DIRECTOR: ADRIAN GRUNBERG | SCREENPLAY: MATTHEW CIRULNICK, SYLVESTER STALLONE | STARRING: SYLVESTER STALLONE, PAZ VEGA, YVETTE MONTREAL | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
There’s an old song that goes “Old soldiers never die; they simply fade away”, but John J. Rambo of the elite U.S. Special Forces will not go quietly. We’ve seen cinema’s most notorious Vietnam vet fall foul of a bullying local police force in a small American backwater, we’ve gone with him into battle in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Burma. And finally, he went home.
But Rambo is not going to retire quietly and live the good life, though he does try. He’s minding his own business, as ever, living on his late father’s Arizona ranch, breeding and training horses when he’s not digging a complex network of rat tunnels under the house and land where he keeps a bewildering armoury of guns, mines, bows, and knives. But when his housekeeper’s daughter who he considers family is drugged, kidnapped, and exploited by a Mexican sex trafficking cartel it’s time to take up arms again.
This is a film we’ve been promised for several years, and as time rolled by and Sly Stallone wasn’t getting any younger, it seemed less and less likely. ButStallone delivers a film worthy of being part of the Rambo legacy, now in its fortieth year. The plot might at first glance seem to have been lifted from Liam Neeson’s Taken franchise, but as fans of the First Blood series are aware, Rambo has his own modus operandi which is basically total destruction and an absurdly high mortality rate among those who’ve wronged him.
Stallone wisely plays Rambo as a wily veteran rather than the super-soldier we’ve seen in the past. Rambo is older and thus slower – so there’s a greater emphasis on using the same kind of makeshift traps we saw way back in First Blood, and that echo brings the films full circle.
There’s no doubt that there will be accusations of racism and racial stereotyping in the film because the Mexican sex traffickers are all undeniably exaggerated, cartoonish bad hombres who deserve the violent rough justice Rambo metes out – and there’s equally no doubt that some will point to the film as a clear message in support of ‘The Wall’, but surely the simple way the gang (actually a small army) use to get across the border can just as easily be taken as an argument on its futility.
It’s far better to just sit back and enjoy the film for exactly what it is - an action movie with a revenge theme, because as we all know, righteous vengeance is always a great motive for such a film, and this one has more guts and gore spattering the screen than any we’ve seen in a long time.
Teachable moment, folks – don’t chase Rambo down a tunnel of his own making.