Tuesday, January 29, 2008

LA Diary Day 2 - RAMBO - a short film about mutilation

Back to the Arclight for the fourth movie in the iconic and wonderfully mindless RAMBO franchise. Actually, that's a little unfair. The first Rambo movie was a rather moving, if violent, drama. A Vietnam vet called John Rambo is haunted by memories of war and cannot adjust to civilian life. He's picked up as a drifter by hick police, tortured and then hunted to (apparent) death. Rambo may have been a ridiculously tooled-up McGuiver figure, but he was also a credibly angst-ridden war hero. There was real substance to the film. The second and third films in the franchise were very meagre affairs by comparison. The ridiculous body-count went up and the movies almost parodied themselves. I grew up watching Rambo as a cheap thrill - a B-movie classic, if you will.

This new installment follows the sad trajectory of the earlier two movies. The plot is practically non-existent, and the run-time is almost insultingly short. Rambo is a cynical snake-catcher and boatsman in Thailand (I kid you not!) He's hired by a bunch of American evangelists to take them into Burma. Rambo refuses at first, but changes his mind when an inadequately pretty woman flutters her eyelashes at him. As if by magic (or the power of the Holy Spirit, for all the movie tells us) Rambo becomes a caring sharing do-gooder. Unless you're a Burmese pirate, in which case he's going to strangle you with his bare hands until blood oozes between his fingers and the flesh is ripped from your throat.

Yes yes. There may be no actual plot, character, credibility, production quality but there is CRAZY violence. Not crazy as in Tarantino or Korean extreme, cartoon violence but crazy as in multiple realistic-ish shots of bullets tearing into flush and bombs ripping off limbs. It's relentless and filmed in a straightforward manner that it is rather disturbing. It's all the more disturbing because Stallone chooses to use real footage of Burmase attrocities to open the film.

So, RAMBO is not a great action film and it doesn't return to the quality of the first movie in the franchise. Perhaps the best thing I can say about it is that it skips along at a rapid pace so you're unlikely to be actively bored. In addition, Graham McTavish does a good impression of a moaning London taxi driver, which is quite diverting.

Fans of lurid violence will be pleased to see a whole bunch of people get mutilated, not least Sylevestor Stallone, whose old, pumped-up body, throbbing with rip-cord veins, looks like a grotesque act of self-mutilation.

RAMBO is already on release in the US, Oman, the Philippines, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Kuwait, Russia, Singapore, Indonesia and Norway. It opens in Estonia, Iceland, Spain, Belgium, France, Argentina, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, the UK, New Zealand and Denmark in February. It opens in Poland and Sweden in March; in Venezuela in April and in Japan in May.

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