Phil’s Thursday movie this week is Rambo (2008) the fourth in the Rambo series. I am not sure why we are not doing 2 & 3, I think Phil wasn’t so keen on those ones. Anyway, number 4 is set in Thailand and Burma. Rambo is living a quiet life in Thailand catching snakes for a living, when a group of missionaries find him and ask him to take them up the river on his boat, so they can go and be do-gooding to the population of a small Karen village in Burma. He says no at first, but the wife of the chief missionary bats her eyelashes at him so he changes his mind and drops them off where they want to go.
At this point in history a thing called the Saffron Revolution was going on in Burma, and atrocities were committed by the Burmese military on the Karen population in Myanmar, a lot like they are doing to the Rohinga people nowadays. Of course the military turn up at the village where the missionaries are, kill most of the people and take the women to be used and the missionaries as hostages.
Rambo is then visited by the pastor of the missionaries church and hired to take some mercenaries (paid for by the church) to go in and rescue the missionaries. Lots of macho posturing goes on during the journey, then Rambo leads the mercenaries into the military compound where they (more or less) quietly extract the missionaries. Then the army chaps realise what’s going on and all hell breaks loose. During all this, a couple of mercenaries die, a couple of missionaries die, but most end up OK, including the chief and his Missis.
Stallone directed it and boy does he like his explosions! Combining a claymore mine with a tall boy bomb was genius, and then in the end 10 minutes Rambo takes charge of an M2 Browning machine gun and the phrase ‘wreak havoc and unleash the dogs of war’ springs to mind as that’s what happened. Body parts and blood and guts galore, and really that’s all you need to know. Oh Stallone keeps his T- shirt on in this one, which is a first apparently. 🙂
Julie Benz plays the insipid missionary lady, and has just the worst script ever. Paul Schulze plays her husband, who should know better than to trompse around in Burma as he’s been before. The mercenaries are headed by Graham McTavish, an excellent Scottish actor (Dougal Mackenzie in Outlander) but using a well dodgy London accent and being a bolshy git.
As with First Blood, the movie got mixed reviews, Stallone got praised for the action sequences and his performance but criticised for the excessive violence.
David Morell who wrote the Rambo book liked it though, “I’m happy to report that overall I’m pleased. The level of violence might not be for everyone, but it has a serious intent. This is the first time that the tone of my novel First Blood has been used in any of the movies. It’s spot-on in terms of how I imagined the character — angry, burned-out, and filled with self-disgust because Rambo hates what he is and yet knows it’s the only thing he does well. … I think some elements could have been done better, [but] I think this film deserves a solid three stars.”
Also worth noting that (surprise surprise) the Burmese Government banned it, but The Karen Liberation Army has said that the movie gave them a great boost of morale.
My Saturday Night Fun movie was Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) a neo-noir thriller directed by Drew Goddard. Set in 1969 the plot revolves around seven strangers all hiding secrets, who all turn up one night at the El Royale, a faded motel that straddles the Nevada- California state line.. The cast is fabulous, Jeff Bridges plays a priest (or is he?) and is just great, Dakota Johnson who I have not been impressed by (after having seen the first 50 shades movie – yuck-) does well as a hippie who is recuing her sister from a cult, Cynthia Erivo is wonderful as a nightclub singer, she does both acting and singing and is spot on with both.
Chris Hemsworth, usually seen as Thor in the Marvel Universe has great fun being the villain, and I will never forget his noodle dance.
I’m not going into the plot, it’s such great fun to have it happen in front of you without prior knowledge, and I deliberately kept away from previous reviews + spoilers and was glad for that. Lots of surprising twists and turns.
I had heard that people thought it along the lines of a Tarantino movie, Phil said the same in the first 20 mins, and I get that in the way the story is set up, using title cards, a retro soundtrack and delving into each characters backgrounds separately before bringing everything together, but I think Goddard directs with more finesse and understatement.
The music is great, there’s a jukebox in the hotel lobby that gets played, so we get songs from jazz, doo wop and fifties and sixties staples like Frankie Valli, Mama’s and Papa’s, Four Tops, even a bit of Deep Purple, and as mentioned Erivo gets to sing classics such as Try A Little Tenderness and Unchained Melody to name a couple.
The Rotten Tomatoes review site says “”Smart, stylish, and packed with solid performances, Bad Times at the El Royale delivers pure popcorn fun with the salty tang of social subtext”. Can’t disagree with that!