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05.21.08

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Phaedra

Rambo: Special Edition

Two discs; Lionsgate; $34.98

By Steve Palopoli


In choosing this moving story of Christian humanitarians who fall into the clutches of Burmese soldiers, Sylvester Stallone has set his brutal John Rambo up for a voyage of spiritual discovery: bloodshed only leads to more bloodshed, an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. The only true resistance, Rambo learns, is nonviolent resistance. Nah, I'm just kidding. Rambo has the Burmese genocide angle, it's got the Christian do-gooders in trouble, but it's all window-dressing. Rambo is a gorefest, plain and simple. It's John Rambo as pure animal, too grim even to be the cartoon figure he was in the 1980s, responding only to the twitch of action-kill nerves. The old Dead Kennedys parody "Rambozo the Clown" is as spot-on as ever: "Pull the string in his back, we win the war." And rest assured, that war was carefully selected for MOE (Maximum Obvious Evil) value. Launching a pre-emptive strike against the traditional Rambo blowback, the first part of the movie is spent proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the hundreds of people Rambo is about to take out all deserve it. The soldiers of the Myanmar junta are not corrupt or misled men, or even themselves victims of Burma's horrifying civil war. They're more like demons set upon the landscape to rape, mutilate and kill at will. Really, how can Rambo justify not killing them? In the DVD extras, the actors admit that having Stallone behind the camera was like being directed by Rambo himself. But I'd think the real Rambo would have made this a shining, brightly lit action epic from the Reagan era. Instead, what Stallone chose to make is basically a Rambo horror film, all dark jungle and endless rain, the gunfire punctuated by shock slashings, decapitations and buckets of blood. Is there anywhere to go with this character but Freddy vs. Jason vs. Rambo? (The Special Edition also includes a digital download of the movie.)


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