Rambo stars Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benze, and Paul Shulze and was directed by Sylvester Stallone. It picks up twenty years after the events of Rambo III, and focuses once again on John Rambo, played by Sylvester Stallone.
Rambo’s hired to bring a group of missionary doctors upriver to Burma and after they fail to return from their trip, he leads a team of mercenaries on a rescue mission to find them. Late sequels, revivals, and reboots are pretty common nowadays almost expected of any major franchise from the 80s at this point. But when this fourth installment of the Rambo franchise came out, it was still a pretty unique thing. So, there was this sense of excitement, but also of deep skepticism. Sure, Rambo was an iconic character and beloved franchise, but it had been twenty years since Rambo III.
The time gap alone was enough to give pause to fans of the franchise, but Sylvester Stallone’s age was another major contributor to the skepticism. He was 62 years old when this movie was released and yeah, he had been able to very successfully reprise his role as Rocky Balboa two years before, but that was a different type of story. Rambo isn’t Rocky. Rambo’s about the action and I’ll admit that I was one of those people who was a little skeptical about reviving this franchise. But man, did this movie prove me wrong. This is how revivals should be done. At his core, John Rambo is the same character we’ve seen in the three previous movies, but twenty years have passed for him too and this film doesn’t insult our intelligence by setting him up as this decade-long, hyper-focused killing machine.
We only get the most basic sense of what he’s been up to over the last two decades, but it’s clear that, much like the franchise, he had taken a hiatus. He wasn’t going on missions for Trautman every other year. Instead, he was laying low and keeping to himself which is perfectly in-line with his character. Old Rambo is exactly how old Rambo should be and without that type of characterization, this movie would’ve failed. Add to that some incredible action and a story in which Rambo’s presence actually makes sense and you’ve got a winning combination. This film accomplishes what the previous two sequels couldn’t.
First Blood Part II and Rambo III had action, but it was all very ë80s action movie’ action. This is a dirty, bloody, gritty action film that’s extremely reminiscent of First Blood. The story’s very different of course, but that style is there and this really feels like the kinda movie that the filmmakers of First Blood would’ve made had they had the budget and technology to do so. Sure, it’s a Rambo movie, so there’s plenty of explosions and gunfights, but it’s got a brutal realism to it that surpasses even that of the first movie. Rambo literally rips someone’s throat out with his bare hand, yet it doesn’t feel campy or over-the-top, even in that moment.
The action here is arguably the best of the franchise. It doesn’t have that endearing 80s cheesiness of its predecessors, but it’s incredibly intense. That brutal realism I was talking about is on full display and this is one of the most viscerally graphic action movies I can think of. It’s gruesomely bloody and fleshy, especially by the end. It’ll definitely make you wince at points, but it’s also entertaining action, made all the better by the knowledge that Rambo’s still got it. The story itself is a classic rescue mission something we’ve already seen two other times in the franchise. But, it just works here. It’s a tight, well-paced film that doesn’t overstay its welcome. The story’s simple enough, but the intensity brings this movie alive and leaves it on par with the first film of the franchise. While First Blood established the character of John Rambo, this film solidified him.
This is the Rambo I think of when I imagine the character. Maybe I picture him a little younger, but this is him. A bloodied and bandana-ed Rambo running through the jungle, grittily fighting for his life and the lives of others. Alright, let’s talk about the pros and cons. Pro number one is definitely the gritty realism. Much like the first film, the story and action here feel real. It’s an entertaining movie for sure, but it’s also brutal. The action’s incredibly visceral and the filmmakers don’t shy away from showing us the aftermath of machine guns and mines. It’s bloody, it’s violent, it’s intense, but it’s exactly what you want from a Rambo movie.
The second pro is a little more broad, but it’s the fact that this is an excellent franchise revival. It gives us more of what we like about the franchise without feeling repetitive or unnecessary. Rather than trying to directly replicate the Rambos of the 80s, this movie’s a natural progression of the story. It gives us all the crazy Rambo action we crave, but also provides us with some exploration of the character, which is more in-line with what First Blood did. On the con side, I thought this movie had a handful of pretty unlikable characters.
Now obviously the villains are unlikable, but that’s to be expected. I just wish I liked the members of the missionary group more. They’re the core victims of this story and while I definitely felt tension during Rambo’s attempts to rescue them, I didn’t really care about them. Same with the group of mercenaries. Really, the sniper’s the only one that I liked, so I never had any sort of emotional connection to a lot of the characters we’re supposed to care about. My second con is a minor one, but it’s the overuse of shaky cam. In general, I don’t mind shaky cam. Honestly, I usually don’t even really notice it.
The handheld style really works in certain situations and this is the type of movie that it makes sense for cause it puts you right in the midst of everything. For the most part, it was fine in this movie, but there were a few instances where I noticed it and it was kinda distracting. Like I said, I usually don’t notice shaky cam that much, so if it stood out to me, it’s definitely gonna be noticeable for people who hate the style or get motion-sick from it. I’m gonna give Rambo 3.5 out of 5 paws. This is an incredibly intense and brutal action movie that feels right in-line with the rest of the franchise. I just wish I cared more about the side characters. I would recommend Rambo to anybody who’s a fan of the Rambo franchise or war-centric action films in general.
This movie really is a return to form for the franchise and it’s interesting seeing an older Rambo and how his character has evolved, while still retaining his core essence. Seeing First Blood helps to provide some context, but isn’t necessary to enjoy and understand this film and you definitely don’t need to watch the other sequels ahead of this one if you don’t want to. If you liked Rambo, I would definitely recommend First Blood.
It might be an obvious suggestion, but it provides a good introduction to the character of John Rambo and serves as a starting point to understand his growth over the course of the franchise. Plus it shares in the gritty realism of its action, though this film is far more bloody and visceral. I would also suggest that you check out Rocky Balboa for another really good Stallone franchise revival.
Just like how this movie was able to capture what an older Rambo would be like, that one does a good job of presenting an aged Rocky. If you liked the intense, frequently violent action of this film, you might like Fury. Although it’s more of a war drama than a straight action film, it’s got some very brutal and visceral war-centric action sequences. Alright, a couple questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen Rambo? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: What’s your favorite franchise revival movie? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going.