If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Sylvester Stallone's RAMBO films are not cinematic masterpieces by any standards, but are still entertaining movies. As many fans know, originally, the ending of the first Rambo film was supposed to be Colonel Trautman shooting John Rambo, as he realizes he doesn't want to go to prison, and can't take it anymore. So maybe from a dramatic standpoint, "First Blood" would be better as a standalone Drama film, and whether you think that the alternate ending was more effective/powerful is up to you. But regardless, we got 3 sequels, and we might even see a Rambo 5 (which I would much rather see than an "Expendables 2"). Here I'll talk about what works with these sequels, and what doesn't.
Yeah, it's a complete cheese-fest. But Rambo 2 is an entertaining sequel because of how crazy, and ridiculous it is, while it still manages to take itself so seriously. This one starts out with Trautman offering Rambo a chance to be released from prison, but only if he takes on the mission to go back to Vietnam, where more American POWs are allegedly being held. Here's where it gets good, the government wants him to find nothing, but of course, he finds the POWs, so they leave him there in 'Nam, to get captured himself. You could imagine where this goes from here. The reason why this is a good sequel, to a movie that should probably just be a standalone, is because you get to see Stallone doing what he does best- running around playing it completely deadpan, shooting single soldiers with explosive arrows, destroying entire camps of vietnamese soldiers where POWs were previously held, and even grabbing poisonous snakes out of the trees to tell the audience "Fuck you, I'm Rambo". This is just a short summary, and really isn't even the half of it. If you're into over-the-top 80's action movies, this is probably one of the most definitive ones of that decade, even parodied in "Hot Shots Part Deux", and Weird Al's movie, "UHF".
If you're playing a prank on your best friend, and he's in on this prank, it's not going to be as satisfying. That's probably the best way to describe Rambo 3. I don't even get the title for this one. Shouldn't it be First Blood Part 3? Or Third Blood? Oh well, I'm nitpicking. Rambo 3 has the star, John Rambo, having to go out and fight for "One last time" (Although we all know it's never the case) to rescue Colonel Trautman, who is captured in Afghanistan. But this time, you can tell that Stallone, and even Crenna, aren't taking it seriously anymore, and if I recall correctly, they even crack jokes quite a few times. While Rambo 3 contains one of the most over-the-top, ridiculous, W-T-F, Rambo moments (Taking on nearly an entire battalion of troops after Trautman tells him they shouldn't, after saying "Fuck Em!"), it still is nowhere near as entertaining as the first or second movie. The other main contributing factor to this besides the "tounge-in-cheek" approach that it took, is that it retreads a lot of the 2nd movie. It's my absolute least favorite of all of the movies, and maybe just plain "Bad" is a strong judgement, but it just doesn't work as well as the others. It's too tongue-in-cheek for my liking, just stick with First Blood Part 2.
Critically panned, Rambo 4 was a Stallone project (Like Rocky 6) that I was surprised even got off the ground. Yes, I love Rambo 4. It's the exact film that Rambo fans (like me) wanted, and didn't expect to get. Similar to the 3rd movie, John Rambo is off living his life, and minding his own business, until a group of Christian missionaries show up and request that he takes them up the river so that they can give food and supplies to the civilians of Burma, undergoing horrible atrocities and genocide. He doesn't want to do it at first, but is coaxed into it. Of course, (despite John's warnings of "If you aren't bringing weapons, you aren't changing anything) they get captured in a raid after he takes them up the river. Rambo joins a group of mercenaries to rescue the missionaries, and of course crack a few skulls in the process (and by crack I mean obliterate). Stallone made this movie politically relevant, and based it on events that had actually happened there, but sort of goes the route of "What would Rambo do?". The best thing about this movie, is that the enemies are so horrible and despicable that you absolutely enjoy every moment of Rambo mowing down, and destroying the Burmese troops. There is even footage of some of the awful things going on there right in the opening of the film, as it then it cuts to Burmese troops playing "death games" with the citizens, betting on which ones will get killed first, or live, running through murky water filled with mines. Obviously, the tone is completely different than any of the Rambo movies (definitely closest to the first) but still has nods to the other 3 movies, while it successfully delves into it's new dark, gritty tone. It ends with the possibility for yet another Rambo sequel, which at this point I say, why the hell not? Just don't make another Rocky 5, whatever you do, Stallone.
What do you guys think of the Rambo movies?
Next week: The Die Hard sequels