Stallone's latest bloody incarnation of 'Rambo' not worth your time

There is not a minute in the recently released "Rambo" movie that suggests, even remotely, that anyone with time to spare should see it. Call it action porn.

The violence is over the top, gratuitous in the extreme, with decapitations, severed body parts strewn about, a man eaten alive by feral pigs and bodies exploded with high-caliber bullets. It puts to use computer graphics imaging (CGI) technology to show all that is gruesome and vile. As well, women are gang-raped, thrown into a mosh pit of soldiers in a drug and alcohol stupor, hungry to abuse them. Keep in mind that studio reps, producers and Sylvester Stallone all sat around a table in preproduction and agreed that, yeah, this could be a movie.

The set up: Stallone's franchise character, John Rambo &

living in the jungles of Thailand, a snake rustler and blacksmith (really) &

is approached by a group of missionaries. Their wish is to deliver medical supplies and help to Karin tribesmen who are being systematically exterminated by the Burmese army. Rambo, when he learns they aren't bringing guns along with the medicines, refuses, telling them to return home.

Asked more than once by a pretty missionary, Rambo finally agrees to take the group to a drop-off zone from which they will hike inland. He doesn't join them. Shortly after arriving among the Karin, the missionaries are kidnapped by sociopathic soldiers who jail and torture them.

Rambo, along with a group of mercenaries, is sent to the rescue.

As a character, Rambo seems clinically depressed. Stallone has so stripped him of emotion and affect, it's a wonder that he gets up every day to go rustle snakes. If he's supposed to seem lethal, well, he seems only lethargic. But here he is: a muscle-bound expat living on the fringes of a society to which he doesn't belong, who openly admits to being seriously misanthropic and, when asked if he has family back in the states, he shrugs.

So why write about films that, while rated "R" are as degrading and coarse as any salacious X-rated film which depicts graphic sex scenes, can so easily be discarded as trash? Perhaps it's to point out that, if the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which is responsible for our film rating system, had a backbone, movies such as "Rambo" would be given a rating of NC-17 (no one 17 and under admitted). Tangentially, you could make the same argument for films that have movie stars glamorizing smoking.

During the last presidential debate, Barack Obama was asked a question about the violence emanating from Hollywood. The setting was the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, home of the Academy Awards. In the audience were countless industry people. Obama had the courage to say that many movies and video games being produced by the entertainment juggernaut were far too violent and had an impact on our children. But he also said the answer is not censorship; rather, parents should be engaged to the point that the development of violent entertainment simply becomes a losing proposition. It's a point well taken. And if parental oversight was coupled with strong guidelines by the MPAA (as strong as those applied to films with explicit sex), movies such as "Rambo" would be commercially untenable.

But this may be just so much wishful thinking.

Stallone, despite the "R" rating of "Rambo," is counting on pitching this film to kids worldwide. He'll make millions from DVD sales, knowing that kids will see this film. What he has constructed is a video game called a movie, one that mimics in so many ways what kids are interacting with when they crank up their Playstations. The only difference is that movie seats don't have joysticks. The carnage will be all too familiar.

And it's not just Stallone who has ramped up the exploitative violence. Because of the continuing improvement of CGI, franchise films such as "Saw" or "The Hills Have Eyes" (I and II) can be taken to a whole new level of realism. All are rated "R" and all are as violently graphic as can possibly be imagined and still not cross some nebulous ratings line.

Meanwhile, pulp violence will be churned out by Hollywood year after year. And not to forget the intersection between films of this ilk and video games. It's a nexus that begs the question: Doesn't such entertainment desensitize and coarsen our young people? While the answer may be a resounding yes, as long as there's money to be made, the purveyors of violence will ever be with us.

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