Here are the reasons I enjoyed Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo, or what my colleague Marc Bernardin has affectionately dubbed “the best movie 1986 never gave us.”
• You can actually summarize the plot in one sentence: After reluctantly leading a group of naive missionaries into war-torn Burma, Rambo reluctantly busts their captive asses out. Sometimes, you don’t need five intertwining story lines. (Stallone’s scary-big forearms are mystery enough.)
• Rambo’s “thousand-yard stare”: That’s what one of the mercenaries on Rambo’s team calls it. And after four films, I still love it. Sometimes, you don’t need to tell someone to “f— off” (although I appreciate it when Rambo does that, as well).
• You know the bad guys are gonna get it. And that they deserve it. And that Stallone will know how to film it: Stallone, who co-wrote and directed the movie, overwhelms you with the brutality of the Burmese army so you don’t have to feel guilty for being alright with them getting an arrow through the head, or decapitated, or blown up. It’s like watching a wide receiver take a vicious hit in HD. The man knew what he was getting into, right, and it looks so awesome that you forget what a cheap shot it probably was.
• This movie brings families together: Or, at least mine. I’ve mentioned before that Stallone is a Bierly favorite. Let me take you through last Saturday, aka our “Rambo Day:” I slept in, having traveled six hours after work Friday to get to my parents’ home. We went to brunch, then to a 1:30 p.m. matinee. As people entered the theater, my father judged whether they were “real Rambo fans,” or just there with one. When a bunch of loud twentysomething men came in chanting “Rambo! Rambo!,” I leaned over and told my dad, “Those are our people.” At the end of the film — after we all chuckled at what Bernardin would later term Sly’s “warrior-Farrah” ‘do in the final scene — we joined our people in a round of applause. Upon exiting the theater, we drove to get ice cream. It was now the perfect day. It got even better, however, when we stopped to get gas and my mother asked the young man at the pump to confirm her definition of a Gatling gun. (Don’t ask.) After she explained that we had just seen Rambo, the young man said he was going to see it that night and asked us whether you get to see decapitations. When we responded in the affirmative, he said, “Right on!,” and my mother personally assured him that he would enjoy the movie as we drove off, now discussing which action hero we’d each want to rescue us if we were being held captive. Clearly, the answer is Rambo. He gets the job done.
Who else enjoyed the movie?