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Feature: Rambo

 Sylvester Stallone We look back at the Rambo franchise, and talk to Sylvester Stallone about his hopes for the latest Rambo movie…

Looking back on the series, it is, in fact, the third and least successful of the films, 1988’s Rambo III, that highlights the questionable ideology at the heart of the series. The film sees Colonel Trautman captured by the Russians while on a mission in Afghanistan, causing Rambo to come out of retirement in Thailand where he’s been stick-fighting for prize money that he uses to help rebuild a local monastery (no, really). Dropped into Afghanistan, it’s up to Rambo to get his old friend back, allying himself with the Mujahedeen as he mows down the Soviets and wins the day. In retrospect, the film’s portrayal of Afghan Mujahedeen soldiers – the holy warriors who would one day become the bane of the US government – as brave and noble is difficult to countenance. What’s more, the film’s closing credit, “This film is dedicated to the gallant people of Afghanistan” is enough to send shivers up the spine – albeit with the benefit of hindsight.

It’s sad to say that in a post-9/11 world, with the possible exception of the original film, the Rambo series now plays like a comic-bookish document of American folly. With the release of a new Rambo film imminent, the biggest question is whether Stallone, who is both writing and directing the film, will be acknowledging and rectifying past mistakes or making new ones. “Rambo’s is a character that I think was not fully expressed in the last one,” the actor, now in his 60s, explains in reference to Rambo III, which faired poorly at the box office. “Afghanistan was the downfall; it was Russia’s Vietnam. What happened was it was about 10 days before the movie came out, Gorbachev comes over and basically kisses Nancy Reagan on the cheek and the Cold War, 50 years later, is over and now I’m the bad guy.” Singled out for the vehemently anti-Soviet content of Rambo III, Stallone was surprised to suddenly see himself being labelled as a ‘red baiter’. “I said, ‘Two weeks ago we were dropping bombs on these guys,’” he recalls. “So any time you do a film that deals with a political subject – even though I’m doing it again – it’s extremely volatile.” With the latest and presumably final chapter in the Rambo saga – simply called Rambo – being set in Burma, a country currently going through violent upheaval, Stallone is once again putting his head on the political chopping block. The plot sees Rambo eking out a living in Thailand salvaging old boats when a group of missionaries persuade him to escort them into Burma. When the group is attacked, Rambo’s old reflexes kick in and, as he says in the film’s action-packed trailer, “When you’re pushed, killing’s as easy as breathing.”

“Rambo is a character, I think, that is completely out of sync with the way things are,” Stallone reveals of his new film. “He’s so primitive and his spirit is so broken that he lives this monastic life out in the jungle. I think it’s an interesting character study. I haven’t seen anything like it lately.”

by Chris Prince

Raed the full interview in
Film Review (Feb)

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Feature © Visual Imagination 2008. Not for reproduction

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Film Review (Feb), see below for ordering options
Film Review (Feb)
#692, February 2008
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