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Film / Rambo IV

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"When you're pushed, killing's as easy as breathing."
"Live for nothing, or die for something."
John Rambo

Rambo (also known as Rambo IV or John Rambonote  is the fourth film in the Rambo franchise, released in 2008.

Living alone near the Burmese border, Rambo is asked by a group of American missionaries to take them to Burma on a humanitarian effort. While transporting them, they are ambushed by pirates. When negotiations fail, Rambo kills all the pirates, which disturbs the missionaries, but doesn't fully dissuade them from going to the village in Burma — where they end up being captured during an attack. After ten days, Rambo is asked by a pastor associated with the missionaries to lead a group of mercenaries on a rescue mission, to which he reluctantly agrees.


Rambo contains examples of:

  • Armor-Piercing Question: Sarah finally manages to convince Rambo to take them into Burma with this:
    "Maybe you've lost your faith in people. But you must still be faithful to something. You must still care about something. Maybe we can't change what is. But trying to save a life isn't wasting your life, is it?"
  • Asshole Victim: Pretty much any Burmese villain killed by Rambo, be it a soldier or pirate, but Rambo ripping out the throat of a soldier who attempted to rape Sarah as well as the disembowelment of Major Tint are the most satisfying deaths in the movie.
  • Attempted Rape: A Burmese soldier enters Sarah's cell intent on raping her. But instead he gets his throat ripped out by Rambo. The Burmese pirates killed by Rambo who wanted to take Sarah were mentioned to have plans to viciously rape her after taking her if Rambo hadn't intervened.
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  • Badass Boast: Lewis, right after the event described in the Mamet Speak entry below.
    Lewis: God didn't save your life! We did!
  • Badass Crew: The mercenaries. Rambo becomes their Sixth Ranger.
    • Lewis comes out as the badassest of the mercenaries, being the only one that — despite a crippling injury — has the guts to yell at the enemy commander. A short time later, still with said injury, he downs a bad guy with a Super Headbutt Of Death.
  • Bald of Awesome: The leader of the mercenaries. Has a penchant for headbutting.
  • BFG: Among others, the .50-Cal. machine gun that Rambo uses to slaughter the military in the fourth movie, thoroughly wrecking a truck and a patrol boat in the process.
    • The Barrett M82CQB anti-material sniper rifle, coincidentally running on the same .50BMG rounds as the machine gun, which Schoolboy so expertly uses to blast enemy soldiers in half and to vaporize heads. The effects of the .50BMG round on a human body are not exaggerated.
    • The rocket launcher that the Karen rebel uses to blow up the patrol boat. Admittedly unnecessary at that point, since the aforementioned two BFGs have already riddled the boat full of holes and eliminated the crew, but it sure makes for a spectacular kaboom.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: While the series has never shied away from blood, in this installment...HOLY... SHIT. Rambo's rampage with the Browing 50-cal results in many soldiers getting more or less liquified.
  • Break the Cutie: Sarah.
  • Break the Haughty: Michael the missionary leader believes in law but by the end he beats a soldier to death with a rock to save one of the mercenaries. The "My God, What Have I Done?" look on his face says it all.
    • Which just proves Rambo's words "When you're pushed, killing's as easy as breathing".
  • Brick Joke: A sick one. He warned one of the missionaries not to look the Burmese in the eye. He does this later after he is captured and is then fed to pigs.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Early in the film, Major Tint tells parents of boys he kidnapped to conscript into his army to fear him along with hearing and believing him.
  • Central Theme: Sometimes, violence is the solution.
    • Face the danger and don't run away.
    • Eventually, no bad deeds go unpunished.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Tallboy bomb.
  • Child Soldiers: Major Tint forcefully recruits some in a village he terrorizes.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The final battle. Save for one mercenary hit by a grenade, a handful of rebels and one missionary who is cowardly shot in the back by Tint, Rambo and co absolutely slaughter the Burmese army.
  • Darker and Edgier/Bloodier and Gorier: Yes, even in comparison with the sequels. This is Up to Eleven.
  • Defiant to the End: The mercenaries in the end.
  • Depraved Dentist: Averted, the missionary dentist is a Nice Guy who does some good and vital work on the villagers, and is suffers a Heroic BSoD after being captured by Tint.
  • Depraved Homosexual: The Big Bad is a child molester, and his only known victim was a boy.
  • Dirty Coward: Major Tint. He commits all kind of war crimes and other horrible things, but once a real battle appears, he immediately runs away while leaving his own troops to the slaughter after shooting an innocent missionary In the Back.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In Major Tint's first appearance, he forces civilians to run across a minefield before having his men kill them all. He gets even worse from there.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The missionaries only call Rambo "John", after Sarah asks what his name is. The mercenaries know him as "the boatman".
  • Face Death with Dignity: One of the mercs spits on the ground as he is about to be executed.
  • Fiery Coverup: After killing the Burmese pirates and dropping off the missionaries into Burma, Rambo sets the pirates' boat on fire and blows it up.
  • Final Battle: A very bloody and brutal one at the end.
  • Foreshadowing: Right before Rambo is gonna save the missionaries, he makes a philosophical thought about "war is in your blood. God can't make that go away". During the last battle, the leader of the pacifistic missionaries smashes one soldier to death with a rock, acting only on survival instincts.
    • One of the mercenaries kept constantly calling the Big Bad a "gutless fuck." Then Rambo guts the said Big Bad in the end.
  • Friendly Sniper: School Boy is the textbook example of this trope: although the most warm-hearted, kind, and idealistic member of the band of mercenaries accompanying Rambo, he is still a fearsome warrior who rips through rapists and murderers like a hot knife through butter with his .50 cal. anti-material rifle.
  • Good Is Dumb: The missionaries veer dangerously close to this trope, especially with their Suicidal Pacifism.
  • Good Shepherd: The preacher out of the missionary group tries to carry a couple of kids out of the danger zone before he's captured, and later assists Michael in treating the wounded mercenaries, while Reverend Marsh, who sent them out their in the first place, is a Good Is Not Soft example of this, hiring mercenaries to rescue his people.
  • Gorn: Yeesh... Specifically, the ending battle scene. It's on par with the likes of Saw, Hostel and Kill Bill: Vol. 1. That's not to say that the prior three films didn't contain violence, but they were nowhere near as bloody as this one is. Many critics felt it was a bit excessive. Stallone said that the toned-up violence was to emphasize the badness of the situation in Myanmar.
  • Gutted Like a Fish: Tint's ultimate fate.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: The jeep's driver had half of his body completely disintegrated when Rambo fires that 50. cal on him from point blank. Later on the lower half of his body (a pair of legs with some bits of flesh from the waist attached) falls out from the side of the jeep. In the same scene a few random mooks get blown to chunks by the 50. cal, at least one who gets separated from being shot in the waist.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: Violence Really Is the Answer when violence was also the question. The missionaries believed they could nonviolently resist the S.P.D.C. and help the Karen people. All but two of them are dead by the end.
  • Hollywood Silencer: School Boy's rifle.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Discussed in the extended version of Rambo's argument with Sarah over "what is":
    "We're like animals! It's in the blood! It's natural! Peace? That's an accident! It's "what is"! When you're pushed, killing's as easy as breathing. When the killing stops in one place, it starts in another, but that's okay... 'cause you're killing for your country. But it ain't your country who asks you, it's a few men up top who want it. Old men start it, young men fight it, nobody wins, everybody in the middle dies... and nobody tells the truth! God's gonna make all that go away?"
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: During the night rescue scene, one of the enemy soldiers who tries to rape Sarah ends up having a massive chunk of his trachea ripped out by Rambo, with a lingering shot of his bloodied throat.
  • In the Back: Tint's only contribution to the final battle is to shoot an unarmed, fleeing missionary in the back.
  • It's a Long Story:
    Sarah: Where are you from?
    John Rambo: Bowie, Arizona.
    Sarah: Why'd you leave?
    John Rambo: I got drafted in 'Nam.
    Sarah: And you just stayed?
    John Rambo: ...It's complicated.
  • It's All My Fault: In a deleted scene, Sarah blames herself for everything that's happened as she convinced Rambo to take them into Burma.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:Rambo and Lewis, in very mean-spirited words, express how stupid the missionaries were for going into a war torn area on a humanitarian mission. Considering all the vile, barbaric crimes Tint’s army commits, THEY WERE NOT WRONG.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Major Tint is more brutal, sadistic, psychotic, and noticeably disturbing than the previous Big Bads or previous kinds of villains all together. The graphic outcomes of the atrocities he committed are absolutely played for horror and makes the past villains' sins pale in comparison. He's the complete 180 degree contrast to Teasle if comparing Tint's large amount of Kick the Dog acts to Teasle's large amount of Pet the Dog acts. The subsequent antagonist Hugo Martinez after him couldn't even hold the candle of being the most dark and monstrous villain in the films like Tint.
  • Landmine Goes Click: Averted. Louis steps on a landmine while making their escape and it just blows up, shredding his leg in the process.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Major Tint is a sadistic asshole who takes pleasure in killing helpless victims, but despite his title as leader, is actually a Dirty Coward who ran the moment a real fight broke out. In his attempt in trying to escape, Rambo stabs him in the gut, then brutally guts him alive, slicing off his fingers in the process .
  • Made of Plasticine: Justified with Schoolboy's Barrett M82 and Rambo's M2 Browning, both of which fire a BMG .50 cal round, thus shredding bodies to pieces and makes them explode into geysers of blood if there's a head shot. Also counts as Reality Is Unrealistic. Rambo ripping the throat out of a rapist with his bare hands, however, firmly qualifies.
  • Mamet Speak: This exchange:
    "Let's move!
    "Where's the boatman?"
    "And Sarah?"
    "15 minutes, that's the deal. We're leaving".
    "Let's go!"
    "5 more minutes!"
    "He knew the deal!"
    "We came together and we fucking leave together!"
    "Your life. Let's go."
    "Not without Sarah!"
  • Mean Brit: Lewis, the former SAS guy turned merc.
  • The Missionary: A bunch of Christian missionaries were pretty much the MacGuffin for Rambo to go do his thing.
  • Morality Pet: Sarah to Rambo.
  • Neck Snap: En-Joo performs one during the final battle. Partially subverted in that it's shown to be quite difficult on a struggling man and he follows up by stabbing him after it's done.
  • Nice Girl: Sarah is by far the friendliest of the missionaries.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: A group of missionaries come to Burma on a humanitarian mission to help villagers caught up in the chaos. Cue a good number of them being killed and the lone girl among them nearly being raped by the monstrous Burmese soldiers.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: Unlike the other villains, Major Tint is shown running for his life and hides from the major battle going on at the end of the movie. The only time he adopts a combat pose is to shoot a fleeing, unarmed missionary in the back.
  • Off with His Head!: Done via forged machete and .50 BMG bullets.
  • One-Hit Polykill: Schoolboy pulls it off during the final battle. Massive anti-material bullets don't stop at the first body they punch through...
  • One-Woman Wail: Battle Adagio.
  • Only in It for the Money: Lewis admits that he's only taking the job because he has an ex-wife and three kids to support.
  • Only Sane Man: Sarah among the missionaries. She recognizes the danger they are facing, and is the only one of them to recognize the ugly necessity of Rambo killing the pirates. However, she may in turn strongly avert the trope because she was the one who convinced Rambo to travel to Burma in the first place despite the obvious danger and egged on Michael to continue after Rambo killed some attacking pirates when he adamantly requested they leave and return at a different time.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: The mercs are extremely badass, but they're still completely overshadowed by Rambo.
  • Pedo Hunt: It seems the Big Bad Major Tint wasn't evil enough, so over half-way through the film he is revealed to have a preference for young boys.
  • Precision F-Strike: Rambo's first line in English is "Fuck off." As Rambo had never sworn much before, it was a good indication of where his mind is at.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The Burmese soldier who intends to rape Sarah gets his throat ripped out bare-handed by Rambo. Later in the film, the child-raping Colonel gets disemboweled while alive by Rambo. It's probably not a coincidence that the two rapists suffer the most gruesome deaths in the movie.
  • Rated M for Manly: Obviously.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic:
    • Lots of people rolled their eyes at the "exaggerated" carnage at the climax of Rambo, not realizing that a .50 BMG round is a big bullet, developed to use on tanks, and it really will do that sort of stuff to a human body. Here's an image for reference (note: it's the one on the left). It's revealed in DVD bonus features that a soldier in the US military wrote the filmmakers to say how impressed he was with the realistic depiction of the gun.
    • Same with the Tallboy exploding. As for why he wasn't poisoned by nuclear fallout, as many internet snarkers expected a cookie for pointing out, it's because the Tallboy wasn't a nuclear bomb; any big enough bomb, even massive explosions like the battleship ''Yamato'' blowing up, will form a mushroom cloud. The Tallboy bomb was designed by the British in 1943 to be used by specially-modified Lancaster heavy bombers to destroy the hardened underground factory bunkers the Germans had started using. Only it wasn't supposed to penetrate the ceiling with surgical precision like a modern bunker-buster. Oh, no! This giant motherfucker was designed to be dropped near its target, penetrate several hundred feet underground, then detonate the tremendous assload of conventional high explosives it carried, which would actually cause a Goddamn earthquake, destroying the target and anything else in the general vicinity. And it worked, too, exactly as intended. The Tallboy in the movie is on the side of a hill, so we can assume the Lancaster carrying it was either shot down by the Japanese or crashed on its own, otherwise the only way it would be found is if they were digging a mine.
  • Recycled Premise: This is pretty much a Bloodier and Gorier version of Rambo III. Though instead of Rambo trying to rescue Col. Trautman, he's now trying to rescue Sarah and a group of missionaries, and the Karen rebels are pretty much similar to the Mujahideen from the third movie. The Big Bad in both movies are similar too, as both Zaysen and Tint love slaughtering men, women, and children and burning down villages. Atmosphere-wise, it's very similar to Rambo: First Blood Part II. The setting in Burmese rainforest is very reminiscent of those in Vietnam's.
  • Red Shirt: Averted. The mercs are quite capable of holding their own, and only one of them (En-Joo) is definitely killed in the finale. Lewis and Diaz are still alive but badly injured when the smoke clears, while Schoolboy and Reese emerge more or less unscathed.
  • Revisiting the Roots: Rambo takes a few queues from the original novel, being much darker and less patriotic than the second and third films were, and showing Rambo as more of a self-hating death machine than a noble hero.
  • Scenery Gorn: The destroyed Karen village.
  • Self-Destructive Charge: When Rambo's big machine gun clicks empty, the Burmese soldiers quickly figure out why the rain of death has stopped, and immediately run forward, peppering Rambo's emplacement with shots and attempting to reach him. Unfortunately for them, Rambo knows how to reload a belt-fed machinegun (even a large-caliber one), and once the new belt's in place, the enemy charge has now put all of the soldiers out of cover and nicely in line to receive a new large dose of destructive lead.
    • This is actually standard practice in most modern militaries when you lack any support (air, armor, artillery, etc), in that you charge a MG position the second the MG team stops to reload. This is done for several reasons:
      • 1: A typical MG team is a gunner, and assistant, and during a reload, both are scrambling to reload the weapon (or change the barrels), and get it going again, and unless guarded by rifleman, are now vulnerable to flanking.
      • 2: Get out of the MG's kill zone. When that MG is loaded again, it will start firing as soon as it's charged, and you don't want to be in the area when that starts. Also, if the MG is working with someone (like a forward observer), remaining in that zone is a good way to get obliterated by artillery or tactical air support.
      • 3: If you can take the position, and the weapon, you can turn to your use. This isn't so much an issue with an M249 SAW, or any other 'light' machine gun, but if you are under fire from a M2 .50cal... You want it on your side.
      • Ultimately, in the film, the Burmese troops were likely going for a mix of point 1, and point 3, but failed due to having mercs mixed in with them, a sniper popping them like zits, and eventually the Karen rebels lobbing mortar shells at them.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Rambo aims his arrow at one of the mercenaries, after saving the POWs who were about to be shot by a Burmese military firing squad. The same scene is also used as one of the movie posters used internationally.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Major Tint is the commander of a Burmese military unit and is a monstrous, murderous Sadist, leaving rape and slaughter in his wake.
  • Sore Loser: Major Tint plays a sick game where he forces prisoners to wade through a mine-filled marsh. When they all make it safely across, he gets very pissed and orders his soldiers to fire on them.
  • Steel Eardrums:
    • Averted. During the final fight, Sarah (who is beside the Friendly Sniper) cries out and covers her ears while the fight ensues. Many viewers assume this is simply her reacting to the violence around her. It is in fact due to the noise of the sniper's rifle. Gunfire in general is loud enough to damage any unprotected ears nearby (there's a reason why even outdoor shooting ranges mandate hearing protection), and those who have ever been next to an extremely powerful firearm such as a rifle chambered in .50 BMG know that the report coming out of the muzzle is EXTREMELY loud (especially since the weapon includes a muzzle-brake which reduces felt recoil, but effectively turns the volume Up to Eleven). To put it into perspective, a rifle like that creates a concussion from the muzzle that can be felt on the skin from several yards away. She's not crying out in terror, she's crying out in pain because her eardrums are on the verge of shattering.
    • Also averted by a Burmese soldier seen wearing earplugs while standing next to a mounted machine gun.
  • Suicidal Pacifism: Displayed by nearly all the missionaries in the film, though at least one of them learns the error of his ways by the end.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: The film ends with Rambo coming home to sunny Arizona, and hiking up a long dirt road to see his father for the first time in decades.
  • Take That!: To Thou Shalt Not Kill. The pacifistic missionaries are utterly decimated by Maj. Tint's forces, and the two that live only do so because Rambo and the mercenary team are willing to dispense a lot of death and suffering on their behalf.
  • Taking the Bullet: Subverted; Rambo dives to save Sarah when a couple of soldiers see them escaping the camp, but the soldiers both get killed by Friendly Sniper Schoolboy before they can shoot.
  • Too Dumb to Live: All of the missionaries. Notably Michael the Leader who, despite already having been to Burma five times beforehand, decided to try to venture into Burma when it was in the middle of a genocidal civil war with his fiance in tow. Even after being attacked by pirates, they still believe they can make a difference in Burma by teaching them religion. Michael himself borders on Ungrateful Bastard, who promises to report Rambo to the authorities even after he kills said pirates to save his life (and prevent his fiance from being raped) despite expressing some gratitude towards him for his act. Actually subverted. The Missionaries were there to teach their religion to the oppressed Burmese villagers while also bringing food, clothing, and medical supplies. When they extended the offer to the brutal soldiers, it was violently rejected, but without weapons or combat training and with their beliefs their words were the only thing they could use against the Burmese soldiers.
    • Well, the leader of the missionaries IS played by Ryan Chappelle, what would you expect!
    • Sarah is actually pretty smart, she recognizes the necessity of Rambo's actions and the dangers they all face, especially herself, but continues anyway because she wants to help people that much. In a deleted scene, she blames herself for the situation they're in as she convinced Rambo to take them into Burma even when Michael wanted to leave.
    • Also averted with the lead minister of the missionaries' church. His response to the incident was to enlist a group of mercenaries and Rambo (while clearly knowing who Rambo was) to rescue them THEN pray for their safe return.
  • Truer to the Text: While it tells an original story, the characterization of Rambo is the closest to the novel of any of the films.
  • Unknown Rival: Somewhat subverted, as Tint knew about the mercenaries and tortured them regardless, but he had no idea who Rambo was and never met him in person until Rambo gutted him. Upon seeing Rambo, the expression on his face was more confusion than terror.
  • Violence Really Is the Answer: During the film's climax, Michael (who had previously been a complete pacifist) picks up a rock and uses it to bash in the head of a Burmese soldier.
  • Villain Opening Scene: The movie opens with Major Tint and his army forcing civilians to run through a mine-infested marsh. When the civilians make it through, the soldiers gun down the civilians in cold blood as Tint looks on. In the Director's Cut, this scene was moved to a much later time.
  • The War Sequence: Much like the end of Rambo III, the climax has Rambo facing down an entire Burmese army.
  • White Man's Burden: The Missionaries have this vibe going on which Rambo calls Sarah out on when she tried to ask for his services. He accuses them of wanting to help the Burmese tribesman out of self-righteous grandstanding and Christian Conversion rather than actually making a foreseeable difference which Sarah doesn't fully refute.
    Sarah: We need to go and help these people!
    Rambo: Who are you helping? Them or You?
    Sarah: Does it matter?
    Rambo: Yeah it matters.
    Sarah: Them. There's nothing missing in our lives back home. We're here to make a difference. We believe all lives are special.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The damned Burmese army.
    • A baby impaled on a bayonet getting waved around like a flag in the background.
      • Then there was that boy who was ripped away from his mother and thrown into a burning hut.
      • Several children are shot at close range, one is stepped on and shot while under the boot of his killer.
      • Then there's the boy that Tint raped...
  • Your Head A-Splode: The result of being shot in the head with either the truck-mounted machine gun that Rambo jacked in the finale, or School Boy's Barrett. Both are chambered in .50 BMG rounds.

Alternative Title(s): Rambo, Rambo 4


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