Action Adventure

Rambo: The First 4 Bloods

Weapons armed, here’s Stallone fighting his own wars.

The fifth installment of the popular Sylvester Stallone franchise, “Rambo: Last Blood,” hits theaters this Friday, and I would like to share with you my opinion on all four movies. They would be “First Blood,” “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” “Rambo III,” and “Rambo.”

“First Blood”

We first meet the Vietnam War vet John Rambo as a drifter, who arrives in Hope, Washington, hoping too reunite with an old friend of his. Instead, he comes face-to-face with the town sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy), who thinks he’s some kind of a criminal. After facing abusive cops, who remind him of his horrible days in the POW camps, Rambo escapes into the woods. Now, it becomes a man hunt, and he must use all his guerrilla warfare skills to survive.

The only guy who knows John Rambo’s full potential is his forming commanding officer Col. Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna), who warns Teasle that he’s not to be toyed with.

This intro did start off irritable with the police beating Rambo up, and that’s what I loathe about cops-their opportunity to be d*cks. But then, it gets better once we see the balls on Rambo, and his unique survival abilities. Stallone is charming as that character, and the supporting work from Dennehy and Crenna helps carry the movie by allowing the manhunt to reveal themselves respectively. One is patient, and the other is a tough wisenheimer.

There are also exciting traps and locations. I liked how Rambo hides in an abandoned mine, and escapes through water, rats, and old ladders. And you have to admit that when he hijacks and destroys an army truck as well as other cars with gas and fire, it’s really cool. The special effects and stunt work are both impressive.

And in the emotional side, Rambo admits to Trautman his experiences in the war, and his return to reality. Wars change people, and this scene really made me feel bad for him.

“First Blood” is a bit stressful, but for combining violence with drama, and for Stallone being guided on the right path, it works.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

“Rambo: First Blood Part 2”

The sequel, “Rambo: First Blood Part 2,” offers the action, style, and Sylvester Stallone from the original, and yet, it’s not as compelling or interesting as it claims to be. It wants to be its own “Deer Hunter” and “Apocalypse Now,” especially for the beautifully designed sets and locations, but it barely seems to deliver.

Rambo is serving his sentence, but Trautman gives him a chance for freedom, if he can free the remaining US POWs from Vietnam’s custody. The Major Murdock (Charles Napier) is more cynical about his actions than Trautman is.

Rambo’s contact is a Singaporean intelligence agent named Co-Bao (Julia Nickson), who longs to live the quiet, simple life in America, while wearing a green necklace as a good luck charm. His good luck charm is his knife.

Speaking of which, like the first one, he has the fighting skills and weapons to kill the bad guys. Shooting, archery, and punching keep him on track. He’s not much for words, but more on fighting, dispositions, and reactions. There’s one scene I loved, and that’s when he covers himself in mud so he can camouflage himself to slaughter a soldier. Let’s face it: he’s not to be played with.

After being captured by the Vietnamese soldiers, he discovers they’re in cahoots with the Soviets. The leader is the Lt. Col. Podovky (Steven Berkoff), and Murdock is the prick who left him for capture. Trautman did warn the Major provoking Rambo was a fatal mistake.

The tone and story is not that interesting, relying on formulaic gimmicks to keep the plot chugging along. I was also disappointed with how Co-Bao’s story lacked the pay-off it deserved, even if Julia Nickson does some solid work. And this screenplay was done by James Cameron and Sylvester Stallone himself.

Stallone has the acting and fighting abilities to make himself the action movie star we all know and love; but “Rambo: First Blood Part 2” is more dull and self-congratulatory than it is entertaining.

⭐️⭐️

“Rambo III”

The third entry, “Rambo III,” lags a bit from time-to-time in its story construction, but it still manages to be an improvement on the last entry. Maybe because of the cool action sequences, and maybe because of Sylvester Stallone being the top notch guy. It all depends on how I view things.

We find our hero John Rambo living in Bangkok, where he is visited by Col. Sam Trautman and C.I.A. field officer Robert Griggs (Kurtwood Smith of “Robocop” and “That 70’s Show”), who both warn him about how Afghanistan has Soviet fighters slaughtering innocent people. Rambo refuses to join, because he’s tired of fighting, but when Griggs informs him about Trautman and his team being captured, he’s returns to his roots.

The villain is Russian Colonel Alexei Zaysen (Marc de Jonge), who demands to know from Trautman where the missiles are being delivered. And helping Rambo on his rescue mission are a Pakistani arms dealer named Mousa (Sasson Gabai) and a kid named Hamid (Doudi Shoua).

The real action begins when Rambo infiltrates the base where Trautman is being help captive by planting bombs and shooting his enemies. It’s fun to watch him and his comrades escape through a gutter, slide through holes, and throw knives. All these qualities make Stallone so iconic in his Rambo characteristics.

And we don’t see Trautman give the bad guys the same warning he gave about Rambo surviving any obstacle. He’s either too busy being tortured, or he doesn’t want to jinx anything. Richard Crenna still provides the goods.

Does every fight scene work? No. Is the story plausible? Not really. But what makes “Rambo III” passable is Stallone’s ability to give his Rambo his strengths, even when things looks down.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

“Rambo”

20 years since “Rambo III” came out in 1988, the 2008 “Rambo” was co-written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, who still portrays the title hero. He does some solid work in front of and behind the camera, representing the maniacal realities of the Saffron Revolution.

The carnage is wall-to-wall, the women abuse is set at a minimum rate, and the 2007 time period keeps things at a steady level. It might be in a different generation, but “Rambo” still offers the non-stop thrills and excitement as its predecessors.

As the film begins, John Rambo refuses to take a missionary doctor named Michael Burnett (Paul Schulze) and his religious group up the Burma river to give the Karen tribespeople their supplies. His fiancee Sarah Miller (Julie Benz) convinces Rambo to take them, despite his views of how the world will never cease with the violence and killing.

Then, the village gets attacked by soldiers under the command of a rogue SPDC officer (Maung Maung Khin), who slaughter the people and kidnap the couple. Rambo ends up joining a group of mercenaries to go to war with the bad guys. To me, I got a bit aggravated by the toughest one (Graham McTavish), who acts like a d*ck towards Rambo and the other soldiers, but it gets better once they see his full potential.

The movie does get reckless, and some of the characters are a bit formulaic, but “Rambo” offers a lot of fun and energy. As the writer, director, and star, Sylvester Stallone proves he’s wise enough to keep his 80s character in the 2000s, and he uses his dialogue and skills to do so. And I did like Julie Benz as the plucky girl, who tries to convince him that even if the world has always been dark, there’s still enough hope to provide.

This is a non-stop lark.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

So, how do I think “Rambo: Last Blood” will be? It might be good or it might be bad. I’ll find out when I see it, and then you’ll know for sure. In the meantime, I had to catch up on these movies to acknowledge the franchise character and his views on the world.

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