever. A genocidal civil war complete with rape, dismemberment and cruel execution games rages in Burma, and a small band of Christians on an aid mission asks John to shuttle them up river. He refuses, until the lone woman in the party (Julie Benz) persuades him it’s his duty to help her and her associates deliver spiritual and material solace to the innocent victims. It may not change the world, she argues, but saving a life or two is nothing to scoff at.
Ha! Didn’t she read the script? The body count is so high and the violence so graphic that anything remotely soft is summarily squashed, particularly human insides. Rambo’s first victims are Burmese pirates whom he mows down in self-defense on the river. Then he deposits the missionaries and returns home. Burmese soldiers soon capture them during a horrific raid on a refugee camp. (In case the soldier’s actions aren’t perceived as vile enough, their chain-smoking, Ray-Ban-wearing commander is also a sodomite.)
A few weeks later, the missionary’s pastor (Ken Howard) wakes John from a nightmare comprised of clips from the previous Rambo flicks and asks him to escort mercenaries into the war zone so they can mount a rescue. That’s when the slaughter really begins. Soldiers keep emerging from the bamboo jungle, and Rambo and company keep mowing them down. Thank heavens Stallone was full of testosterone—how else could he convince us he has the strength to tear out a guy’s throat? On the other hand, is it any wonder he doesn’t get the girl?
The production values here are decent, but Rambo just keeps raising the ante on barbarism and carnage. The notion that the movie has anything edifying to say about a life of violence is patently absurd. It doesn’t even work as aversion therapy.
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Rey Gallegos, Tim Kang, Jake LaBotz, Maung Maung Khin and Ken Howard
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Screenwriters: Art Monterastelli and Sylvester Stallone
Producers: Avi Lerner, Kevin King-Templeton and John Thompson
Genre: Action adventure
Rating: R for strong graphic bloody violence, sexual assaults, grisly images andlanguage
Running time: 93 min.
Release date: January 25, 2008