Sylvester Stallone's "Rambo" sequel opens today. Stallone wrote, directed and starred in the movie, which featured 11 producers. In the film, John Rambo (now living in Thailand, trapping snakes) assembles a group of mercenaries and leads them up a river to a Burmese village and must save a group of Christian missionaries. Reviewers are wary, reviews are mixed, and none avoid commenting on the bizarre nature of Stallone's physical aging.
The New York Post had the best headline of any movie review, "RAMBOLONEY! GORY SEQUEL IS BETTER LEFT STALLONE" and gave it only 1.5 stars:
Needlessly violent? No, "Rambo" is needfully violent. Johnny R. is a man constructed of violence. He can no more do without firing arrows into skulls than a lady poet can do without her yoga. The psychological effects of his métier might be worth considering, but Stallone isn't interested in anything but the next explosion.
I'm not saying I want Rambo to start seeing Dr. Friedman on Park and 85th every Tuesday and Thursday, but we love Rocky Balboa because he's more than a punching machine. Rambo is no longer a symbol of betrayal in Vietnam or anything else. He's just a walking Claymore.
The New York Times begrudgingly liked the movie:
And these bad guys make the Vietcong in the second Rambo movie look like paintball-slinging weekend warriors. "Rambo" is, for most of its fairly brief running time, a blood bath punctuated by occasional bouts of clumsy dialogue. There are beheadings, mutilations, disembowelings -- enough gore to rival "Apocalypto."
But the movie does have its own kind of blockheaded poetry. The first installments in the cycle were better films than polite opinion might lead you to believe. At the time their politics made some people nervous, but to dwell on Rambo's ideological significance was (and still is) to miss his kinship with the samurais and gunslingers of older movies. Mr. Stallone is smart enough -- or maybe dumb enough, though I tend to think not -- to present the mythic dimensions of the character without apology or irony. His face looks like a misshapen chunk of granite, and his acting is only slightly more expressive, but the man gets the job done. Welcome back.
Variety wasn't a fan of the movie but admitted it would do well at the box office:
The Sylvester Stallone nostalgia tour that began with another "Rocky" continues with this fourth "Rambo." Although Stallone plays it completely straight, the mere idea of the aging action star strapping on the bandana again is risible enough to let the movie play like a comedy too, albeit one with an unusually high body count. So while much of the audience will show up to admire what armored-piercing weapons do to human flesh, others can giggle at the notion of Rambo's return in a movie that doesn't risk gumming up its carnage with much of a plot.
The Hollwyood Reporter wishes "sleeping war dogs" had been left to lie:
Everybody's favorite Vietnam vet with post-traumatic stress disorder is back.
Before the smirking starts, let's not forget that they also were giggling when it was announced that the Italian Stallion was coming out of retirement, but then Sylvester Stallone silenced the skeptics with the thoroughly respectable "Rocky Balboa."
Could the first sighting of John J. Rambo in two decades prove equally rewarding?
Oh well, one out of two ain't bad.
And USA Today did not like it at all and writes:
It's hard to imagine who the target audience is for Rambo, Sylvester Stallone's new vanity project.
Young audiences can't possibly be interested in the violent exploits of someone old enough to be collecting Social Security, no matter how ripped he is or how much plastic surgery has molded his face into a permanent scowl. And audiences who saw the three previous Rambo movies in the '80s have no doubt moved on to better and smarter action fare. (Bourne, anyone?) So, who is this movie for, besides Stallone himself?