Rambo (2008)

Rated: R for strong graphic bloody violence, sexual assaults, grisly images and language.
Length: 93 minutes
Grade: B+GFB+=C
Budget: $50 million
Box Office: $110 million (43 U.S., 67 Intl., DVD)

Written and Directed by: Sylvester Stallone, who wrote or co-wrote all the Rocky films, Cobra, Driven, and all the Rambo films and directed Rocky 2-5.
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, and Matthew Marsden.

After a group of Christian missionary workers convince him to take them upriver into war torn Burma, they go missing, and Rambo is tasked with taking a mercenary team in to rescue them from the vicious and sadistic local army.

Entertainment Value: B+
As a Rambo movie, this is excellent, if a bit short. The plot is simple, the standard elements are all present, and the ending is satisfying, if predictable. Stallone is fully capable of playing the reluctant super-tough guy ex-green beret to perfection.
Superficial Content: G
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity C, Violence G, Language F, Illegality F
There is plenty of F profanity and a few scenes of sexual assault and near-nudity if not actual nudity. But the major objection someone would have to this movie is the brutal and grisly war violence. It’s way over-the-top, and it includes all sorts of awful violations of people’s bodies with every caliber of gun and even machetes. This is by far the bloodiest (and that’s saying something) Rambo movie yet, a far, far cry from the nearly blood-free original masterpiece, First Blood.

Significant Content: F
This is a movie which could have been merely average in promoting the themes of good and evil, necessary violence against evil, and justice. But it decides to dabble heavily in the realm of Christian ethics, with a clash between those who want to help through humanitarian means and those who solve problems by bullets. Since the missionaries need rescuing by the mercenaries, and this works in the end, the message is very much anti-redemptive. Christian outreach is na├»ve and only requires blood to be spilt to rescue the fools from their quixotic mission. Nothing really changes, and almost everyone dies anyhow. Still, the messages about making a commitment and sticking with it and the admonition by Rambo that “we can live for nothing or die for something are good.” Also, duty is presented as important. But the dominant theme pushes all the others to the side.

Artistic/Thought Value: B+
Not because I agree with it, but because I think it quite poignantly forces the discussion about real world application of Christian principles in the presence of evil.

Discussion Questions:
~Did the missionaries change anything? Who wound up being correct about the likelihood of the world changing? Rambo asks them if they have brought guns and implies that this is the only way to make change. Does he turn out to be right or wrong?
~Would you describe the missionaries as noble? What did their nobility cost in the end?
~Which is more powerful armies or faith? According to this movie?
~Are there ever times when you should rethink a commitment you made to something which now appears foolish?
~After the scene with the pirates, should the missionaries have pressed on?
~Discuss the reaction of the team leader to the pirate incident with his involvement in the final scene. What is this meant to say about Christianity or about humanitarianism?
~Discuss the fact that the person who hired the mercenaries was the pastor of the church which sent the team.
~Is it better to die for something than to live for nothing? Did the missionaries who died die for anything? What of the mercenaries?
~Would you describe this movie as propaganda in the sense that it seems to be trying to convert people from humanitarian aid to the use of force to settle problems?
~Do Christians who advocate pacifism understand killing and war enough to be qualified to oppose it?
~A major theme of this movie is a person’s inescapable identity and purpose. Rambo’s seems to be bloodshed. Are people made to be warriors? By God?
~The mercenary leader says they are sending in the Devil to do God’s work. What does he mean? Can you think of some other areas of church life where this same criticism might be leveled?
~Would the villagers have been better off if the missionaries hadn’t come at all?
~What does this movie do to make you hate the Burmese soldiers? Is it healthy to hate people that much?
~Why does this movie choose to have so much brutal, grisly bloodshed? Is it meant to entertain? Did you find it entertaining?
~Why is Rambo so reluctant to fight? Is this consistent with his character in other movies? Does his reluctance make him more noble? Why? Would it be fair to describe him as an angel?
~Does this movie have a useful educational value for helping people understand what goes on in Burma?
~Does this movie make you more or less interested in becoming an overseas missionary?
Overall Grade: C
This isn’t just a Rambo movie which advocates against evil and for the use of force. It actively opposes Christian love and humanitarian outreach as well. But if you want action, Rambo make action.

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