Kevin King, Avi Lerner, John Thompson
January 25, 2008
Rambo (also known as Rambo IV, John Rambo and Rambo: The Fight Continues) is a 2008 American action film directed by, written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. It is the first Rambo film since the critical flop Rambo III (1988) where Rambo returns; the film was released in theaters in 2008; starring Sylvester Stallone as Rambo and Julie Benz as Sarah Miller. It was later followed by Rambo: Last Blood in 2019.
Burma is under the iron-fisted rule of military dictator Than Shwe amid the political protests of the Saffron Revolution. The SPDC take harsh stances against the nation's pro-democracy movement. The film begins with rebels being thrown into a land mine-infested marsh and forced to run across it before being gunned down by the Tatmadaw Army, while the sadistic military officer Major Pa Tee Tint gazes grimly at the scene while casually smoking a cigarette.
Former U.S. soldier John Rambo still lives in Thailand and now resides in a small village near the Burmese border. He makes a living capturing snakes and selling them in a nearby village. He also fishes with his bow and gives the fish to local monks, as well as transporting roamers in his boat up and down the Salween River. A missionary, Michael Burnett, asks Rambo to take him and his associates up the Salween River into Burma on a humanitarian mission to give aid to Karen tribespeople. Rambo, convinced that he wasted his life fighting for false pursuits that changed nothing and angry at the world; refuses, as Burma is a war zone and their work will not make a difference, as it never does. However, Rambo is convinced by the kind-hearted Sarah Miller to take them.
The boat is stopped by pirates who demand Sarah in exchange for passage, which Rambo knows will lead to her rape, torture and most likely death of all on the boat. After negotiations fail, Rambo kills them all. Although his actions save the missionaries, it greatly disturbs Michael. Upon arrival, Michael says that they will travel by road and will not need Rambo's help for the return trip and he intends to report Rambo for his hostile, albeit necessary, actions. The mission goes well until the Tatmadaw, led by Major Tint, attack. They kill most of the villagers and two missionaries and kidnap the rest, including Michael and Sarah. When the missionaries fail to come back after ten days, their pastor, Reverand Arthur Marsh comes to ask Rambo's help in guiding hired mercenaries to the village where the missionaries were last seen. After waking him up, Rambo leaves and, unable to rest, builds himself a machete. During this time, he finally comes full circle and realizes that killing is what he is best at, no matter how far he has tried to run from it.
After an intense boat ride where Lewis, one of the mercenaries, insults him repeatedly, Rambo attempts to accompany them on the rescue mission and grabs his compound bow, but Lewis rebuffs him. They head to the destroyed and abandoned village, where they meet Myint, a Karen rebel that helps guide them. But they are forced to hide from arriving Burmese soldiers gambling with the lives of local villagers by making them run across a land mine ridden rice paddy. They are worried about being discovered and forced to watch the atrocities the cruel soldiers are doing, but Rambo arrives and uses his bow to kill every single soldier and save the lives of the villagers. Worried about the soldiers coming after them because of their deaths, and angry at Rambo for disobeying his orders, Lewis shows little care for the lives of the imprisoned missionaries and orders the team to turn around, but changes his mind when Rambo holds an arrow to his eye and makes a brief and inspiring quote "Live for nothing, or die for something".
With the help of the Karen, they reach the P.O.W. camp where the missionaries are being held. School Boy, a mercenary, shoots all the guards with his rifle and the mercenaries rescue the other missionaries, but Sarah has been captured by a drunk soldier that intends to rape her. However, Rambo arrives just in time and rips out the man's throat with his bare hands, killing him. Rambo helps Sarah escape and finds that the other mercenaries have deserted them for fear of their own lives. Two Tatmadaw soldiers find them and attempt to kill Sarah, but Rambo jumps on her as a human shield, but Schoolboy, the only mercenary that wanted to risk his life by waiting for Rambo and Sarah, kills them and they are able to escape.
The next morning, the Tatmadaw unit finds the hostages missing and organizes a massive manhunt. Rambo distracts the soldiers by ripping off a piece of Sarah's blouse and attaching it to a claymore mine, which he places underneath an unexploded "Grand Slam" bomb from World War II. The dogs sniff out the shirt right as the mine detonates and causes the bomb to explode, causing a gigantic explosion that kills many of the soldiers. Rambo leaves to distract more soldiers while School Boy takes care of Sarah. Schoolboy discovers that Tint's men have captured the missionaries and mercenaries and are now beating them severely.
But just as the group is to be executed, Rambo hijacks a jeep-mounted .50-caliber machine gun and engages the Burmese army in a massive gunfight. The resulting chaos provides the mercenaries with weapons and the missionaries with an opportunity to hide. Rambo kills most of the Tatmadaw soldiers with the machine gun, while Karen rebels later join the fight to help Rambo and the mercenaries win destroying a war boat on the way. This decisive intervention of the Karen Rebels completely succeeds and the Tatmadaw unit is wiped out. The cowardly Major Tint attempts to get away, but Rambo intercepts and disembowels him.
Rambo returns to the United States because after he was asked if he had any living family by Sarah, Rambo said that his father might still be alive. A silent last scene shows him walking along a rural highway, past a horse farm and a rusted mailbox bearing the name "R. Rambo" as he makes his way down the gravel driveway and the credits roll.
Cast and characters
- Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo
- Julie Benz as Sarah Miller
- Paul Schulze as Michael Burnett
- Matthew Marsden as School Boy
- Graham McTavish as Lewis
- Rey Gallegos as Diaz
- Tim Kang as En-Joo
- Jake La Botz as Reese
- Maung Maung Khin as Major Pa Tee Tint
- Ken Howard as Rev. Arthur Marsh
In between the making of the third and fourth films in the Rambo franchise, the films' original producer, Carolco Pictures, went out of business. In 1997, Miramax Films purchased the Rambo franchise. The following year, Miramax subsidiary Dimension Films intended to make another film, and a writer was hired to write the script, but attempts to make it were deterred by Sylvester Stallone, who had stated that he no longer wanted to retire the characters of Rambo and Rocky and focus on other, new projects. In 2005, the studio sold those rights to Nu Image/Millennium Films. The Rambo saga had been dormant since Rambo III's release in 1988, and Stallone had indeed gone onto do other projects, such as Lock Up, Cliffhanger, Daylight and Cop Land. Stallone wanted to do a fourth Rambo film since he had previously revisited his Rocky Balboa character (who had not been in a film since 1990's Rocky V) and properly concluded the story in 2006. Although Lionsgate wanted the film to be called "Rambo: To Hell and Back", because 2006's final "Rocky" film had been called Rocky Balboa, Stallone wanted to call the fourth Rambo film, potentially the concluding chapter of the series, John Rambo. Lionsgate, however, did not want the public to think that the franchise was ending in case later sequels would be made, so the title was simply changed to "Rambo".
Since the first three Rambo films all covered different issues in different parts of the world, Stallone wanted the fourth film to continue this tradition, but he wanted to raise attention to an issue that was not being covered in the press. Stallone looked at conflicts across the world, such as the middle east (a region already explored in Rambo III) or Mexico, but felt they were too well covered by the media. To find a conflict he could raise attention to, Stallone called Amnesty International and the United Nations and asked what the worst conflict in the world was. Immediately, both replied: "Oh, Burma!" Fascinated, since he had not heard anything about Myanmar, and because Burma is located on the border of Thailand (where both Rambo sequels take place), Stallone began researching the crisis in Burma. He found that it was the longest-running civil war in the world, having been going on for longer than fifty years. Stallone was shocked at the severity of the relatively unknown situation, including the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and the many atrocities, such as demining. Stallone immediately declared that he had found the conflict to publicize in Rambo IV. Stallone was attached to the project as not just the star, but also the director, what he had previously done with Rocky Balboa, to ensure that the potential final film would be done right.
Filming started on January 22, 2007 and ended on May 4, 2007. It was shot in Chiang Mai, Thailand as well as in Mexico and the United States in Arizona and California. The snake farm that was featured in the film was a real snake farm and the employees seen in the film were the real employees. While filming near Burma, Stallone and the rest of the crew narrowly avoided being shot by the Burmese military. Stallone described Burma as a "hellhole". He said "we had shots fired above our heads" and that he "witnessed survivors with legs cut off and all kinds of land-mine injuries, maggot-infested wounds and ears cut off."
Jerry Goldsmith, the composer for the first three movies, had passed away in 2004, so Brian Tyler was brought in to replace him. Tyler's score incorporated the first movie's score with the scores of the two sequels to create a score that had the feel of the sequels but with a lighter, more sombre side of the original film.
Rambo opened in 2,751 North American theaters on January 25, 2008 and grossed $6,490,000 on its opening day, and $18,200,000 over its opening weekend. It was the second highest-grossing movie for the weekend in the U.S. and Canada behind Meet the Spartans. The film has a box office gross of $113,344,290, of which $42,754,105 was from Canada and the United States. In an unprecedented move, Europe's biggest cinema chain (and the third biggest in the world), Odeon, controversially refused to show the film on any of its screens in the United Kingdom, blaming "commercial differences". The film was shown in Ireland and the United Kingdom by other theater chains such as Empire Cinemas, Vue, Cineworld and Ward Anderson. The film was not shown in the French-speaking part of Switzerland due to legal and commercial problems with the distributor, even if it was available on screens of France and the Swiss German-speaking part.
The DVD and Blu-ray Disc editions were released in the U.S. on May 27, 2008. The DVD is in 1 and 2 disc editions. The Special edition has a 2.40 anamorphic widescreen presentation and a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track. The single editions have a standard 5.1 Dolby Digital track. The Blu-ray Disc has Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS HD 7.1 Tracks. The DVD and Blu-ray Disc on disc one have the film, deleted scenes, 6 featurettes, and commentary by Sylvester Stallone. The Blu-ray Disc also has 2 extra special features, that includes a trailer gallery. The 2-disc DVD and Blu-ray Disc editions have a digital copy of the film. There is also a 6 disc DVD set of all four Rambo films, packaged in a limited edition tin case with over 20 bonus features. A Blu-ray Disc set with Rambo 1-3 was also released. The DVD was released in the UK on June 23, 2008. The film was the 19th best selling DVD of 2008 with 1.7 million units sold and an overall gross of $39,206,346.
Sylvester Stallone, while pleased with the finished product, was ultimately not completely satisfied with the theatrically released film. With lots of leftover footage from filming, Stallone created an extended director's cut, which was teased for release to the general public in 2009 at the 2008 Comic Con. The director's cut premiered at the 2008 Zurich Film Festival. The extended cut reinstates most of the deleted/extended scenes featured in the theatrical version's 2-disc special edition release, as well as some unreleased footage and some significant alternations. The extended cut runs 99 minutes long, whereas the theatrical version runs 91 minutes. Of those run times the end credits roll for 11 minutes. The director's cut was broadcast on Spike TV on July 11, 2010, the television premiere of Rambo. It then had its encore presentation on August 8 and August 9, 2010, promoting Stallone's then latest film The Expendables. The extended cut was then released on home video two weeks later under the title Rambo: The Fight Continues. The film's title on screen is the original title: "John Rambo". Proceeds from the sale of the director's cut went to help the situation in Burma.
The director of First Blood, Ted Kotcheff, was a technical consultant for Rambo.
This is the first Rambo film where John Rambo uses a pistol. Also the first Rambo film without a helicopter. Most notably, it is also the first Rambo film completely without a scene in which John Rambo is without a shirt, showing his muscles. This is due to Stallone's extensive tattoo work on both shoulders.
Like its predecessor, Rambo recieved mostly negative to mixed reviews from critics, who mainly criticized the film's excessive, albeit realistic war violence. Another high point of criticism from fans was the heavy use of CGI blood, rather than practical special effects. Despite the massively negative reviews, the film was said to be an improvement over its predecessor.
David Morrell, author of the original First Blood, gave the film a positive review, and stated that Sylvester Stallone understands who the character of John Rambo is supposed to be. Sylvester Stallone stated that he wanted to do something important with the possibly last film in the Rambo series, and not just make another action film. This is why the film is set amongst the events of the Burmese genocide and why there is more drama to the characters.
Reaction from Burma
At the time of it's release, the movie was banned by the Burmese government. The military ruling party ordered DVD vendors in Burma not to distribute the film due to the movie's content. Despite having never been released there theatrically or on DVD, Rambo is, however, available there in bootleg (illegal) versions. Despite the film being unpopular among some of the population due to the negative portrayal of the Myanmar armed forces, the opposition youth group 'Generation Wave' copied and distributed the film as anti-government propaganda.
According to Karen Freedom Fighters, the movie gave them a great boost of morale. Burmese freedom fighters have even adopted dialogue from the movie (most notably "Live for nothing, or die for something") as rallying points and battle cries. "That, to me," said Sylvester Stallone, "is one of the proudest moments I've ever had in film. Also, overseas Burmese have praised the movie for its vivid portrayal of the military's oppression of the Karen people
Sylvester Stallone has expressed interest in doing another film, Rambo V, was announced in March of 2018, with Stallone signed on to write the script as well as to star as the titular hero. The film is scheduled to be released in fall 2019. The plot is said to include Rambo taking on a Mexican Cartel in order to save a friend's daughter who is being held hostage by them. Confirmed
- Rambo IV is the first film in the series where Rambo is not seen with his shirt off, due to the extensive tattoo coverage Sylvester Stallone had done to his shoulders and upper back, during the 19 year gap between Rambo III and IV.
- Rambo IV is also the first film in which Trautman doesn't make a physical appearance, appearing only in flashbacks.
|V • D • E|
|Films:||First Blood • Rambo: First Blood Part II • Rambo III • Rambo • Rambo: Last Blood|
|John Rambo on:||First Blood • First Blood Part II • Rambo III • Rambo IV • On-Screen Kills|
|Cast:||Sylvester Stallone • Richard Crenna|
|Video games:||Rambo • Rambo: First Blood Part II • Rambo (1987) • Rambo III • Rambo on Fire • Rambo (Sega) • Rambo: The Video Game|