Sunday, 22 November 2009

Okay, so I watched the Rambo movies.

In my defence I have been watching good films such as The Cremator and Che but come the weekend you do get the urge to watch something a bit more brutal. Thus Rambo.

It wasn't even entirely in order. I watched Rambo, the last one, first. Then it was in order. There's a guilty pleasure aspect to the films but I have to admit enjoying them all on some level.

First Blood is the best one in a lot of ways, as it has proper points about returning vietnam veterans amidst a terrific manhunt movie. Its not quite as deep as it thinks it is and while some of the action is terrific (manhunt through the forest and stalking through the town at the end) there are a few dodgy action bits, the bike chase now looking a bit a-team in lots of movements but no-one action getting hurt. I've read the book that its based upon, which is far more serious and intense. The good news is that on DVD you can actually hear what Stallone is mumbling about at the end. Its kind of a strange film in that its good as an action flick but you can see where it could be better.

Rambo: First Blood Part 2 is not a serious film obviously. On the idea of finding POW's years later its a bit ridiculous, as is some the the fashions and comments about Rambo. "What you call hell he calls home," is the best, most insane line. But it works as an action film, which is why it was a hit. Again its a manhunt film, with lots of running, fighting, captures, tortures, and a brutal final action orgy. And the CIA are the actual villains outside the Russians. It's funny how for a film series that's meant to be about a patriotic American hero, the films seem to downright loathe the US military, police and intelligence agencies throughout its entire run. The interesting thing is that it was co-written by James Cameron. Watching the Avatar trailers, having watched Rambo, I kind of wonder how much cross-over will come about, as its about a veteran who comes to hate his own government, going native in the jungle, fighting the military in an orgy of violence. Is Avatar a slight remake of Rambo?

Now to Rambo 3. Its the weakest one of the bunch, a bit weak and repetitive in the action dynamics, as the first half is talk, the second half unrelenting action that loses its way as its simply too much killing without character beats to create interest. I was in a forgiving mood while watching it, and there was a good cave sequence but the script is basic to a degree that it ignores basic action tension requirements. The other problems is that its set in Afghanastan, where the people are seen as to a man noble and brave, without variation, which obviously isn't the situation in reality. The best stuff comes early, with Stallone fighting the guy with sticks for money and the monks, with Rambo trying to turn his back on violence. More of that in the second half might have done well.

The til now final film, Rambo, is a lot better, is the best one since the first. While it is basic in character beats like the third one, the first half being about missionaries in Burma being transported and then caught, the second half being the rescue,with Rambo and some mercenaries, its a lot more to the point. The setp-up, going into Burma, is spare but effective. The action, in catching the missionaries, is brutal. It sets up the situation better than any of the other sequels, then we wait and watch for Rambo to become a brutal fighting machine. When this comes, a good half hour before the end, its very enjoyable, and the resulting rescue then escape through the jungle keeps focused for its duration. And its very violent. Anyone who hates violence in films should stay away. I feel very guilt-free about enjoying this one. While the last two sequels had moments that made you think what am I watching, this is basically a good little genre flick, no more, no less. Rambo finally seems human and haunted, which gives a lot of tension to the build-up, as he reconnects with a few people, and tortured by his own methods. The fact that he has a lot more characters around to interact with helps a lot in making his character work.

So it was a mixed bag in films. I enjoyed them all, some being more guilty pleasures than others. The interesting element is how string Stallone is through the series, despite not saying much ever. As he's been in so many bad films its easy to under-rate him when he's good, but he has real movie-star presence in these films, spare and careful throughout.

In the verbal violence stakes, I've also been watching The Thick Of It, which is terrific and funny and I'll get to in full at the end of the show's run.

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