Jesse Walker notices something missing in the new movie:
...the word "Iraq" appears nowhere in the movie, and neither do "Al Qaeda," "Islam," "9/11," or "bin Laden." The writer/director/actor told Ain't It Cool News that he did this because "the idea of Rambo dealing with Al-Qaeda, etc. would be an insult to our American forces that are actually dying trying to rid the world of this cancer. To have at the end of a 90 minute movie the character of Rambo seizing Osama bin Laden in a choke hold then dragging him into the Oval Office then tossing him in the President's lap declaring 'The world is now safe, Chief' would be a bit insulting." I don't doubt Stallone's sincerity, though World War II-era GIs didn't seem to mind the fact that Superman, Captain America, and the rest were fighting alongside them in the comic books. Personally, I wouldn't have minded seeing some of the Afghan heroes of Rambo III return as villains in Rambo IV, but that might push the franchise into areas that Stallone would rather leave alone.
Matt Zoller Seitz differs:
Cowritten and directed by Stallone, the fourth Rambo movie is a bracingly political picture -- as much an argument in movie form as No End In Sight; a pro-interventionist rebuttal to all the 2007 documentaries and dramas about America losing bits of its soul in Iraq. The I-word is never spoken in Rambo, yet in its coded way, the film makes a case for why we are in Iraq and should stay there until the job is done, whenever that may be. [...]
I can't think of another blockbuster action franchise that has been so unabashedly right wing in its world view. The original Rambo picture, 1982's First Blood -- based on David Morrell's engrossing 1971 novel -- gives no obvious hint of where the series would eventually go. It's one of the most accomplished action films of the 1980s, a have-it-both-ways thriller with a persecuted prole hero that pretty much any viewer, from Ralph Nader to Pat Buchanan, could cheer. For much of the film's running time, Rambo comes across as the latest incarnation of The Man Pushed Too Far -- a police-brutality-victimized drifter terrorizing the small town cops and soft-bellied National Guardsmen that mistook him for a smelly hippie. The film is fundamentally left-wing in its conception. But in its final scene -- Rambo's post-rampage meltdown in Trautman's presence -- it makes a sharp right turn. The hero weeps about being called a "baby killer and all kinds of vile crap" by protestors, and says he only did what he needed to do to win -- but "Somebody wouldn't let us win!"