"I saw the new RAMBO movie the day of its release. I took a chance and went to see it with a journalist so he could do a story about sitting next to the character's creator the first time I saw the new incarnation. With relief, I'm happy to report that the film is excellent.
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 he hates what he is and yet knows it's the only thing he does well. The character spends a lot of time in the rain as if trying to cleanse his soul. There's a nightmare scene involving vivid images from the three previous films. There's a scene in which Rambo forges a knife and talks to himself, basically admitting that he hates himself because all he knows is how to kill. At the start, Rambo is gathering cobras in the jungle, and he's so comfortable with them, it's as if the most developed part of him is his limbic brain. In the violent climax, he uses a machine gun that explicitly evokes the way wounded William Holden uses a machine gun at the end of THE WILD BUNCH. Indeed much of the film has Peckinpah overtones while it also uses tropes from the novel (again, for example, there's an exciting sequence in which Rambo is hunted by dogs).
Another excellent element involves the film's archetypal, mythic overtones. Rambo is hardly ever called by his last name. Instead, he keeps being referred to as "the Boatman" because he earns his living with a boat on a river in Thailand. But after he's called "the Boatman" enough, I start thinking of the River Styx and the journey of death. Similarly, the knife-forging sequence reminds me of Hephaestus, the armorer of the Greek gods (in the sequence, Rambo even talks about whether God can forgive him for what he's done). Sly is definitely sophisticated enough to embed these sorts of allusions. The earlier Rambo movies were a combination of a Tarzan movie and a western. That is the case here. The knife (again designed by master blade-maker Gil Hibben), the bow and arrow, Rambo racing through the jungle--these scenes are primal and breath-taking.
Just so you know I can be objective, I think some elements could have been strengthened. The villains are superficial, for example. A lot could have been done with the connection between drug lords and the military in what the film calls Burma, dramatizing their motivation for ruthlessness. But this film deserves a solid three stars and maybe three and a half. Even the NEW YORK TIMES treated it well, emphasizing the way the character is given depth. I was surprised to discover that Stallone, who directed and co-scripted, gives me an additional credit. The contractual one is a single card "created by" credit before the names of the screenwriters. But then, at the end, after the final surprising, poetic, redeeming sequence , another credit says "From the novel FIRST BLOOD by David Morrell." That's not the way Hollywood usually treats a novelist, but the reference acknowledges that the series has returned to the tone of the original novel. To say again, the violence is a solid R, but the intent is serious. I was blown away."