Review: Rambo IV – John Rambo (2008)

Rambo IV – John Rambo (2008)

Directed by: Sylvester Stallone | 91 minutes | action, drama, thriller | Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Ken Howard, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Reynaldo Gallegos, Jake La Botz, Tim Kang, Maung Maung Khin, Cameron Pearson, Thomas Peterson, Tony Skarberg, James With, Kasikorn Niyompattana, Shaliew Manrungbun, Supakorn Kitsuwon, Aung Aay Noi, Aung Theng, Pornpop Kampusiri, Wasawat Panyarat, Kammul Kawtep, Sornram Patchimtasanakarn, Noa Jei, Kjan Saen, Aun Lung Su, Pan Dokngam, Han Pik, Tip Tiya, Nee Lungjai, Yupin Mu Pae, Moan Adisak, Somsak Wongsa, Surachai Muangdee, Mana Sen-Mi, Toole Khan Kham, Saiwan Lungta, Warcharentr Sedtho, Rapimpa Dibu, May Kung

After finishing the Rocky series with the nostalgic and endearing ‘Rocky Balboa’, Sylvester Stallone decided to do the same with his other popular action movie icon, John Rambo. For the last time, Stallone takes on the role of this legendary film hero, who wants nothing more than to forget his violent past, but is constantly confronted with it. However, even though as in ‘Rocky Balboa’ there is a return to the taciturn, withdrawn figure from the first part, Stallone the director makes it very difficult for the viewer to feel any sympathy for good old John. In addition, this part adds very little in terms of content and form to the parts that have been made to date. In itself it is admirable that Stallone still manages to convince as an action hero at his ripe age, and if you as a viewer want nothing more than to see Rambo brutally destroy an enemy army as usual, then this episode might be satisfying. . Viewers who want some added value and, for example, want a more original story or some more insight into the psyche of this Vietnam veteran, will be fine with this.

The film is supposed to be the last word on John Rambo, but as such leaves a somewhat nasty aftertaste. Where ‘Rocky Balboa’ made sure that everyone embraced this sympathetic boxer, and there could be talk of a dignified conclusion to the film series and the development of the character, in ‘John Rambo’ a reaction of indifference is most likely. Yes, it’s tragic that Rambo can’t escape his violent lifestyle, but the viewer’s involvement doesn’t go beyond this. It’s also hard to see what Stallone actually wants to say with this film. On the one hand, the embittered Rambo makes it clear that without weapons you can’t do anything against malicious enemies. But on the other hand, he also shows that violence is bad and you can’t change the state of the world anyway. In any case, you should not expect a lot of psychology. Rambo seems as very principled to avoid any interference in tense situations and to have renounced violence for good, but, just like in ‘Rocky Balboa’, he is very quickly persuaded to pick up his old lifestyle again. All it takes is an emotional Sarah Miller story about the value of a human life. And just like in the last Rocky movie, Rambo returns to his old rhythm because he wants to protect a woman. This moment – ​​one of the few really tense scenes in the film – involves an explosive confrontation with a couple of pirates on the river and is a key scene in the film. The scene actually says everything the film as a whole says, or should say: that violence is terrible, but that it can sometimes be a necessary evil.

The rest of the film is actually a very bombastic, and unsavory, elaboration of this theme, emphasizing the horrific aspect of the violence. The problem is that the film doesn’t really work in any way because of this accent. Not as a psychological drama, as the main character’s development and attention to his mental state is sketchy to say the least. Not as a (semi-)entertaining popcorn movie, since the deeds in the film are far too gruesome and explicit to be able to sink in for a mindless action movie. Nor as a documentary-like, socially critical film, because hardly anything meaningful is proclaimed, and the action in the film often comes across so unrealistic and is exposed in such a one-sided way that substantive (added) value is hard to find. However, Stallone seems to have intended his film to be a medley of all this, and this was probably his fault. There doesn’t have to be any depth in a movie, but just let it be a nice nonsensical action movie like the parts two and three of the series, where the viewer can cheer for this larger-than-life movie hero. Or, harking back to “First Blood,” Stallone could have focused purely on Rambo’s mental state and handled the action from his point of view. Now it is first made clear that the Burmese villains are evil itself, by making every act of violence – including women and children – accompanied by fountains of blood and severed limbs, only to make Rambo’s retaliation just as gruesome. So is this Stallone’s final statement? That no one has the right to use force and that it always has the horrific face that Stallone shows here? It would be commendable, were it not for the fact that the retaliation is presented with a certain euphoric “flair”. The orgy of violence, in which enemies with every contact with a fired bullet either fly ten meters backwards, or lose a limb, entrails, or head – seems to bring about a sense of satisfaction in the viewer. This, combined with the uninspired story and the unexciting action scenes, makes ‘John Rambo’ a nasty and pointless film.

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