It's not your "Rambo" from Day 1 -- in 1982 -- and it's not a remake, either. Not trying to pretend Sylvester Stallone is 30 years again, either. This would be Rambo, 2008 style, age 62 and not letting that bit of trivia get in his way.
Vietnam vet John Rambo now runs a little boat service in Thailand, picking up snakes for local tourist shows and the like. A group of Christian missionaries from Colorado try to hire him to take them up river; they're figuring to make a difference in Burma, a country fraught with civil war and genocide for the past 60 years and counting; Rambo tells group leader Michael to shove off.
The only woman in the group, blonde Sarah, gives Rambo a pep talk, and lo and behold, he's taking them into the war-torn country... for free. They head up river, stop when fired at by Burmanese pirates, and before a moment Rambo shoots and kills them all when it's clear their plans are to kill most, rape Sarah, and generally do impolite things to Rambo's passengers.
To say it's a kinder, gentler Rambo would be reaching a bit too far, but his character has mellowed a bit over the years. Quieter, more introspective, at least until he's pushed to strike at the aggressors. The character may be a result of Stallone's getting older, or maybe it's the role he wants for himself: as actor, director, writer and producer, he's got a fair amount of say in how he and his 25-year-running alter-ego are shown on-screen.
The plot itself isn't going to surprise you, nor is it meant to. It's a war zone, with people who don't belong running around and others -- paid in principal or old-fashioned cash -- there to rescue them and return them to safety. The killing is graphic, and they don't hold back being subtle with what a gunshot could potentially to do a body or head, or with people blowing up. It's not for the kids, of course.
And that's not a jab at the mental giant who opted to bring his 4-year-old son to the film. I'm sure the scenes and language were just what Miss Nancy and Mr. Rogers would have suggested for little Johnny during this rainy matinee afternoon.
But for those of us who've heard and seen it all before -- in the cinematic context -- it's a great action film that doesn't get bogged down in attempts to be a love story, a comedy, or a drama. It's end-to-end shooting, stabbing, and killing... and from Rambo, we'd expect nothing less.