Well that day that none of us has longed for us finally here. Rambo is about to be released. In reading reviews for the fourth installment of this Sylvester Stallone star making vehicle, it turns out, surprise, that Rambo is the most violent movie EVER MADE! Kudos to Sly for going way beyond this time. This movie features babies being bayoneted, tossed into flame throwers, heads flying off, donut shaped holes appearing in abdomens everywhere, and of course, redeeming social commentary. Wait? What that’s you say, behind the most gruesome violence ever shown on film there is a message?
That is what Stallone, who directs the film and stars in it, says about the picture. Stallone is trying to show the reality of the plight of the Karen people of Burma. There is s hard and terrible story that is real and ongoing. Pushing aside ideas from others to shoot a movie about an attack on Camp David or Rambo’s work on the Mexican border, Stallone wanted to show the severity of what is happening in what he describes as “one of the worst hell holes on earth”. I haven’t seen the movie, but from what I have read, it deserves a big old sign saying, “Mission Accomplished”.
It is very interesting if you go back and look at the Rambo and Rocky films side by side is that in their own way each of them has a unique social commentary on the time when they were produced. First let’s look at the Rocky’s.
Rocky I – This story of a down and out boxer from Philadelphia really captures the general sense of malaise and hard times of the late ’70s especially in an industrial town on the East Coast. Don’t forget this film won an Oscar.
Rocky II – We see a shift here with more of the 80′s optimism coming out as Rocky actually defeats Apollo Creed.
Rocky III – The overwhelming materialism and opulence of the 80′s tears away the hard earned work ethic and strength of the 70′s hardships as Rocky has to reinvent himself.
Rocky IV – Rocky ended the Cold War, enough said.
Rocky V – This film never happened
Rocky – Yearning for a return to the glory of 20 years ago, to escape the difficulties of the present day, we dip back into the innocence of the 80′s and believe a 60 year old can win a boxing match.
Now a look at the Rambo’s:
Rambo: First Blood – This really captured the plight of the post Vietnam Era darkness that existed in our country and in many Vets. John Rambo was obviously a little darker and a lot better at killing than most, but he also shows the difficulty our country had in forgiving, moving on, and reincorporating those who saw such darkness in Vietnam.
Rambo: First Blood Part II – Freed from prison to go back to Vietnam and search for POW’s, this Rambo shows the stunning distrust of our government after Watergate and the Iran Contra Affair. We are still struggling with the war in Vietnam and a feeling that the darkness we experienced is really the government’s fault.
Rambo III: Moving beyond Vietnam, Rambo now teams with the Mujahadeen of Afghanistan to repel the Soviet army. The all out war against the Soviets comes just before the end of the Cold War (see the work of Rocky in Rocky IV) and shows our one sided ignorance of world conflict. Going back and watching this film now, where Rambo essentially arms and trains Al Qaeda himself will make you cringe.
Rambo – Now demonstrating a global awareness of genocide, human depravity, and social conscientiousness in a way only Hollywood could appreciate, John Rambo turns into a far rougher, unredemptive killing machine in an effort to be Angelina Jolie.
Say what you want to about Sly and his films, such of which are good, and some of which are so bad that we have to pretend they never happened, but they do offer an interesting glimpse into who we are as a country. I am not encouraging anyone to go see what sounds like a barbaric and gruesome picture, but it is worth considering why it was made. Maybe Stallone is a social prophet, without even knowing it.