Tue, Jan 29, 2008

: First Blood

I liked the new Rambo so much that I decided to watch the DVD of the original this evening. It’s been many years since I’ve seen it and I had recently purchased the DVD on sale. This is a really cool film. Definitely a classic. It’s got horrible acting (Stallone seems to bring down even some of the good actors involved) and the script’s a bit over-the-top in trying to deliver zingers, but the story is excellent — a drifter, abused by a small-town sherrif for no reason, ends up being the target of a manhunt — and the action is superb (the drifter single-handedly, with only a knife, survives and hides from hundreds of attackers). It really is like a schoolyard fight with both boys crying out, “He started it!” but of course since the consequences this time are deadly, it really makes you think. Terrific and holds up surprisingly well.

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: Rambo

I went to this unsure of what to expect. After all, Stallone is like over 60 and it’s been decades since the last Rambo movie. But I liked what they did with this. First, they were loyal to the original character: he’s a loner, a bit of a loser, doesn’t say much, is morally ambiguous, and is a real bad-ass killer. They did not try to “modernize” Rambo and make him politically correct or have him like trying to hunt down Bin Laden or Goldfinger or something else out of his character. Instead, they focused on a single country — war-torn Burma — and gave Rambo the seemingly modest quest of helping out a kidnapped missionary woman there to bring aid to the poor villagers. Of course this turns out to be nothing but trivial as Rambo ends up taking on an entire Burmese army.

Second, I must say I was really impressed by the action in this film and that surprised me. We’ve had some excellent action films in the last couple decades, things that have pushed boundaries like The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Bourne Identity, stuff that makes the original Rambo films seem quaint and tame. But Rambo’s back and he’s badder than ever. The violence in this film — and come on, let’s be honest, we don’t go to a Rambo movie for the acting — the violence in this film is astonishing. We see heads and limps lopped off, body parts flying when people step on mines, an arrow go through a guy’s head and come out his chin, more blood than a zombie movie, and lots of bullet-ridden bodies. It is extremely realistic, too. Not for the faint of heart. Personally, I found this refreshing. I’ve always been annoyed at action films that cut away right as the sword hits or whatever. This one shows the brains splattering, the tendons being severed as the leg comes off, limbs and chunks of flesh raining as debrie after an explosion. Speaking of explosions, this film has some of the best explosions I’ve ever seen. Really impressive and cool. Most film set us up for the “big bang” and we get a wimpy fireball. This one gives us earthquake-style world-shattering forest-flattening explosions that are just awesome.

Overall the story, as you might expect, is simple. Stallone’s acting hasn’t improved, he’s still just as wooden as ever, but he’s aged remarkably well and is in amazing shape. He’s still totally believable as Rambo. I bet he could still do another one or two of these films. The film’s a bit of a flashback to the 1980s, and maybe I’m just a fan of that era, but I thought this was refreshing, anti-PC, and a whole lot of fun.

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