Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, and Matthew Marsden star in a film written by Art Monterastelli and Stallone and directed by Stallone.

Oh, Rambo. The bad guys are at it again, but your willingness to wreak massive bloodletting will save us all (sort of).

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.


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