As I eased into my seat to watch Sylvester Stallone crack some skulls in Rambo -- the first Rambo movie in twenty years -- I'll admit to feeling a bit giddy. A blast of 1980s excess is exactly what the slumping action genre needs right now, if you ask me. To paraphrase the old John Candy SCTV character -- I wanted to see everything get blowed up real good. So you can imagine my surprise when the film opened with a montage of real-life footage documenting atrocities in Burma. And this is serious stuff -- we're talking slaughtered women and children here. Quickly, my excitement turned to discomfort and disgust. But just as I was preparing to mount my high horse and cry "Exploitation!," I started to get excited again. Because I knew that Rambo was going to get the bastards responsible.
It's an uneasy reaction, but that's what Rambo does! Whether he's standing up to authority in First Blood, symbolically winning the Vietnam War for America in Part II, or saving Afghanistan from the Soviets (ah, how times have changed!) in Rambo III, Rambo's job is to take the action that no one else will. And it can be pretty exhilarating to watch. In interviews, Stallone (who also wrote and directed Rambo) has said he hopes the new film will force people to take note of the civil war raging in Burma. But let's be honest here -- the guy's using an immeasurably tragic situation to make his action movie more effective. And distasteful as it may be -- it works.