Rambo ** (out of ****)

Director: Sylvester Stallone
Writers: Written by Art Monterastelli and Sylvester Stallone
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Sai Mawng, Sam Elliott
Rating: R (graphic violence, sexual assaults, strong language, and general mayhem)
Running Time: 93 min
Release Date: 1/25/2008

Sylvester Stallone is back as John Rambo, the disgruntled Vietnam vet and ex-Green Beret. It seems that he has been hiding out in Thailand since his previous mission in Rambo III in which he single handedly defeated the Soviet Army. His current employment is catching dangerous snakes such as cobras for his employer. In addition he owns a boat in which he goes out bow fishing.

He seems content with his stoic existence until one day some missionaries show up and offer to pay him for transportation into Burma to deliver medical supplies and Bibles. Rambo sees this for the absurdity that it is for these innocents to go into the jaws of death. He asks, “Are you bringing guns? If not go home.” Sarah (Julie Benz) pleads with him to help and after a time is convinced to undertake the trip.

On the way up the river their boat is stopped by river pirates. They notice that Sarah is a woman and demand that she be turned over to them. Rape seems imminent when Rambo makes his move, draws his pistol, and kills them all. However, the leader of the church group isn’t very happy with Rambo’s action and threatens to report him. To whom and for what is never made clear? Rambo nonetheless completes the trip to the Burmese village, drops off the missionaries, and heads back down the river.

However, just as the good deeds of healing and preaching are underway, a unit the Burmese army attacks the village with mortars and then moves in for some close in slaughter. The missionaries end up in tiger cages. Meanwhile, the pastor of the church that sent the missionaries shows up to recruit Rambo for yet another trip up the river. It seems that he has hired a team of mercenaries to conduct a rescue mission and he wants Rambo to transport the team up river. Huh? That right the church hired mercenaries!

The team includes a very sarcastic and mouthy ex-SAS man (Graham McTavish), a quiet young man known as schoolboy (Matthew Marsden), the team’s sniper who is armed with a .50 caliber Barrett rifle, and several others who seem most unlikely to turn the other cheek. My thought is that a better title for this movie would have been Rambo IV: Mercs for Christ. It seems this church is coming around to Rambo’s point of view.

The foregoing is the setup of for the big rescue and battle at the conclusion. The Burmese army is portrayed as one of the most despicable groups of thugs ever. But with Rambo on the job they are about to meet some brutal justice. This is a very violent and visceral movie as has been the tradition of the Rambo series. At 61 Stallone limits his physical activity and most of his battle scene are of him blasting all comers with a vehicle mounted .50 caliber machine gun. To paraphrase General Bull Right from the old Rowen and Martin’s Laugh In, “It isn’t much of a war movie but it’s the only one we have so far this year!”

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