Thursday, November 15, 2007

First look: 'Rambo' is on a mission in Burma

Icon returns: Sylvester Stallone on location in Thailand.
By Anthony Breznican, USA TODAY
Rambo has become a nihilist.
Sylvester Stallone's Green Beret, who started as a tragic representation of Vietnam veteran neglect in the original film and morphed into a superhero soldier by the third, is back for a fourth outing.
This one plunges John Rambo into the gun sights of the brutal military dictatorship of Myanmar, the Southeast Asian nation formerly known as Burma, where in real life the ruling junta recently received international condemnation for its violent suppression of a pro-democracy uprising led by Buddhist monks.
The movie's story, which borrows from tales of real-life atrocities but is otherwise fictional, involves Rambo reluctantly helping missionaries traverse the wilderness of the Salween River on their way to deliver supplies to camps of war-ravaged refugees.
Rambo has spent the past two decades living in the region as a hermit, one who has shed patriotism, lost his faith and given up on humanity.
"He realizes his entire existence has been for naught," Stallone says. "Peace is an accident, war is natural. Old men start it, young men fight it, everybody in the middle dies, and nobody tells the truth. He says, 'You think God's going to make it all go away? What has he done and changed in the world? He has done nothing. We are an aggressive animal and will never be at peace.' That's how he feels."
When he encounters the human-rights workers, they "somehow touch the last remaining nerve in Rambo's body," Stallone says.
The movie is titled simply Rambo, without any sequel number, similar to Stallone's recent Rocky Balboa, the sixth film in that franchise, which was praised by critics and fans for restoring integrity to the iconic underdog boxer.
Similarly, this fourth Rambo seeks to rehabilitate the tortured soldier's tale that even Stallone acknowledges strayed too far into fantasy when Rambo III came out in 1988.
Stallone, 61, says he let fame get to his head with some of those previous sequels and didn't maintain the heart that made the originals iconic.
"When you're a kind of nondescript, unknown, inconsequential actor and all of a sudden you're famous, it's very easy to lose touch there," Stallone says.
"You keep pushing the envelope, but there is a limit, and the audience retreats."

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