Sylvester Stallone may be eating at the 4:30 buffet and paying with his AARP card, but he can still make one hell of an action flick.

Rambo is the fourth movie in the popular franchise, and it is easily the bloodiest and most vicious of the bunch. But it’s also the best sequel by far. Like last year’s Rocky Balboa, this is a remarkably fresh take on an old storyline.

The movie follows a retired John Rambo who reluctantly escorts some missionaries into war-torn Burma. When they are attacked and kidnapped, it’s up to everyone’s favorite Vietnam vet to spring them from this third-world hellhole.

Prior to watching Rambo, I rented the other two sequels. I didn’t re-watch First Blood because while it was the original, it was an entirely different film.

The general story for any Rambo sequel is to have John Rambo get dropped into some backwater pit (whether it be Vietnam, Afghanistan or now Burma) to rescue people from a rustic, horrific jail. He breaks them out, kicks the crap out of the bad guys and escapes – often in a helicopter.

Rambo hits all these marks, save the helicopter. But the difference in this film is that it’s been 20 years since a Rambo film has hit the screens. Today is a different cinematic world. There’s a hell of a lot more grit, Sly keeps his shirt on throughout the film (thank God) and there’s no cheesy synth music in the soundtrack.

In a world soiled by torture porn, Rambo gets away with so much more. But while it has been criticized for being exploitative, I’ll defend what happens in the film. The violence in Rambo is deserved, either to characterize the villains or give the audience a sweet sense of revenge when the hero comes knocking at their door.

Watching the atrocity footage is difficult – but this stuff happens, people. And it also lets John Rambo rise above the brutality as an American soldier (although he has been forsaken by his country). The movie show s what we often forget, that the American military is superior on a moral front to many others because it does not stoop to institutionalized atrocities.

Yes, you will find occasional aberrant behavior in soldiers, but no matter how many films Brian DePalma makes on the subject, it is not the standard – or even the acceptable – practice.

Unlike some regimes (including former enemies like World War II Japan), the American military does not teach or practice rape, beheadings or genocide. It seems at times, we are the only ones who stand up against this. And John Rambo epitomizes these goals and ideals.

It’s not an easy film to make it through, and while the build-up is nauseating, it is also frighteningly eye-opening and realistic. But the best part is the last half, which has Rambo and company blowing the holy snot out of the legions of bad guys.

Yes, Rambo can be hard to watch, but it’s almost necessary for some to see. And it might just help us remember what our enemies are capable of.

Grade: A

The Upside: Finally, an R-rated action flick that fucking rocks.

The Downside: The atrocities are a bit hard to stomach in the build-up of the film.

On the Side Stallone claims to have used the human growth hormone to get buffed up for this film.


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