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</script></div>{/googleAds}If the last couple of years have taught us anything it should be: never underestimate Sylvester Stallone. He was mocked at the beginning of his career and brought us Rocky. His popularity waned in the late 90's and when word trickled down he was reviving not only his famous boxer, but the 80's bandana-wearing cartoon character Rambo, more scoffs were heard.

It is said that everything in life moves in circles, and what once was will be again never has that been more true than for Stallone. He wowed us with his efforts to see off Rocky respectfully, and in Rambo he replicates that effort by returning his equally famous character to his roots more than any of the other sequels.

RamboI wasn't convinced there was a place for this character in a new century, but Rambo has managed to remind this reviewer of something he'd had forgotten. Before the excesses of Rambo: First Blood Part 2 and Rambo III, the character was compellingly human. The over the top super-human he would later become was nowhere to be seen in the original, and in this latest instalment, Stallone strips away those silly, cartoonish excesses to present a relatable hero once more...

This fourth entry finds John Rambo living an isolated existence on the border of Burma. A team of volunteers disrupt his solitude with a request to charter his boat into one of the most violent and dangerous war zones on the planet today. Of course, as always, Rambo is reluctant to do it, but eventually succumbs to the gentle but persistent pressure of a beautiful blonde volunteer (Julie Benz). All Rambo has to do is insert them into the area and go home... and he does so, but of course things go down the proverbial shitter right quick for the do-gooders and it's left to Rambo and - one of the few action clichés present - a rag tag band of devil-may-care soldiers to save their asses.

What follows is one of the most shockingly violent action films ever conceived, but to accuse it of excessiveness is to miss the point of Stallone's intention. Burma is a real war zone, and genocide atrocities at the hands of a corrupt military regime are happening there now, daily. Stallone wanted this represented in an honest, unflinching and realistic way and delivers scenes that you may find yourself tearing up in, such is the brutality and realism displayed. He spares you nothing on the subject: from the effects of landmines planted to catch unsuspecting villagers to the rape and murder of women and children thrown into flames to burn to death - nothing is left unexplored.

The story is simplistic, almost abruptly brief, and sticks closely to its aforementioned agenda. There are still some very Rambo-esque moments that take you out of the hell on earth milieu Stallone is going for, particularly in the final reel, but they are seldom enough not to detract, and for die-hard fans of the entire series they will probably be welcome. Gone are the silly one-liners, so over-used in the 80's (and not just by Rambo), and in their place is a pseudo-wise-man like mantra as Rambo shifts back into action: "Die for somethin' or live for nothin'." On the face of it, this seems a little too neat for the character, considering the amount of time that has past, but Stallone is no fool - he's exposing just enough to get you interested and laying the groundwork for further exploration into his character's return to civilisation... in another sequel of course.

All involved should be proud of their efforts. Action films have become the sparse genre in the last decade, and to see one from one of the greatest action stars alive, who is smart enough to adapt to a new world, and humble enough to admit - and avoid - his former out of date transgressions is a treat to behold. Stallone is back, his instincts and devotion to relevance are back, and so long as they remain, so is our willingness to watch.

Component Grades
4 stars
4 stars
DVD Experience
4 stars


DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 2.35:1

Subtitles: English; Spanish

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; deleted scenes; audio commentary; making-of featurette.

* Commentary
o Feature-length commentary track with Sylvester Stallone
* Featurettes
o Legacy of Despair: The Struggle in Burma
o It's a Long Road: Resurrecting an Icon
o A Score to Settle: The Music of Rambo
o The Art of War: Completing Rambo
o The Weaponry of Rambo
o A Hero's Welcome: Release and Reaction
* Deleted Scenes - 3 scenes that didn't make the final cut.
* Disc 2: Digital Copy of Rambo

Number of Discs: 2 with Keepcase Packaging