Mick LaSalle on John Rambo

rambo.jpgI’m not a big fan of the San Francisco Chronicle’s movie critic Mick LaSalle — I often find him a humorless crankypants, which is my job. But he’s in rare form with his bizarrely favorable but backhanded review of Stallone’s new film Rambo in today’s Chron:

Needless to say, the existential philosophy lesson gets lost in the commotion. The “Rambo” movies are wedded to the action formula, which means that they have to end in victory, and Stallone is too smart to mess with that. Actually, he shouldn’t mess with that. But just once, after the bodies are buried – or better yet, left to rot – I’d like to see Stallone explicitly pursue and acknowledge his implicit message with these films, that it’s all compromise, that it’s all awful, and that life is such a complete waste of time that you really might as well blow $10 on the new “Rambo” movie.

— Advisory: This violence contains a movie, but only intermittently. Mainly, it’s all violence.

I have new respect for LaSalle both for having the cojones to give Rambo a positive review, and for recognizing that the central message trumpeted by pulpy paramilitary heroes from Mike Hammer to Mack Bolan to John McClane to Marv is that life sucks, and combat redeems you. It’s a weird, reactionary, nihilistic and adolescent message, sure, but to dismiss it is to miss the boat on great chunks of masculine identity, sexuality, and politics. And no, I don’t think I’ll be seeing Rambo any time soon; I like my movies bad, but not that bad.



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