With my recent blog about Governor Swarzenegger I thought it would be rude not to give a little mention to Stallone.
Ah, the 80’s battle of the box office hero’s, amongst and collection of characters the kings of Hollywood actions had their defining characters, Arnold had The Terminator, Bruce Willis had John McClane (see this blog) and Stallone had John Rambo.
Over the last twenty years Stallone has suffered the same career ups and owns as his boxoffice rivals. What separates Sly from his other ex-Planet Hollywood stars is that he’s an Oscar nominated director and writer (never getting the credit he really deserves as a filmmaker). Rocky aside oddly in comparison to the other aforementioned characters John Rambo his most iconic and significant character that changed noticeably over the course of four films. To sum it up in one sentence Rambo went from a quite realistic war veteran in First Blood, to a totally over the top combat instrument in 2 and 3, coming full circle as a mixture for Rambo.
The movie was officially greenlit by Nu Image/Millenium Films and would be loosely based on a novel called Hunter (a novel to which Stallone had the rights for), it involved Rambo hunting a feral beast. In 2009 Stallone stated that the story had been changed and would feature Rambo searching for trafficked women who disappeared over the Mexican border. However, in May 2010 he confirmed that Rambo V was cancelled and that Rambo had been “retired”.
So in the meantime sit back and relax, if you’ve never seen them or are a fan, here are my thoughts on one of Stallone’s most memorable collection of films.
First Blood (1982)
John Rambo (BAFTA winner Sylvester Stallone) is a fairly reserved and
sensitive guy, a man who has seen and lived the horrors of the Vietnam
War. He returns to the good old United States of America to find his
only friend has died. You can sympathise with him and when small- town sheriff (Brian Dennehy) takes a needless dislike to him and his heavy handed deputies mistreat Rambo you can see why Rambo is sent over the edge.
In retrospect, unfortunately the sequels turned John J Rambo into
‘Rambo’ the icon who relies more on an M-16 to get him out of trouble.
In First Blood Rambo utilises the teachings from Col. Trautman (Richard
Crenna) his war training and combat skills to stay alive and outwit his
With less guns and explosions director Ted Kotcheff competently builds the tension and suspense and you get the feeling Rambo may not make it till the end. The locations are wonderfully atmospheric – foggy, earthly capturing the true outdoors. Stallone, Crenna and Dennehy are on form and the movie has a strong supporting cast that includes David Caruso in an early role as Deputy Mitch. Underpinning all this is Jerry Goldsmith’s memorable score.
Rambo First Blood is a grounded drama and action must see.
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
Picking up with Rambo doing hard time after the events of the first film, he is given a second chance, however, he is left for dead behind enemy lines and must escape from his Russian & Vietnamese captors and bring some Vietnam Vet’s home.
Where as the first film was credible, the late George P. Cosmatos’ far-fetched First Blood Part 2 metamorphoses Rambo into the memorable gun-touting icon. With a James Cameron and Sylvester Stallone screenplay it plays on Rambo as the loner war machine. Jack Cardiff’s cinematography is worth mentioning, especially the jungle scenes, and rice-fields where Rambo must dispose of an endless supply of solider extra’s using a machine gun and a bow. Comatos’ packs the screen with stunts and explosions and handles the subtler moments with ease. Jerry Goldsmith once again delivers a thriving memorable score, that adds atmosphere to the films proceedings.
Famous writer and actor Steven Berkoff is perfect as the Russian bad guy (although peculiarly similar to his own General Orlov from 1983’s Octopussy). With a distinguished cast including Julia Nickson as Rambo brief love interest Co Bao, Charles Napier and Martin Kove. Richard Crenna makes a welcomed return as Col. Trautman and once again is the mediator between Rambo and the ‘bureaucrats’. Again Sylvester Stallone is in fanatical preposterous physical shape and mumbles through the restrained scenes with Nickson convincingly.
All in all it’s a great 80’s action flick, delivering a larger than life sequel. However, if there were any serious war messages they’re lost in the mist of leeches, explosions and bullets.
Rambo III (1988)
Peter MacDonald’s Rambo 3 is far removed from Ted Kotcheff’s credible First Blood and follows the Rambo icon established in George P.Cosmatos’ First Blood Part II.
What’s notable from the outset is the real life political and conflict shifts since ’88, as the Americans are helping the Afghan rebels achieve freedom from the invading Russians. As the cold war ended overnight this appeared to hamper this Rambo’s already out of date story line box office success. That said, paradoxically it has made Rambo more significant and highlights how quickly an alliance can shift which may stick in some viewers throats satirically or not.
Richard Crenna once again plays Col. Trautman who is captured behind enemy lines and Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) must stage a solo ‘unofficial’ rescue mission. Again, Stallone is in obscene physical shape for this instalment, and is 100% committed to his role as Rambo. There’s a brief appearance by Kurtwood Smith who gives the usual effective performance. Sasson Gabai and Spiros Focás are part of an effective supporting cast. However, the Russians are an array of forgettable extras and Marc de Jonge Colonel Zaysen just can’t escape from the stereotype script he’s been given.
Rambo 3 is very watchable but in retrospect it’s fraught at times by diplomatic changes of the time, even more so in today’s climate and ironically this takes the fun out this instalment.
Jerry Goldsmith’s score is once again excellent and MacDonald who was handed the directing reigns last minute does his best. There are a few stand out scenes all of which display Stallones refined abilities, a stick fight and horse game. Nevertheless, Sylvester Stallone and Sheldon Lettich screenplay is all comic book dialogue. The film looses memento in the second act and by the third you don’t care who lives or dies.
There’s gun’s, helicopters, bullets, explosions, monks and glow-sticks if that’s your thing you’ll love Rambo III.
Now living in Thailand, Rambo joins a group of mercenaries to venture into war-torn Burma, and rescue a group of Christian missionaries.
While this is another sequel that keeps John J Rambo as ‘Rambo’ the icon who relies more on a gun to get him out of trouble, Stallone is on top form as the heavy, bulky, Rambo – out with ‘don’t push me’ and in with the new catchy saying ‘go home’.
Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna) is sorely missed but he still makes a brief (from the grave) appearance in Rambo’s dream. With this film is there’s no developed bad guy in a cinematic sense but there is however a bad army and silent leader which adds to the realistic tone of the film.
The acting is a mixed bag from the supporting cast, Brian Tyler’s music is fine, the locations and sets are fantastic but what stands out is Glen MacPhersons cinematography and Sean Albertson’ slick editing. Sly is on top directing form, giving a film that is like a war doc at times and you really see what damage bullets can do. Like is predecessors there is a message in Art Monterastelli’s and Stallone’s screenplay but it’s sometimes lost in the powerful gunfire and graphic blood. It’s not as smart as the First Blood but the ending rounds the film off well and Rambo ‘does go home’…