Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rambo redux

By one of those coincidences of scheduling I wound up seeing Rambo right after 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, and merged the two in my dreams. I can see Rambo, time-warped to Romania in 1987, taking up arms with the oppressed Otilia, and administering plentiful "retroactive abortions" on the hated Ceausescu regime as Gabita exercises her right to choose with a machete and a thermonuclear Claymore mine that her savior has tucked away for such emergencies. Of course, given that this would have to be a conservative fantasy, Gabita would choose to have her baby, but in a safer, more secure world where Rambo is the bringer of regime change that would not be a problem.

I liked the B-movieish First Blood and its pulpy, exquisitely machine-tooled sequel, against my refined but hardly genteel sensibilities. I'd recovered my senses by the third picture, which dawdled at two hours in length (the others were the length of a fine-cutting razor) and had the bad luck to come out after the Soviets had withdrawn from Afghanistan (which, as we would later see, was all Tom Hanks' doing). Fortunately for its star, co-writer and director, Burma (never "Myanmar," fucking A right) is still a hot zone, and fertile ground for his lumpily-shirted antics. The inexpensively produced film is as basic as they come, relying, like a typical Sci-Fi Channel movie, on frequent barrages of questionable digital effects as Rambo busts up the bad guys to rescue naive missionaries. I'd complain about the racial stereotyping except that there are no characters, merely Claymore fodder. (There's an attempt at a hissable villain but he doesn't break through; the absence of a badged and burly Brian Dennehy in the first film or the spit-shined Soviet Steven Berkoff in the second, to get our contempt to the boiling point, is keenly felt.)

Rambo chugs along, in the vein of a Chuck Norris timewaster from 20 years ago. There is no intentional humor but a dollop of the other kind, mostly the dialogue given to the terrorized Julie Benz (more safely harbored here than on Showtime's Dexter) and the final, peactime image, with the 61-year-old Stallone costumed like his homeless, hitchhiking self from 1982. (What works at 35 doesn't befit an AARPer.) Ninety-three minutes I had to spare between more pressing artistic engagements were duly killed, but unfulfilled. A red-meat plot to go along with the blood-drenched heroics might help as Rambo, back in America, enters his sunset years.

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