There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.
John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) has seen more than his share of war. He has lived and thrived in one of the darkest parts of humanity, but he is now trying to live a calm, normal life. Rambo has a ranch where he trains and cares for horses, and he has taken in an old friend (Adriana Barraza) and her granddaughter, Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal). They each have had a troubled past, but the three have formed a happy family together.
Gabrielle’s mother died, and her father left when she was very young. After learning her father’s current whereabouts, and despite Rambo and her grandmothers stern warnings, Gabrielle decides to travel to Mexico for answers. She goes to Mexico searching for her father, but she finds something much worse than she was hoping for, as she gets abducted by a group of very bad men. Although not by blood, Gabrielle is Rambo’s daughter for all intents and purposes. When he learns what happened, he sets out for Mexico with very bad intentions.
The Pros & Cons
|The Pros||The Cons|
Rambo & Gabrielle (+5pts)
No Holding Back (+5pts)
The Action (+6pts)
Pro: Rambo & Gabrielle (+5pts)
I knew the premise of this movie, and I knew the type of movie I was watching, so I entirely expected Gabrielle to be a generic and poorly developed new character. I also expected the relationship between her and Rambo to be hollow, and that we would be told that she was important to Rambo instead of being shown. Let us be honest, movies like this are generally mindless, popcorn munching fun. They are not exactly known for their elaborate plots or strong character development, so I was pleasantly surprised to be proven very wrong regarding my assumption toward Gabrielle and her relationship with Rambo.
The filmmakers did not do much to setup how or why Rambo knew and cared about Gabrielle and her grandmother. However, they effectively setup that Gabrielle meant a lot to Rambo. This was important in making the action mean something. I understood that Gabrielle was essentially his daughter, so I understood his desperation to save her, as well as his rage toward the ones who meant her harm. It was incredibly easy to get invested in the action, because I was invested in what Rambo was fighting for.
Con: Relation (-3pts)
Like I said before, the filmmakers did not do a great job of explaining who Gabrielle and her grandmother were to Rambo. I got that he cared about them, but I did not get why. Were they random people he found on the street or did they have some kind of shared experience together? This part of the story was unclear, and while the filmmakers were able to overcome this with Rambo’s relationship with Gabrielle, they were not able to do so with her grandmother.
The grandmother unfortunately just felt random. I knew that there was some history there, but I did not get the impression that Rambo cared about her more than he would care for any random, innocent bystander. I understood the fact that character was supposed to mean something to Rambo, but I did not feel it. Explaining how Rambo knew these two characters would have gone a long way in making the grandmother feel more relevant to the story.
Pro: No Holding Back (+5pts)
There were a few moments throughout this movie that stood out to me, in terms of filmmakers not holding back. The plot of this movie dealt with some heavy subject matter, and the filmmakers were not afraid to go all in. A lot of movies would imply these things, and would almost go out of their way to not show certain things on screen. However, Gabrielle had been abducted by some bad people, and bad people do bad things.
Many movies would have implied the risk that Gabrielle faced, and they would have had the antagonists refrain, giving the protagonist a shot at saving her before she was harmed in any real way. The filmmakers of this movie knew that this would mean pulling back the reigns on their antagonists, and it would have felt incredibly convenient for Rambo and Gabrielle. Thus, the filmmakers did not hold back in this regard, and it had me completely invested in Rambo’s mission of revenge. Then there was how enraged Rambo was. Rambo was messed up after all the war he had seen throughout his life. He was desperate to save Gabrielle, and he was pissed off at those who took her. Rambo showed his enemies as much brutality as he could possibly summon, and it felt like the writers let the monster within him free. I understand wanting to tone down the violence to make movies more "commercial", but the filmmakers of this movie respected how this character would behave in this situation, and it made for some excellent action.
Con: Predictable (-2pts)
The movie was a bit predictable. It was just an action movie with a simple plot, and simple plots can be predictable. There were certainly a few spots where I expected the story to zig, only for it to zag, but for the most part, the movie went pretty much exactly as you would expect it would. It was not a huge deal for this movie, but I would be lying if I said the predictable plot did not take at least some of the fun out of watching this movie.
Pro: The Action (+6pts)
The action in this movie was pretty strong. It was Rambo doing his thing. He killed with deadly traps, he killed with guns, he killed with arrows, he killed with explosives, and he killed with blades. The movie did not have non-stop action, beginning to end, but the action that was in here was pretty entertaining.
The filmmakers delivered a satisfying, action packed climax. It was so satisfying because of Rambo’s rage, as he was taking out every ounce of his frustration on the unsuspecting baddies. There is something fun about having a dangerous, badass character going up against a bunch of goons who had no idea what they had got themselves into. They thought they were going to kill foolish old man, and as great as the action was on its own, there was something really satisfying about seeing how catastrophically these antagonists underestimated their target.
Con: Reckless (-2pts)
There was a scene in which Rambo was way too reckless. He underestimated his enemy, and he went in unprepared. The filmmakers clearly did this to make Rambo feel less unstoppable, to make the antagonists feel like more of a threat, and to make the movie longer. Unfortunately, this seemed uncharacteristic of Rambo. If anything, he would be over prepared and he would study his enemy thoroughly before going in. I get that he was desperate and emotional, but this was hardly the first time the character was emotional in combat. I get the reasons that the filmmaker’s had for doing it, but the recklessness seemed out-of-character of Rambo, and it briefly took me out of the movie.
Grade: B- (84pts)
I went into this movie expecting generic characters, generic relationships, and a generic plot. That is absolutely fine for an action movie like this, because that is kind of what you sign up for when getting the ticket. I was then very pleasantly surprised to see the filmmakers delivered something much more than all of that. I thought the filmmakers could have done a better job of explaining how Rambo knew Gabrielle and her grandmother, but the relationship between Rambo and Gabrielle was handled really well.
In every way except for blood, Gabrielle was Rambo's daughter. He cared about her and he wanted to keep her safe, but she ended up getting abducted by bad men. The plot from there was a simple one, but it was effective because of how well the filmmakers setup the relationship between Rambo and Gabrielle. He was desperate, he was enraged, and all of that came out during the action sequences. The movie had its minor plot issues, but the action was brutal and filled with emotion, which made it very satisfying and easy to get invested in. I was expecting an average action-flick here, but this movie ended up exceeding my expectations.