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Movie Review: Rambo (2008)

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It has been a while since I saw a movie that made me feel dirty. And not dirty in a sexy way, but in a moral way.

Rambo starts with some documentary footage of real people in Burma suffering, combined with a short history lesson. Then we are shown in a very graphic way how a local infantry unit is killing off civilians in that region. If the movie had developed into a serious treatise on the horrors of physical violence, the scenes would have served their purpose. They succeed at making you very angry and despairing over the pointless, horrible torture people inflict on each other in the real world. They will also stir yearnings for justice and revenge, which is of course where Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) steps in.

He has withdrawn into the jungle after the events of the previous movies but is persuaded to bring a group of religiously motivated aid workers into the area. Later on, he will be called on to get them out of trouble with the assistance of a group of mercenaries. Rambo is morose and silent a lot and turns out to have some daddy issues. Judging by the end of the movie, he worked those out by ripping people apart with machine guns, cutting throats, and in general painting the jungle red. I did not grasp the subtle details of this psychological journey, but then all the gunfire and explosions made it hard to think straight. I assume Rambo must have been suffering from the same problem.

To personify the evil, Major Pa Tee Tint, the sadistic leader of the military unit, is singled out. The viewer is presented with lingering shots of him that give us time to beam our hatred out at him. And it is not enough that he is carelessly killing lots of people, there has to be a scene that shows he is abusing young boys for sex. Because mass murder in itself would not be enough for us to want him dead, he has to be a paedophile as well and a gay one at that. I can't be sure if it was intentional that a boy was shown and not a young girl, but the movie sure seems to be playing to base homophobic instincts in its presumably straight and bloodthirsty audience.

There are one or two scenes at the end that appear introspective and seem to suggest there is a moral hidden in the movie somewhere, but I couldn't find one. This was the best I could come up with: violence inflicted by bad people is BAD, violence inflicted by good people is GOOD, but either way it looks pretty damn cool! For future reference: grafting a sensationalist and gruesome action movie onto a real historical tragedy is a little tacky.

Rambo, 2008, 91 min. USA. Director: Sylvester Stallone. Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Matthew Marsden.

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