Sooner or later every violent Hollywood genre engages in a totally false dialectic with the peace movement. Even truly great films like High Noon or supposedly groundbreaking re-imaginings like Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven are guilty of this exaggerated breast-beating at the altar of nonviolence, as if the filmmakers think that’s what bloodthirsty audiences should want-and then they end the phony argument with a blood bath.
That’s part of the reason why Rambo is so painfully hilarious. Opening with our hero-now aged conservatively to his late fifties-hunting cobras in the Thai jungle, like you do, he meets up with a band of Christian do-gooders heading into genocidal Burma to, well, do good. Of course there’s an icy blonde beauty among them to lure John Rambo into helping, despite his oft-reinforced world weariness. Though he’s too terse to admit it, he’s drawn to her gentle idealism, her blue eyes, and the fact that she actually strokes his Popeye-shaped forearm in soothing supplication. The ensuing blood, dismemberment, hideous penetrations, and gore is explicit in slo-mo ways that Quentin Tarantino should envy. But in the end, a fragile victory is awarded to the idea of Pacem in Terris.
But even considering the silly hints of resolution, this is a one-dimensional film. It does not even have the faux-archetypal decency to present John Rambo as an incarnation of Mother Earth, as was the case in the last three films, to the joy of academic explicators everywhere. In a way, it’s no worse than most cheap Hong Kong action films for cutting directly to the arterial spray. But apart from the hungry hungry fans, there is little joy in this film and a lot of towering egos. Sylvester Stallone is clearly singing a croaky swan song to the bloody revenge films that made him rich, though it’s not hard to imagine him taking out his machete in a hippie retirement home some day. Then it will be Rambo: Iron-Poor Blood, and the fans will be there to laugh at the idea of giving peace a chance.