Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden,
(R, 91 min.)
"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." George Orwell
It’s blood and guts, all right, ultra violent and certainly not for the squeamish, but Rambo is driven by the same existential anguish as many Oscar contenders. And it’s not as though they don’t bloody up the screen as well, just not with such robustly efficient abandon.
I think the thing that miffs the critics, who generally panned this film, is that John Rambo does not succumb to his despair. He does not go gently into the night as Tommy Lee Jones does in No Country for Old Men, but rallies to fight against incredible odds.
Not that John Rambo isn’t a bit down and out as the film opens, collecting snakes for the local serpent show in the jungles of Thailand. He bags a cobra with about as much emotion and effort as a vagrant collecting tin cans and is met with about the same amount of enthusiasm from the snake master, who groans that he already has an over supply of the venomous beasts. What he really needs is a python.
At first Rambo rebuffs the American missionaries who want to hire him to take them up river to Burma, where they will distribute food and medical supplies. He’s experienced enough in this Asian Heart of Darkness not to believe in their zeal, but the only woman in the group, Sarah, somehow wins him over. “It is better to die for something than to live for nothing,” she tells him, providing a scrap of meaning to cling to -- not enough to make a banner out of, but just enough to tie round his head.
Things, of course, do not go well. A band of pirates overtakes Rambo’s ramshackle boat and demands he turn Sarah over to them, forcing Rambo to do what he does best – mow down the entire fiendish crew before they can fire off a shot. Safely out of danger after this somewhat earthy rescue, the head missionary rebukes Rambo for “taking a life,” well actually several of them, and piously states that he will have to report it.
After dropping off the sanctimonious lot, our intrepid hero is back to brooding in the jungle when he is called to action again, as the missionaries have been captured by the Burmese military, who are not in any sense aware of the Geneva Conventions, to put it mildly. Viewers have already had a taste of their pastimes, betting on captive villagers as they race through landmine-laced rice paddies, as well as raping and pillaging in such a manner as to put the Vikings in the minor leagues.
Rambo is asked to pilot a rowdy group of mercenaries to the spot where the missionaries were dropped off, his reputation as a one-man killing machine entirely unknown to the lot whose vulgarity is only outdone by their arrogance. The rest of the film involves their daring rescue, Rambo having to cajole the mercenaries to earn their wages, even if he has to persuade them with an arrow poised at the temple. We see quite a bit of wholesale slaughter here – even the persnickety missionary succumbs to a bit of blood lust – but if any group deserves its comeuppance, if I may use such a genteel term, it is the Burmese military. As critic Bill Gibron so wisely noted, it is “…a pleasure of the guiltiest, most gratuitous kind.”
Surprisingly, some of the kindest words – in a relative sense, of course, come from New York Times critic A.O. Scott, who almost lauds Stallone’s choice of Burma (officially Myanmar) on humanitarian grounds, and even comments on Rambo’s “mythic dimensions of character” in tune with “the samurais and gunslingers of old.” It is, indeed, part of the American mono-myth, as it has been called, the mysterious stranger coming out of nowhere to the rescue and then returning to oblivion before anyone asks his name. Like the lone Ranger or any of Clint Eastwood’s characters, he is a man of few words, essentially a loner, an outsider cut off from the rest of us, surrounded in mystery and perhaps a bit of self loathing.
Rambo is our better angels and our inner demons all locked up in one package. We welcome his rough justice and then despise him afterward for it.
One of the preferred end games of the Burmese military is to feed live captives to their man-eating pigs, conveniently housed in the bamboo cages adjoining the prisoners. Kind of like the Romans having lions as suite mates to the Christians. What better way to be on intimate terms with your future dinner companion -- listening to its amiable grunts, smelling its sweet body perfume!
Ah, but what a sweet revenge if the tables could be turned and that loathsome neighbor skewered and roasted over hot coals. Whoever said revenge is a dish best served cold?
Thai Pork Satay
- 1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
- 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1 pound pork tenderloin, cubed
- 1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, drained
- 1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 1 small sweet onion, chopped
- In a medium bowl, mix peanut butter, green onions, soy sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, garlic, coriander, and cayenne pepper; add pork, and stir to coat. Cover, and marinate in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat grill for high heat. Thread marinated pork, water chestnuts, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, and sweet onion alternately onto skewers. Transfer remaining marinade to a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook for several minutes.
- Lightly oil grate. Cook skewers for 10 minutes, or to desired doneness. Turn skewers while grilling to cook evenly, and brush with boiled marinade during last few minutes.
Recipe Source: allrecipes.com