Rambo (2008) – Sylvester Stallone

Stallone not only returns in one of his most iconic roles, but he also settles into the director’s chair to bring the grittiest incarnation of Vietnam vet to the screen.

Continuity is key, and Rambo (Stallone) is still in the Far East, attempting to live a quiet life as best as he can, when, like always, it gets interrupted by those seeking his help. This time it is a goodwill group hoping to bring medicine, supplies, and perhaps Christianity to the oppressed people of Burma.

Rambo initially refuses to guide them but one of the group, Sarah (Julie Benz) is able to convince him to take on the role. He warns them, including Sarah’s fiancee, Michael (Paul Schulze), that they won’t be able to affect change there, not if they aren’t bringing something stronger than their faith and good will. They’d be walking into a warzone, a genocide.

In mere moments, the visiting group realizes the true horror of war as they are captured, and witness some of the terrible and violent acts committed.

When the group doesn’t make its return to the States it’s easy to figure that the group ran afoul of the oppressive regime running the country, and Rambo, alongside a group of mercenaries that includes Lewis (Graham McTavish) and En-Joo (Tim Kang), heads into dangerous territory to see what’s happened.

As Rambo and the rest effect a rescue of the group, they find themselves on the run from vicious pursuers, and things are going to get brutal and bloody before they can escape.

And bloody it is. The action sequences are as horrific as they are exhilarating, capturing truly brutal moments that in reality would terrify, but trapped within the confines of an action film are brilliant examples of stuntwork, action set pieces, and effects work.

This is the most at home Stallone has seemed with the character since the first film. He slips into the role with ease and plays Rambo like a coiled spring, even as Sarah asks him if he’s not ready to go home yet, to see how things have changed, to maybe, at least, let go of the war, and his nature, that has been a part of him for so long.

It’s a great if short ride. It clocks in at just over an hour and a half, but Stallone makes every minute of runtime count. There’s a mood that permeates the film, a tension that settles on the viewer and the characters as we are forced to confront the strength of convictions, and the way war corrupts and destroys all of that.

It’s a long road home, but as the film ends, Rambo has shorn some of his locks and returned to his family’s farm, perhaps leaving all of it behind, once and for all. But probably, because there’s one more film in the series to come.

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