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Friday, 15 March 2013

John Rambo: An Origin of Violence

Action movies supporting the most iconic actors in the late 80s early 90s shared a particular, yet similar concept to one another; a straight forward survival premise, or a rescue mission that would inevitably lead to chaos at the highest order.

Sylvester Stallone was involved in the rise and rise of dead body counts in an era that supported many trilogies to broaden a statement of unlimited violence. There is an argument that I have ear-wigged and sometimes created that would go something along the lines of "Action movies just ain't as fun to watch now as they were in the 80s". The difference in movies now is that we see a lot more focused on a logical plot, and not so much the will to entertain the mindless. Although modern day blockbusters are evidence to show it could be the opposite way around - thanks to CGI.

Let's take a look back at a movie trilogy that signifies the actor for what he was and inevitably, what he can never walk away from. No not Rocky(an argument for another day), Rambo; which felt the need to extend and prolong the use of violence in its movies by doubling (and at times) trebling the body count.

Sly Stallone was at his best in 1982 with First Blood (before Rambo, before a name that represented violence at the highest). A simple yet effective story of survival in the woods caused by the ignorance of the towns sheriff.  John Rambo - a soldier tormented by war is up against it, making use of his tactics in the back yard of a town on full alert. Those who have seen the movie may remember that through-out the manhunt for John, one man was killed in the movie. one. Now, the movie promoted violence, just like many that followed it and although it was physical, it was necessary. Rambo turns himself in for the sake of the idiots who consistently continued to come after him. Did he do the right thing? no, but he slightly makes up for the men he could have killed in the sequel that followed.

3 years later, George P. Cosmatos directed a sequel. Rambo: First Blood 2 (1985). Freed from prison, Rambo is sent on a mission by his colonel to help rescue a bunch of POWs. Forced to team up with a female lead this time around, Rambo infiltrates a Vietnamese war camp only to find himself set-up by the authority who sent him there. The poster showcases Rambo with a rocket launcher the size of himself; automatically telling you what you are in for with the sequel - chaos. The body count goes as far as 67. Rambo is responsible for 51 of those. The sequel really expresses the killing mentality within Rambo, with his guerrilla warfare background coming back to haunt him. Sequences on the river result in 10 killings, while scenes on the camp is a laxi-daisy of 4 with the rescue mission itself adding a total of 29.

My year of birth (1988) saw the release of Rambo 3; directed by Peter McDonald. Rambo is en-rout to Afghanistan to rescue colonel Trautman who is being held captive by soviet forces. Apart from Stallone's body count rising to 72 third time around, the overall film survives on a body count of 127, with Colonel Trautman getting in on the fun with 5 kills. This one was quite weak but it's what the fans wanted. The drama we got in the original was long dead. Rambo had reached a new stage of chaos. By the time the sequel had wrapped up I think people knew where Sly and co were taking this character.

Yep, a modern day Rambo still lurks. Instead of hanging up his knife and bandanna, his age is ignored in the fourth movie.

Sly reinvented Rambo in 2008 with a fourth in the franchise. Lone hero Rambo is still surviving in his own company 20 years later; rough and ragged, with muscles just "screaming" to be pumped, as well as his murderous addiction (Don't worry Rambo, you will have your fun). Excluding Richard Crenna this time following his death in 2003, Rambo dedicates this bloody return to his former colonel and acting colleague. Located in Burma, Rambo is approached by a group of aid workers looking to be led through the jungle and into a Burmese camp. Rambo advises the "eager to die" group that;"Burma's a war zone". Like any bunch of uneducated imbeciles, they don't believe him. Although if Rambo told me he dived off a cliff and stitched himself up afterwards, would you believe him?

So they say "screw him" and go anyway, winding up hostage and slaved in a Burmese camp.

Rambo is informed by a church pastor about the capture of the group. Rambo could have said "I told them so"...but he does, and goes anyway.

Rambo travels the rivers of Burma with a group of mercenaries where death awaits and survival lurks. Rambo goes on to murder 87 people with the entire movie promoting a fatality of 247 bodies!!! (excluding fish, horses and dogs). They matter too you know? Movie insiders reckon Rambo potentially killed hundreds more when he blew up half the jungle on his way down! That's my boy!

While Sly has moved on to bigger and not so better things, he seems to always stay true to violence. Recent movies such as The Expendables and Bullet to the Head have continued to portray some epically violent sequences that are quite the entertainment if you leave your brain at home. Although Sly's gathering of iconic action stars with The Expendables (and sequel) are not enough to convince me that movies are still the same. Sure, you can throw in Arnold Schwarzenegger, Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundren (or some might know him as Drago), there is a level of comedic effort that has failed to work in modern day blockbusters. Plus, a 60 year old Arnie who got bored of governing California is just not the same (although he did have a kid with his maid so the Expendables might have taken his mind off things).

I do not want to see the end of iconic stars such as Sly and Arnie, and it thrills me to reflect on the Rambo franchise. But one can not ignore the illogical sense behind blockbusters today. They were not as creative in the 80s as they were today. Sure, they lacked CGI, which is not a bad thing either. They were gritty back then, almost believable and a hell of a lot more serious compared to the crap being released today. Don't believe me? Go and see Bruce Willis in A Good Day to Die Hard - a desperate attempt at reviving what was.

Actually don't bother. Do yourself a favour and watch First Blood again.

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