Last week, there was a brief flurry of excitement and incredulity when Sylvester Stallone reportedly announced that he was making a final Rambo movie (dubbed Last Blood) and the baddies he'd be mowing down were to be ... our friends Islamic State. There were a lot of red faces in the news room when a Stallone spinner intervened to deny the announcement. The original source was a spoof news site that ran with the headline "Sylvester Stallone to Employ ISIS Militants for New Rambo Film?". It would have taken but two seconds to note that a) it doesn't actually say IS are going to be Rambo's cannon fodder, and b) that a site running stories like Caitlyn Jenner Innocent; Bruce Jenner Crashed Car, Witness Claims might not be the most credible of sources.
Such touching naivete. Whatever happened to the world-weary cynical hack?
That said, I'm actually a bit disappointed that Rambo V is reportedly socking it to Mexican drug cartels instead, because parachuting John Rambo into IS-occupied Syria might have made for an unexpectedly good movie. Okay, an interesting one. For two reasons.
First, action movies can be a proxy by which audiences vent sublimated frustrations against an enemy - whether real or imagined. Despite IS being on the receiving end of US and UK bombs, there isn't a great deal of news coverage. You can partly understand why when, in north Syria, the Americans are acting as an air force for anarcho-communist Kurdish militias. Hence there is little chance Westerners feel "enough" is being done to curb IS, leaving it free to murder tourists in Tunisia and gunning down Parisian cartoonists. The urge to hit back is understandable, even if misplaced. Likewise, IS feel similarly. They cannot mix it up directly with Western military, hence why they brutally kill hostages. Seeing how Stallone taps into these frustrations would have proved an interesting way into reading Rambo.
What would be much more interesting, however, is if Rambo were to drop into Syria, hook up with someone vaguely palatable to mainstream Hollywood - such as the Free Syria Army. After mucho macho combat, Rambo ends up in a foxhole with an injured IS fighter ... and finds they fought alongside one another in Afghanistan against the Soviets in Rambo III. Together they explore how they went from allies to foes, and it gradually dawns on Rambo that he is but a pawn and his employers - the US government - are unconcerned with freedom per se. They covet regional hegemony. After the Afghan assists Rambo's escape from the predations of Jihadi John, he radios in for a pick up and returns home to raise some very awkward questions.
If Stallone is serious about making a Rambo that is a serious departure from its predecessors, I'd recommend another think about the IS angle.