Live for nothing, or die for something.
Rambo has been a series that's been very back and forth with it's presentation. It's also only the title of a single one of the movies - that being the most recent one (unless after writing this they decide to make more for some dumb reason). Yep, weird little tidbit we can all forget repeatedly. In all honesty, there was slated a comedy for this week, but the movie didn't arrive in the mail, so instead we'll focus on a brutal action movie to help steel your nerves for the release of next review - and honestly, who doesn't like a good action flick?
As stated, the series has kind of wobbled a bit back and forth in it's presentation across the years. Most will recall highlight moments from the second movie, when he became the image of the character that ends up being most associated with the name - high body count action hero. The first was very much the tale of two men and their issues escalating to a very big deal for a great number of people while commentating on war and societies perceptions in general. You could argue that First Blood was very much a thinking persons thriller movie more so than a flat action film, and I wouldn't even be mad. The second and third though, very much action films, despite having those smaller moments of reflection here or there. All of that takes us to Rambo, an older version still trying to just escape the world and find his own peace.
One could argue that this arc is something that Rambo has always suffered from - I'm over here minding my own business, being peaceful regardless of how much of my nature may or may not be to destroy, and then something or someone needs drag me into war again. It's almost strange then that as the movie proceeds it feels as though Rambo is almost a side character to the story despite being it's hero. It's a nice touch in downplaying his action-hero over-the-top status from previous renditions, although it's not entirely missing from the movie. Rambo's involvement in the plot is this time brought apart not buy his usefulness as a war machine, but instead because of a plea to his human side and a repercussion of events after opening that side again. Struggling with being a well oiled weapon can only be even more complicated when these sorts of events keep happening to you one would imagine.
In turn, the acting is done quite well as far as Stallone's part. There's a lot to body language and action, with less emphasis on lines. It might not exactly be super-high end tier, but it's appreciated regardless. The "aid group" is a mixed bag of alright to overblown, with a large group of them ever really only having one line in the movie and being mostly just ignored. The mercenary group that arrives later on is similar to most in movies - some of them get as far as to get quirks to set up their "personalities", but you largely don't care about any of them from lack of any sort of emotional emphasis to make you hook in, with the exception of the sniper whose real only trait is "being nice". The bad guys are largely forgettable outside of being detestable - most likely in part because all we ever see them be is terrible humans. It works for the breadth of the story, being the "evil men doing evil things."
Character arcs are largely missing, with the exception of the main female lead getting a grip on the real world through her horrendous experiences, and our title character once again coming to terms with the war that rages inside of him as a trained weapon once tossed aside by the very country he served. It's not exactly a new arc by any means, but it is nice to see it finally come to an end in some way or form. Of course, some of the acting becomes involved in some of the more evil events - because this movie doesn't like watering things down. Hot on the heels of ramming a tank into a helicopter, this one wants you to see the violence and crude acts and legitimately cringe about it.
The effects department is the other large contributor to this, and it's a little unfortunate that some moments are a bit less than stellar. For the most part, it never comes off as "gore for gore's sake" - such as a bog-standard zombie movie - and instead plays very much in a critical manner, similar to how the violence of Robocop ended up feeling (although not nearly as overplayed as that original Robocop). Explosions, gun shots, fire and doom all look great in most situations, and the brutality of it helps sink home that war and violence isn't a laughing matter. As stated before, there is the occasional moment of something being severed of cut that looks rather fake, but I can give it to some of the moments that it would have been quite difficult to get it to look good in other means as well.
Although largely it didn't come to the forefront, the soundtrack also did a nice job, particularly of making a more emotional version of the familiar theme to help pull emphatically at those heart strings towards the end. The rest of the sound department is great, including balancing things during storms and massive amounts of gunfire and explosions, with small details like meaty squishes and metallic ricochets added in for added effect. Some reading is necessary if you'd like to understand a few lines, unless you happen to understand the non-English lines, but it all comes through nice and well balanced.
The movie is put together quite well. It might not be leaps and bounds over other movies out there, but it put an edge into a movie that used to be more than a flat action film while keeping in mind what it became as well. Amusingly enough, it would seem that the movie has aged much like it's character in that regard. The plot isn't great, but no means a bad thing, and general fans of the franchise should enjoy it quite well enough. Those looking for a kid friendly movie might want to rethink their choice, as the violence levels are high and although covered in blood the movie manages to escape being overly graphic. A decent choice for someone looking to watch some action, or someone who'd like a little bit more commentary about things than just straight forward action, it's a pretty enjoyable addition.