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). The main character is a one-man killing machine; when pushed to defend himself or others, he'll use anything -- from his bare hands to a rock to a weapon -- to destroy his enemies. Despite being 61, Stallone still has a considerable following, although most of his biggest fans are men old enough to be fathers at this point. While younger kids may not be interested, teen boys may well want to see what all the fuss is about this iconic character. In addition to the disturbing amount of violence, there's also a great deal of strong language and an awful scene that's clearly the prelude to a gang rape.
- 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 (and most likely final) 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 this movie 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? The fact that violent movies stimulate parts of the brain bears some commentary from the parental units.
- 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.
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