Monday, March 12, 2012

Rambo Can Do Anything but People Keep Pestering Him

Rambo finds it is indeed possible to regain the storybook gallantry of the Vietnam War in the awkwardly titled Rambo: First Blood Part II. Because I guess each Blood is like the first. At home in the wilds of Vietnam, the returning hero is generally put upon by American bureaucrats, Russian soldiers, Vietnamese soldiers, and computers, puny little adversaries the surly and sweaty man swats down with the holy justice that comes with being played by Sylvester Stallone.

There's been a real controversy, continuing to this day, where groups have accused the U.S. government of a conspiracy to hide the existence of living United States POWs being kept in Vietnam. There's probably a heartbreaking small percentage of these groups that are actually families of soldiers holding out against all probability, hoping their loved ones are somehow still alive. But it sounds like the main motivation of the group is hazy, tea party-ish paranoia about government bureaucracy. And like many fundamental right wing movements, it's highly susceptible to hilarious and obvious scams. A few are listed in the Wikipedia entry on the issue;

Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jack Bailey created Operation Rescue, which featured a former smuggling boat named Akuna III and solicited funds from POW/MIA groups. Bailey never produced any prisoners and the boat spent years never leaving its dock in Songkhla in Thailand, but the effort proved adept at bringing in money through the Virginia-based Eberle Associates direct mail marketing firm. It was later revealed that Bailey had greatly exaggerated his military record.

I suspect those POW/MIA groups aren't terribly amused by the irony that their actions prompted by an irrational fear of government conspiracy led them to fall prey to amateur grifts.

Such paranoia also led movie goers to fall prey to the mighty Sylvester Stallone who, in the sequel to First Blood, exploited honoured the credulous rancour of those caught up in this issue with a film about one muscular white man making big explosions in Vietnam in order to free a small group of POWs that were being kept, I don't know, for fun or something.

The screenplay was originally written by James Cameron, when James Cameron was still James Cameron, before he made empty, poorly considered left wing polemics and instead made effective, slightly right leaning action films. Stallone, taking over nearly every aspect of production, pushed the rightwards lean off the cliff of two dimensional crazy, culminating in what may be the most accidentally effective portrait of Western international arrogance, a shirtless, muscular white guy calmly killing with a bow and explosive arrow a panicked, skinny Asian guy whose pistol is useless against Stallone's demeanour.

I watched this movie because Jack Cardiff was cinematographer. Yes, the same guy who shot The Red Shoes and The Prince and the Showgirl shot Rambo: First Blood Part II, though I suspect Rambo himself Stallone actually shot much of the film. There were a few shots where I perceived Cardiff, like the green tinted window on a helicopter Rambo appropriates;

And there are a few pretty wilderness shots, but Conan the Destroyer was actually a much better example of Cardiff's work. He really was a cinematographer more suited to the fantastic which, to be sure, Rambo: First Blood Part II is, but only in a slightly insulting way.

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Is Mister Poco a time traveller?
His tuxedo is on his pyjamas.
He's watching me across the sand crawler.
All the robots here are dressed as llamas.
Iron cookies blacken against the moon.
All the hours smash against the circle.
The living suspenders woke up too soon.
Time will yet wither the strongest pickle.
Waffles swallowed several women Sunday.
Glutton gods called drizzled the new rice crop.
Buttered batter turns to a good cake lay.
Frank sought a jelly roll for its gumdrop.
Balanced breakfasts combust against the odds.
Rambo's arrows fly for analogue gods.

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