Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Stallone gives ‘Rambo’ a violent sendoff

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Karen Ballard⁄Lionsgate
Sarah (Julie Benz) and Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) keep an eye out for the enemy in the action film, ‘Rambo.’
If you thought ‘‘Kill Bill” would have been a truly great epic movie if they would have worked in more blood, decapitations and dismemberment, then ‘‘Rambo” is the movie for you.

‘‘Rambo” is likely the most violent movie you’ll ever see in your life. It completely earns its ‘‘R” rating, but it certainly is a lot of fun in its over the top violent fashion.

Heads literally explode like pumpkins smashed to the ground after being shot by a high powered sniper-rifle and limbs get ripped off by mortar fire.

If reading that makes you even slightly queasy, might I suggest lighter fare, such as ‘‘Braveheart” or ‘‘Saving Private Ryan?”

After last year’s successful sendoff for his most iconic creation ‘‘Rocky Balboa,” Sylvester Stallone reports back to duty as John Rambo, the Vietnam vet who has found the real world makes even less sense than the killing field.

Whatever your thoughts on Stallone returning to a character he first played in 1982, there’s no denying that he seems to truly understands what makes Rocky and Rambo tick. That makes it that much easier for him to pick right back up and craft another solid installment of these ‘80s icons.

Like ‘‘Rocky Balboa,” Stallone serves as both screenwriter and director. He’s smart not to turn the film into a glorified vanity project to prove that he’s ‘‘still got it.”

While he was comfortable going shirtless in ‘‘Rocky Balboa,” Stallone opts to cover up here instead of the familiar Rambo shirtless-look. During flashback scenes, it’s evident exactly how many years have passed but Stallone still makes for an imposing figure.

And Stallone smartly doesn’t put Rambo in situations where you doubt a man his age could handle these action heavy-segments. The biggest physical activity he asks the audience to buy is Rambo running around but he looks in such solid shape that it’s credible.

Rambo now resides in Thailand, living a simple life catching snakes for exhibits and fish for area villagers. A missionary group enlists his aid in taking them to their mission in Burma.

Despite his best effort to discourage them from journeying to the war-torn land, they insist on fulfilling their calling and he reluctantly takes them to the camp. After an incident where pirates threaten to kill the missionaries, they remain convinced that they have to continue on, much to Rambo and likely the audience’s dismay.

Not long after Rambo leaves them, the Burmese military attack the camp and it’s in this disturbing scene that Stallone paints the full savagery and brutal nature of war. Soldiers burn the villagers, rape women and shoot children — usually a major no-no in Hollywood films.

One thing for sure is that these are a group of bad guys the audience definitely will feel no remorse when they get their comeuppance.

The mission’s pastor comes to him asking him to escort a band of mercenaries to rescue the captured group. The mercenaries are certainly the colorful bunch and add a much needed shot of charisma to offset Rambo’s more brooding and quiet demeanor. Rambo himself probably has less than 100 lines, which makes his unstoppable killing machine seem even more threatening.

Stallone paces the film just right, putting in just enough action to get you eagerly anticipating him going into all-out attack mode. Once it starts though, it’s pretty unrelenting and you’ll be amazed at the unashamed nature in which Stallone portrays the violence.

War certainly isn’t pretty and ‘‘Rambo” definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, but like ‘‘Rocky Balboa” before it, Stallone provides a proper sendoff with this action-fest.

Rating: Three stars

Rambo

Rated R; Action;100 minutes

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Tim Kang and Paul Schulze