Rambo. As if to concede his depletion of ideas, Sylvester Stallone, star and director, has not troubled to think up a new title for the resuscitation, after twenty years’ slumber, of his embittered Vietnam vet (“Fuck the world”), settling for the title of the second film in the series, minus its little-used subtitle: First Blood Part II. He could have taken a cue from his recent Rocky Balboa and given it the full name of John Rambo, or taken the usual route to Rambo IV or Rambo: First Blood Part IV or perhaps Rambo: Fourth Blood. But no. (“Fuck the world.”) Not much thought of any sort seems to have gone into it, and yet Rambo/Stallone knows without need of thought that books and medicines aren’t going to “change anything” in the war zone of Burma, and if you want to extract some misguided American missionaries from the clutches of the kill-crazy militia, in under ninety minutes, no limit on casualties — well, he’s your man. Without need, either, of an up-to-date head count of hawks and doves in the general populace, he’ll stick to his guns (and his bow and arrows), and the grisly mayhem will throttle any impulse to snicker. The viewer can only aspire to a state of acceptance (“Fuck the world”), well shy of a state of awe.
Untraceable. The filmmakers (director Gregory Hoblit, a trio of scriptwriters) wish to “comment” on the ghoulish appetite of the American public while simultaneously feeding it. They have set up a demonic, taunting, diabolically clever (etc.) serial killer in a Portland basement, from where his tortures and murders are “streamed live” over the Internet, the victim’s demise hastened by every “log-on.” (There’s a great deal of indigestible computerese.) An ugly spectacle all around, not least in the blood-draining cinematography. Diane Lane, as a cyber-crimefighter with the FBI, takes three showers in the course of the movie, but doesn’t come out clean.
Meet the Spartans. I disrespectfully decline.