Rambo defeated by Spartans at US box office
Story by Jack Foley
SYLVESTER Stallone’s Rambo opened with a respectable $18.2 million at the US box office over the January 25-27 weekend (2008) but it was pipped to the top spot by Fox’s 300 spoof Meet the Spartans (with $18.7 million).
The fourth film in the Rambo series – which follows a Vietnam veteran – didn’t impress US critics as much as Rocky Balboa did last year, but then the Rambo character has seldom commanded as much respect with them anyway.
The film did perform according to expectations, however, with studio bosses at Lionsgate reportedly pleased with the figures.
Meet The Spartans is another comic spoof from the team behind Epic Movie last year, this time poking fun at last year’s box office hit 300. It was critically slated.
Last week’s box office champ, Cloverfield – about a monster attacking New York – fell from top spot to fourth, with $12.7 million. It had set a new January opening record in its first week.
And Katherine Heigl romantic comedy 27 Dresses slipped one place from second to third with a healthy $13.6 million take.
Rambo critical reaction
Set 20 years after Rambo last saw action in Afghanistan, the latest instalment finds Stallone’s hero plunged into the middle of the Burmese-Karen conflict, the world’s longest-running civil war, on a desperate rescue mission to extract a group of missionaries.
It’s said to mark a more realistic approach to the action and subject matter and is notable for its graphic violence.
But while Stallone won lots of admiration for his Rocky Balboa comeback last year, critics were generally less welcoming towards John Rambo.
Variety, for instance, stated that “Stallone (who looks fit but mostly keeps his shirt on) has no intention of bogging the action down, but it’s still a notably cheerless exercise, without knowing winks or stabs (pardon the expression) at humour”.
While the New York Daily News felt that “the enemies so comically monstrous and their deaths so gory, that you may just throw your head back and roar with laughter”.
USA Today, meanwhile, wrote: “The mouthiest mercenary, a surly Brit, is given the best line to snarl at our hero: “You can drop that thousand-yard stare. I’ve seen it all before, and I’m not impressed.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.”
And The Hollywood Reporter stated meekly: “Sorry Sly, not this time.”
But there were positives. The New York Times opined: “Stallone is smart enough – or maybe dumb enough, though I tend to think not – to present the mythic dimensions of the character without apology or irony. Welcome back.”
And The Los Angeles Times concurred, stating: “Rambo hits his stride in the film’s second half, meting out justice in an unjust world and ultimately the movie works best when warbling its out-of-tune greatest hits.”
The final word, however, goes to New York Magazine, which concluded: “If bringing back Rocky and Rambo opens him up to more ridicule from the likes of me, it’s also the kind of challenge at which he excels. Idiotic as Rocky Balboa was, the punches landed, and Rambo works on its own debased terms, too.”
Rambo opens in UK cinemas on February 22. b>Watch clips