Rambo: Angst Personified


I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie as violent as Sly Stallone’s Rambo, and I don’t know if I need to see another one. Watching this movie is akin to witnessing a cinematic ballet of blood, albeit a ballet that has some underlying depth, or at least pretensions of it. Fortunately, the movie almost manages to avoid moralizing… almost.

Granted, the message here is neither particularly deep or controversial: we all know (or should know) that bad things happen in Burma, but even so I found myself quite engrossed in this kinetic little film. Unlike the many viewers who were unsatisfied with the first half of the movie, I enjoyed these character-based sequences. John Rambo is tired and weary, but still haunted, and Stallone effectively conveys a man who is sick of the world’s injustice but has become contaminated by the knowledge that there’s nothing he or anyone else can do about it. Angst is not a character I expected to see in this movie, but it’s a force so strong that it’s practically palpable.

By the time the climactic bloodbath occurs, the movie has earned the right to bathe us in violence — unlike Saving Private Ryan, which blows its load right upfront, before we’ve come to know or care about the characters. Rambo is a long way from a perfect film, but I was surprised how much it affected me. And I found some comfort in the ending, in which Rambo makes a choice which offers him at least the possibility for contentment, something he never enjoyed in any of the other movies. Good luck with that.


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