There are those who will enjoy Rambo, the fourth installment in the Sylvester Stallone franchise about the Vietnam vet for whom the war is never over.
For the revenge-hungry, the sight of weary warrior John Rambo fighting injustice with blood justice will sate the appetite. For the bloodthirsty, the prospect of what some call "the most violent mainstream movie ever filmed" will quench the parched parts.
To them I say: Buy the video game.
With its first-person-shooter perspective and gun-and-run narrative, this one's for the PlayStation crowd. It's not a movie. It's an adrenaline pump and purveyor of raw carnage.
This slab of action porn finds its title character in Thailand, wrangling cobras (perhaps an inside reference to another Stallone screen character) and grunting by the banks of the river Salween, where he apparently lives in a longboat using a crossbow to harpoon fish. Given his soiled headband, ratty locks, and broken, muscle-bulging body, he resembles a mothballed Conan the Barbarian.
American missionaries want him reactivated. A church group approaches Rambo to guide them upriver to Myanmar (called Burma in the film) to aid rebels of the military government. He resists their entreaties. Stallone, who wrote and directed as well as stars, depicts the Myanmar military much as he did the Soviets in Rambo III, demonic figures who torture by sprinkling land mines in rice paddies and firing on prisoners who run to their explosive deaths.
When pretty missionary Sarah (Julie Benz) begs Rambo yet again, he takes the men and women of God upriver. When you hear one missionary sermonize that "Taking a life is morally indefensible" in Act 1, you know that he will be toting a gun by Act 3. When Rambo drops them off in the war zone like a parent leaving the kids for school, you know he'll be back.
Within days another churchman (what's Ken Howard doing here?) hires Rambo to ferry mercenaries to liberate the now-imprisoned missionaries. To this motley crew who have no morals, Rambo grunts, "Live for nothin', or die for sumpin'."
Do Americans really want Sylvester Stallone or his alter ego as a moral compass? This, after all, is the director/star of the Afghanistan-themed Rambo III, where his character assisted the mujaheddin and said, if memory serves, "I'm proud to be part of your jihad."
Of course, Stallone adherents won't flock to Rambo for its political views. And so, to answer the critical question: Is this indeed the Goriest. Movie. Ever? Let's call it a tie with The Passion of the Christ. And let's call it a day for this franchise.
Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-854-5402. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://go.philly.com/flickgrrl/