Posted: 01/29/2008




by Rick Villalobos

Live for nothing, or die for something.

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Rambo is back, and he brought his patented bow and arrow. Once again, the character with the disillusioned soul and the unresolved spirit is revived for one last rescue. He has become a legend, an invincible soldier that never tires, and a conqueror of armies. Sylvester Stallone is Rambo.

In 1972, John Rambo was introduced as a character in a novel written by David Morrell. Ten years later, First Blood became a film that deployed a series suitable for any gun-toting, trigger-happy, and guerrilla-warfare-loving fanatic. Years pass, three more films are shot, and Rambo is still somewhere in Thailand fighting his demons.

The premise is beautifully written for any action-packed picture with a high death toll. Rambo is hired to guide a group of missionaries into Burma, a country in the middle of a 60 year civil war. At first, our reluctant hero is unwilling to lead anyone anywhere, but he is eventually convinced by Sarah (Julie Benz, of Showtime’s Dexter), the only female missionary on the trip. She is young, blonde, assertive and beautiful. She is the typical female lead that eventually gains the trust of the male protagonist.

A bomb explodes—“surprisingly,” a hundred rebels attack. The Burmese village and the American missionaries are now targets inside a war zone.

Apparently, there is only one storyline for a search and rescue mission. Hero goes into enemy territory and attempts the impossible. Hero survives with minimal injuries and completes the mission. Hero returns for the fifth time in another blockbuster. It is predictable, but how can anyone ignore counting the 236 casualties in the film? It is impossible and a hell of a drinking game.

Rambo has developed into a character with many psychological and emotional layers. It is that soldier from the ’80s, that impulsive warrior changed by the wretchedness hand of war that intrigues and fascinates anyone into watching for 93 minutes. Let us not forget that Sylvester Stallone is an Academy Award-nominated actor, director and screenwriter. He has proven himself a worthy talent and it is only fitting that he ends the Rambo franchise on a high note and he does.

Fatality quotas have been met. Rambo is tougher than Matrix (Commando, 1985). There is just one question left to be answered: Can this Rambo defeat the Rambo of the ’80s? This could be the premise for the fifth film—a time traveling soldier wandering back in time to kick the butt of his past self. It might just work.

Rick Villalobos is a film critic in Chicago.

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