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Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Reynaldo Gallegos, Jake La Botz, Tim Kang
Writing Credits:
Art Monterastelli, Sylvester Stallone, David Morrell (character)

Heroes never die ... They just reload.

Thinking his days of war and bloodshed are behind him, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) lives a peaceful life in the jungles of Thailand. Even when Christian aid workers ask the former warrior to take them up the Salween River into Burma to deliver medical supplies, he refuses because he knows how dangerous a trip like that can be. The missionaries go anyway, and when they don't come back, Rambo crosses the border himself and dispatches Burmese soldiers with his traditional gusto to save the kidnapped innocents.

Box Office:
$50 million.
Opening Weekend
$18.203 million on 2751 screens.
Domestic Gross
$42.724 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $29.95
Release Date: 5/27/2008

• Theatrical Trailer
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Rambo (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 10, 2008)

When Sylvester Stallone decided to bring back his signature character for 2006ís Rocky Balboa, he endured many jeers. However, the movie received good reviews and a decent reaction from audiences. It didnít turn into a major hit, but it did much better than almost anyone expected.

Stallone chose to tempt fate with a revival of his other iconic character, John Rambo. This meant the release of 2008ís Rambo, our first glimpse of the muscular Vietnam veteran in 20 years. Critics didnít embrace it, and movie found only a minor audience as it took in a blah $42 million. Will we get another Rambo adventure? Iíd guess not, since crowds didnít flock to this one.

But who knows? No one thought weíd find a fourth Rambo movie, so never say never, I suppose. After trips to Southeast Asia and Afghanistan, this time Rambo goes to Burma. Actually, he starts off in Thailand, where he works as a snake handler for a cheap tourist attraction. Some humanitarian volunteers who support an oppressed Burmese minority try to rent Rambo as a tour guide to take them up-river into the civil war zone. Due to cynicism and a lack of faith in non-violence, initially he resists their request, but volunteer Sarah (Julie Benz) convinces him to escort them on their trip.

Despite an encounter with river pirates, Rambo manages to deliver his passengers to their destination. However, matters go downhill from there, as the oppressive Burmese military attacks the village in which the volunteers work. Rambo agrees to join a mission to rescue the survivors. Much mayhem follows.

Much, much mayhem, indeed. Rambo doesnít shy away from the depiction of graphic violence, a choice certain to inspire a lot of controversy. Some will argue that Stallone chose to do this to convey the horror of the events, while others will opine that he uses these shots for simple audience titillation.

I lean in the latter direction. If Rambo went with a real ďwar is hellĒ bent ala Saving Private Ryan, I could better accept the use of graphic violence as cautionary tool. Thereís something to be said for flicks that donít sugarcoat their violence as they let us see just how horrible gunfire can be.

However, Rambo doesnít exist as a realistic depiction of the horrors of battle. Like the prior two sequels, it pours on action heroics without much connection to the real world. Oh, Iím sure that bodies react as shown when assaulted by various weapons, but the film uses the gore for titillation and nothing more. We donít view the violence as anything other than ďcoolĒ theatrics. This is blood porn.

One problem with Rambo - and the franchise in general Ė stems from its lack of surprises. Very little occurs that we canít predict in advance, and that makes matters rather stale much of the time. The film populates its world with one-dimensional characters and doesnít invest anything in them beyond cartoonish good and evil. That flew better in the black and white world of the Reagan Eighties, but it seems much less satisfying two decades later.

The action scenarios theoretically compensate for the boring participants, but in reality, they donít. Rambo comes with the most basic story: save missionaries. The characters who receive the most exposition remain exceedingly thin, and others are so poorly drawn that they donít even count as one-dimensional; theyíre more like one-eighth dimensional. Heck, Iím not sure if the main Burmese baddie even gets a name!

Rambo does take itself more seriously than any film in the series since the original First Blood, but that doesnít make it any better than the other two sequels. Actually, the dour nature of the flick can be viewed as a flaw since it largely eliminates the rah-rah thrills audiences took from Rambo: First Blood Part 2 and Rambo 3. I didnít care for the way those films painted Rambo as a larger than life American avenger, but at least they mustered some general enthusiasm for their viewers. Rambo. Stallone doesnít acknowledge that the film exists in a different era than its predecessors, as we find no recognition that society has changed since 1988. With its simplistic view of the world, it feels like it couldíve come out two decades ago.

And thatís not a good thing. Rambo runs a short 92 minutes, though it fills only 80 of those with story; the end credits last nearly 12 minutes! Even at that brief length, it wears out its welcome well before we get to the conclusion. This is a tired, tedious tale.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus D-

Rambo appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. No substantial problems developed in this satisfying transfer.

Sharpness consistently excelled. Despite some light edge enhancement, the movie remained concise and well-defined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and source flaws were minor; I noticed a small speck or two but nothing more.

In terms of colors, Rambo used a palette that either tended toward blue-greens or tans. Not a lot of vivid hues emerged, but the tones were accurate and full within the minor stylistic constraints. Blacks appeared dark and tight, and shadows were usually fine; some of the shots from the first boat trip could be a little dense, but not to a problematic degree. Overall, I found the image to work very well.

For the most part, I found a lot to like about the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio of Rambo, but some inconsistencies emerged. My main complaint stemmed from the mixís odd lack of punch at times. Some moments showed good range and impact, but others seemed surprisingly wan and feeble. The audio picked up greater power as it progressed, so some of this mightíve been intentional; perhaps the sound designers chose to make early action beats more subdued so that the later ones would stand out more. I donít know the rationale, but I thought the track appeared a bit flat on occasion.

Otherwise audio quality was good. A little edgy affected a few lines, but most sounded natural and concise. The score showed consistently solid range and vivacity, and the effects eventually followed suit. As I already noted, those elements could be somewhat lackluster, but they usually boasted decent power.

The soundfield seemed positive. Much of the audio stayed with environmental information; rain popped up frequently and used all five channels well. Otherwise, the action scenes used the soundscape in a generally good manner, but not one that consistently impressed. The track did its job for the most part; it just didnít involve the viewer as much as I thought it should. That left it as a ďBĒ mix.

If you want your Rambo with supplements, youíll have to seek out the two-disc Special Edition. This movie-only version comes with almost nothing. In addition to the filmís trailer, a few ads open the DVD. We get clips for The Rambo Ultimate Edition DVD Collection, Hamburger Hill, Crank, War and The Punisher. In addition, these show up in the Also From Lionís Gate domain.

Sylvester Stallone managed a decent comeback with Rocky Balboa, but his revival of Rambo doesnít succeed. The movie packages relentless gore without anything more than a rudimentary plot and anonymous characters. Not even the expected vicarious thrills arrive in this dull adventure. The DVD provides good picture and audio, but this single-disc edition lacks substantial extras; a slightly more expensive two-DVD set will placate fans who want supplements. As a movie, I canít recommend this disappointing dud.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.05 Stars Number of Votes: 20
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