A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the fourth installment in the Rambo franchise is, like its '80s predecessors, full of blood and violence (rendered even more disturbing by the last two decades' technological advances). This is the most violent of the Rambo movies, and much of the second half of the movie is nonstop killing through guns, knives, grenades, landmines, explosions, etc. Female captives are forced to dance on a stage in front of a large group of drunken Burmese soldiers, and soon, the soldiers begin to grab the women, strongly implying that a gang rape is about to take place. A young boy is taken into the quarters of the Burmese commander while all this is taking place; the commander caresses the boy's head and face before shutting the door. People are shot and killed at point-blank range. Children are murdered by Burmese soldiers. A dead body hangs from the gallows, the lower half stripped, presumably by the ravenous pigs gathered below it. Decapitated heads on spikes. Villagers are forced to run through a mined rice paddy -- bodies explode. "F--k" is constantly used, and the leader of the mercenaries says "c--t" once, and uses a racist term to describe Southeast Asians.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Sylvester Stallone's John RAMBO is an iconic character in action flick history. Unlike Rocky Balboa, he's not a feel-good hero -- he's an out-for-blood conqueror. In this fourth installment, Rambo, a traumatized Vietnam War vet who's a trained killing machine, is living peacefully in Thailand until a group of Christian aid workers on a medical mission asks to be taken up river to hostile Burma. After continued pleas from the only woman in the group (Julie Benz), Rambo reluctantly agrees. As anyone who's seen the trailer knows, the missionaries are taken hostage -- which is when the film turns into a gory revenge sequence as Rambo and some paid mercenaries try to rescue them.
Is it any good?
The film's action scenes benefit from a gang of fresh characters who play the guns-for-hire assigned to rescue the humanitarians. The men are a diverse crew (British actors Gavin McTavish as the bald and bold Lewis and Matthew Marsden as the likable sniper School Boy are especially memorable) of special-ops types who don't know yet how valuable their guide (Rambo) is, and their banter is a bit reminiscent of The Dirty Dozen -- albeit with a lot more expletives. It's good that Stallone added some help for the aging Rambo, though in several scenes, he doesn't seem to need anything but his expert hands to fell dozens of soldiers.
Surprisingly, even at 61, the muscular Stallone is still an imposing presence. No matter how many comedians jokingly call this sequel "Gram-bo," there's no doubt the writer-director-star can still kick butt in the most fantastically bloody of ways. Rambo's longtime fans will relish the three-digit body count, but everyone else may end up completely overwhelmed by the violence and underwhelmed by the preachy, formulaic dialogue exchanged between Rambo and the missionaries. Not that the script is really that important in this film -- it's all about the man, the legend, the sexagenarian master, Sylvester Stallone. For some moviegoers, that's more than enough.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether the amount of violence in Rambo is fitting, given its subject matter. Are there times when violence needs to be graphic to get a filmmaker's point across? Why or why not?
What's the appeal of explicit violence in the movies? What effects does watching this kind of content have?
How does the character Rambo fit in to the tradition of the "strong, silent type?" Who are some other examples of movie characters over the years who fit this description?
- In theaters: January 24, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: May 27, 2008
- Cast: Julie Benz, Matthew Marsden, Sylvester Stallone
- Director: Sylvester Stallone
- Studio: Paramount Vantage
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong graphic bloody violence, sexual assaults, grisly images and language.
- Last updated: May 7, 2020
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