Pro-Rambo: B. Alan Orange (Male)
What you've heard is true. Rambo is the most violent movie ever committed to celluloid. Hands down, no arguing the fact. Try as I might, I can't think of one other movie that contains this much raw hamburger and carnage. It makes Saving Private Ryan look like an episode of VeggieTales. A brutal film like Street Trash only pales in comparison. Forget about that severed penis scene that made your mom turn off the TV in disgust. Stallone's new blood drenched epic runs at about twenty flying severed limbs per second. And that is no mean exaggeration.
Remember when Chavez y Chavez spit-screamed, "Babies had their heads bashed in with boot heels so that the army could save bullets!"? Well, Stallone does ol' Lou Diamond Phillips one better by actually showing this ripping scene on screen. That's right, the bad guys actually step on a baby's head. If that weren't bad enough, they then stab him repeatedly with a bayonet and then toss him into a flaming fireball that also sees another five year old careening past the camera lens without any limbs. It keeps going, too. For about fifty minutes. Just like that. Non-stop. Killing. And you will probably think it is really cool. And it kinda is. Its like Cannibal Ferox meets Casualties of War with a Flying J station full of blood lathered over the top of it.
Heck, the woman I was sitting next to got up and left the theater as soon as that boot heel came down on that kid's soft spot. If that is not a winning endorsement for how crazy and off the rails this thing is, nothing else could be. I could go on to describe more of what I saw. But you wouldn't believe me. I can't even believe it myself. There is one scene near the end where Rambo kills twenty enemy soldiers all in one go. My eyes did a literal back flip. It is a scene that will be played on repeat the first four hundred times you stick this sucker in your DVD player. Rambo is the equivalent of a Washington D.C. fireworks show. The entire duration of its running time is one giant flame-fueled finale.
When I came out of the theater, guys were high-fiving each other and screaming about how they were going to line up for it again at midnight. They couldn't wait to get another taste of this pure raw ribeye, sliced directly off the bull. Even I was caught up in the moment. It is a thrilling ninety-minute stretch. That is for sure. But, try as I might, I couldn't quite see the point of the film. Don't get me wrong. I think it is bravado filmmaking at its best. Stallone really put his balls out on the table with this one. He one-upped every living American filmmaker. And Takashi Miike to boot.
Stallone's reasoning is that this film will shed light on the problems that are on going in Burma. Hmm. Funny. I didn't hear one dude walk out of the theater and go, "Man. I must stop everything I am doing and go help out the Burmese rebels." No. All I heard was, "Lets get fucking drunk and watch that again." So, I really don't know how much this is doing for the war effort.
I know you will scream, "Hey, man, its just entertainment." And I agree. But every interview I read contains a declaration of reasoning as to why the gore is justified. Stallone says the MPAA gave him a pass because this stuff is actually going on in the world. Cool. Does that mean we get to show the fun yet gruesome side of child abuse in all its detailed glory? What about any other sort of brutal malfeasance that is plaguing the world? I think Sly has opened up the floodgates. The gore in Rambo is beyond over the top. He has single handedly squeezed new life into the American Giallo scene, and I see a whole bunch of imitators with less than lofty ambitions coming down the pike. Rambo is a cultural milestone in blood fashion, and I think his focus on the plight of the Burmese rebel is a suspicious one at best.
Like I said, I personally love the film. I thought it was a great bit of exasperating action cinema the likes of which I have never seen before. As a red blooded American male, it got my blood pumping. How can you not simply love the scene where John Rambo, lost in the middle of the jungle, rigs a small nuclear device to a stump in the ground and then outruns the atomic blast, bustling past massive, over blown oak trees and careening body parts? It's a great moment. Who cares if it doesn't make any sense? The whole movie doesn't make a lot of linear sense.
As far as the story goes, it is a pointless donut circle of a plot. Rambo decides after much deliberation to take a group of Christian Aid Workers up the cruel Pirate infested Salween river and into Burma. He then drops them off at the edge of war like a soccer mom dropping her kids off at the front of a movie theater showing this particular film. "Hey, Sly, it is irresponsible. Dude, you know there will be cruel consequences". And there are. Those missionaries go missing. So, a few days later, John has to accompany a bunch of shit-talking mercenaries back into the jungle to find him. Absolute mayhem ensues. Bodies are decimated beyond all recognition. The last hour of the film is like a mutated Emil Antonowsky hitting your windshield on a continual loop. And holy fuck, it is too cool for school.
But why? Why does it have to happen? Rambo is the only one capable of taking this selfish (yeah selfish, because they seem to be doing it only for the justification of their own souls) group up the river. If he refused the trip as he originally intended, he'd never have to go back in and massacre so many people in the name of Christian Aid Work. Don't get me wrong, the people he joyfully offs deserve every single torn esophagus and arrow to the head that they receive. But its almost as if he knows what he is doing. He knows he's throwing these "Christians" to the "Lions" if you will. He sets the story in motion because he is a killing machine and he wants to kill, even though he is trying to deny himself that privilege. It took Stallone, himself, to explain this to me in one of his recent press conferences...
First and foremost, this film is intended to revitalize the macho workmanship of the Eighties uber-hero. Sly is tired of the pussification of American men in today's culture. And I can totally get behind this centralized thesis ideology. He penned two well-written essays against the emasculation of the male id in both this film and the previous Rocky Balboa. He is willfully stomping on the heads of every "Metrosexual" modern cinema film character out there at the moment. Rambo isn't simply about the plight of the Burmese Rebel Soldier. It is about coming to terms with yourself. And who you are. Your intended purpose on this planet. It is also about showing what a weak, worthless group of namby-pambies our society is currently raising. In Stallone's world, it is about rising up and actually doing something in the face of a crisis. Its about being proactive instead of sitting back and watching a film like this one, then slapping fives with your fat wimp friend as these cruel forces destroy the world around you.
Stallone has a point with all of this. You need look no further than an incident like the Virginia Tech killing spree dolled out by Seung-Hui Cho. There were no Rambos in that particular situation. Not one person tried to stop this guy. They just let it happen. They didn't do anything. Stallone is trying to open eyes. He's saying, "Get involved. Make a difference." Be it a killing spree or simply helping someone with their luggage at the airport. People, men especially, are being emasculated at an alarming rate in our current society. No one is proactive anymore. Stallone's last couple of movies are essentially PSAs. He's saying, "Get off your ass. Be a man. Do something, anything!" And I like that he is taking this stand. It makes the film more enjoyable on all kinds of levels.
Both Rambo and Rocky Balboa are part of The Passion of the Christ series currently being sold by Planet Hollywood. That peer group, sans Governor Schwarzenegger, has decided to take the emotional core and idea of Mel Gibson's film and sell it through their action heroes. Live Free or Die Hard is also one of these films. The plight had by John McClane, John Rambo, and Rocky Balboa is meant to emulate the trek Christ made up that hill to Golgotha. This is their cross to bare. What we see on screen is very similar in a thematic sense. It's the idea that they have taken on the weight of the World to save mankind. Just as Christ did. McClane says so himself, "If there was someone else to do this, I would let them. But there isn't anyone else. It is on my shoulders." You may want to deny that these films are wrapped in a biblical sheath, but it is true. They are religious in construct. And they carry a strong and important message of "faith in mankind". The action hero is able to take those themes and sell them to a secular crowd. As Stallone put it himself, Rambo is simply about "Man's inhumanity to man and sometimes God's indifference to his loyal followers?" Like it or not, Stallone is on a righteous path. And he is selling those ideas one movie ticket at a time.
(One of the reasons Rambo is so brutally realistic and gory comes from the same ideology that Mel Gibson used when creating his The Passion of the Christ. It gets people's attention. If you remember correctly, at the time, critics were calling that "one of the most violent, bloody films of all time." Stallone decided to one up the Son of God. Oh, yes he did!)
So, yes, this is a very enjoyable movie on a purely visceral level. It is the goriest, most violent film ever sold under an R rating. And it carries an important message for the wimpified amputated "Death Cab for Cutie"-loving culture that we are currently living in. Do something! Make a difference!
Whatever you take from the film, you can't deny that it is chalk full of thrills and chills.
"Lets get drunk, fuck, eat raw meat and watch Rambo! Fuck yeah!"
Anti-Rambo: B. Lynn (Female)
I wanted to take a moment to establish that I love Rambo. In 1982, my folks took us to three movies that I remember vividly. The first one was The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. It had ample titty-time and a mind-blowing soundtrack that my sister and I created dance routines to, incorporating the picnic table, of course. Then there was An Officer and a Gentleman. My dad was a drill sergeant at the time, so I will forever equate Louis Gossett Jr. with warm cuddly father-figure feelings (Iron Eagle just drove it home). Then lastly, and more to the point First Blood. I already had a healthy infatuation with Sly Stallone via Rocky, Rocky II and Rocky III (Unrelated...For my seventh birthday, I asked for no party on the condition that we go see Rocky II on a school night, AND that my mom's co-worker, who looked just like Stevie Nicks be invited). So... when First Blood hit the screen that seven year old girl was PUMPED.
First Blood truly delivered. Action? Check! Compelling plot? Check!! Stallone's perfectly feathered hair (Please refer to Nighthawks for the ultimate Sly hair-do. Not to be confused with this Nighthawks)? CHECK!! He was the type of hero I had come to expect from Sly. He was the ultimate billy-badass underdog with a cause. I could break down all the installments, but who needs to? They did not veer from the Sly formula. Have I established that I am a fan? If not, please refer to the photo below spotlighting my twelfth-birthday gifts (new purple eye shadow, Sly poster, and white lacy fingerless gloves) alongside my sister who is apparently showing off an invisible ring. For purposes of getting to the point, I will defer comments on the other Teen Beat images. But, need I say more?
Flash forward twenty years, and picture that girl counting the days until... Rambo! Clear my schedule. Hold my calls. Needless to say, I showed up early, got a good seat and shooshed everyone around me as the lights dimmed...
The story begins by introducing you to the world's longest-running civil war, the Burmese-Karen conflict as it rages into its 60th year, to the cruelty of the Burmese army, to the countless men, women and children slaughtered, the merciless jungle. They establish that these Burmese dudes are psycho maniacs. In the first ten minutes they show these bad guys mowing folks down with their machine guns, forcing folks to run through a field where the Burmese soldiers had just thrown a bushel of landmines! Shooting folks in their faces. We get it. NO MERCY from the audience. Then they move on to everyone's favorite jungle neighbor, John Rambo. He runs a longboat on the Salween River, which he uses to fish (with a bow and arrow!) and catch (with his bare hands!) poisonous snakes that he sells to the local sideshow. Next, a group of churchies/business hippies show up looking for an "American river guide" to take them down river to the refugee camp. Hesitantly, he obliges.
Ok. Now the stage has been set. Hit me with the action! The great plot! The feathered hair!! Well... I'll give it this: They definitely brought the action. Bloody action! WAY BLOODY! Now granted, I am the one that likes musicals, romcoms, and especially talking-animal movies, but come on, buddies. I mean, I loveloved Grindhouse and No Country for Old Men last year. I can take it. But I couldn't. When Stallone says, "What do you mean "one" of the most violent movies of all time? It "is" the most violent movie of all time!" That ain't no joke. I wasn't keeping a body count, but it would have to be in at least the 100 range in the first 20 minutes. Give or take a somersaulting, smoldering limb or two. My hands had only tiny breaks from covering my eyes. I used my movie mate's face as a barometer for the movie. When his face slackened, I could look at the screen again. Alas... I would look back for mere seconds only to see exploding bodies, sloshing blood, screaming, gunshots...
I couldn't even watch long enough to know what was going on. One last effort to engage in the movie, and the next thing I saw was a toddler's head being crushed to the jungle's dirt floor by a black army boot. Then the guy started stabbing the toddler. With a bayonet. In the stomach. Repeatedly. That was it. "I'm out." I got up and left. Before you start your tirades on the boards (Feel free to use the term ' panty waste.'), my point is, this movie is not for the casual Rambo fan. It is an ultra-violent slasher flick dressed in flag-huggin'camos. This Rambo is not an underdog. You don't feel the pain of his loneliness. He's a killing machine, and those fools never had a chance.
I'm just gong to stop here. The same reasons I say I can't watch are the same reasons that everybody's going to be lining up. And I thought I could do this assignment, but I just can't bring my self to give it a REALLY bad review because...I love you, Sylvester Stallone (see picture)!