A friend of mine on Netflix called Rambo "the most violent mainstream movie ever made". That's a tough line to disagree with. The closest film that comes to mind, in terms of body counts, dismemberment, exploding heads, blood sprays, and sexual violence is Kill Bill vol. 1. Both films are on opposite sides of the same ballpark, yet both could be used in arguments for the justification of ultra-violence.
We're not talking about a type of Peckinpah or Kubrick psych-violence here, where on-screen mayhem can be bandied about and debated as a form of high-minded introspection via a base level of blood, abuse, and murder. No, Rambo and Kill Bill are purely physical, visceral experiences. Easily digestible onslaughts. Low brow, and, in the case of Kill Bill vol. 1, well made.
Rambo may not be so well made, but its violence is an expression of righteous anger in an era where statements like "without weapons, you're not changing anything" are understandably frowned upon with fatigue and exhaustion.
Sylvester Stallone set his rescue-vengeance action flick on the skinniest strip of Thailand that merges along the coast of Myanmar (Burma). Christian missionaries request John Rambo's assistance in escorting them up river so they can bring supplies and medical attention to the Burmese. Sadly, this scenario rings deeply in the wake of the recent cyclone that devastated Myanmar, and the brutal regime that refused foreign aid for the near one million homeless, sick, and dying.
On the back of that, watching John Rambo take a legion of Burmese warlords to hell is invigorating. There is no joy in it, just determined extermination. In a time where the United Nations (and all its friends) plug their ears to slaughters in Sudan, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere, Rambo's on-screen cleansing of evil is a release.
The violence is frightening, but it doesn't disgust the way it does in, say, The Happening. The violence in M. Night Shyamalan's new movie is much, much tamer than that of Rambo, but the justification for it felt sensational, pointless, and without expression. Stallone films his violence and moves on. There is no lingering on depravity. As for the goopiness of the killings? It reminded me of the Omaha beach sequence in Saving Private Ryan. A film maker going to the cinematic extreme in an effort to get the audience as close to a reality we will never know unless it is seen with our own eyes.