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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » April 23, 2008
The world of movies
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Rambo IV
April 23, 2008   
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After his successful comeback to filmmaking with Rocky Balboa two years ago, 62-year-old Sylvester Stallone has followed up with another déj± vu movie. This time he has reincarnated another of his old heroes, the invincible commando John Rambo. What is more, he not only co-wrote the screenplay but also directed the film. The result is the bloodiest of the four Rambo films. Fans have scrupulously counted 236 dead bodies during the 91-minute movie-translating into 2.59 corpses per minute.

The 2006 Rocky Balboa-yet another sequel about the boxer in a series that earned Stallone a place in cinema history-was well received by critics and the public alike and proved that Stallone had not lost his onscreen charisma. In making Rambo IV, Stallone has followed in the footsteps of 53-year-old Bruce Willis, who had successfully returned John McClane to the big screen in Live Free or Die Hard last year, and 66-year-old Harrison Ford, who will soon appear in a fourth Indiana Jones film.

Until Rocky Balboa, Stallone did not star in a memorable (yet alone high-grossing) film for about a decade, with the possible exception of his atypical role in James Mangold's 1997 Cop Land. In Rambo IV, the aging "Italian Stallion" again plays the frustrated Vietnam-war veteran created by writer David Morrell that first appeared on cinema screens in Ted Kotcheff's First Blood in 1982. In this first film, Rambo was unevenly matched against U.S. law enforcers, who unjustly detained him and then tried to imprison him. At the end of Morrell's book Rambo dies but Hollywood, with its sense of smell for a successful formula, changed the ending. Rambo did go to prison, but not for long. In the 1985 Rambo II he returned to Vietnam to help rescue American prisoners-of-war held in that country since the end of the war. After massacring the Vietnamese army and a section of the Russian Spetsnaz he was exonerated. Rambo then holed up in Thailand from where he set off to another war, this time in Afghanistan and against the Russians, in Peter MacDonald's Rambo III from 1988. After that the commando disappeared from the screen for 20 years.

In the latest film, John Rambo is pitted against a Burmese infantry unit, led by a sadistic officer, that has kidnapped a group of Christian human rights missionaries who do not heed Rambo's advice and travel into war-torn Burma. Prior to his rescue mission, to keep his adrenaline flowing, Rambo captures venomous snakes for use by local entertainers. Most of the film shows Rambo on the rampage in the jungle with an assortment of weapons, ranging from his favored bow to heavy machine guns, and killing anyone who crosses his path. When weaponless, he uses his bare hands to kill his foes by ripping their throats out, twisting their necks and nearly decapitating them. As usual Stallone's face does not show much emotion-just unmistakable signs of plastic surgery.

The only optimistic note is that at the end of the film Rambo returns to peaceful America and apparently reunites with whatever remains of his family. As long as nothing upsets our hero in the States, Rambo IV may well be the last film of the series.
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