Fever Dreams

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The dialogue between Amanda and David is set in the present while the one between Amanda and Carla is set a few days earlier—but each dialogue is, in a sense, about the other. Schweblin sustains both conversations while narrowing them toward a single question: the mysterious horror of the worms. Intertwined, these two dialogues form a shadow of an explanation—one that runs on nightmare logic, inexorable but elusive, and always just barely out of reach.

So what are the worms?

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What happened to David that day? Why is Amanda in the hospital with a strange child whispering in her ear?

And there was the stallion, drinking water from the stream. Carla tells this to Amanda, who tells it to David, each piece of information strung toward the present like a series of beads on a wire. It was around this point in the novel that I started looking over my shoulder.

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When New York Times film critic Janet Maslin reviewed the original movie in the series, 's "First Blood," she noted that "Vietnam is to 'First Blood' as rape was to 'Death Wish': it's the excuse for a rampage of destruction. This is the end of the chapter and depending on previous circumstances, the cats travel on to various places. Any cat who does this gains one Swim skill point. And while we wait, we have to find the exact moment when the worms come into being. The message here is that you can't safely go to Mexico, especially if you're a young woman, because everyone there will try to rape and exploit you, and also you definitely don't want those Mexicans coming to the United States, unless you have a Rambo on your side who will 'Merca them to death.

The reader begins to feel as if she is Amanda, tethered to a conversation that thrums with malevolence but which provides the only alternative to the void. Rather, I sensed that something terrible was happening just out of sight. Schweblin drops few hints as to what real-world inspiration might be driving her novel. When the protagonist goes on a rampage, it is morally justified by how he was persecuted by small-town cops — and his persecution is brought on by a sadism rooted not in the truth, but in right wing myths about America that allow its audiences to root for someone who would otherwise be seen as contemptible.

That is the key to understanding the Rambo movies: They are gruesome, cruel, egregiously violent stories that justify their existence with political messaging. The problem is that they aspire to be more than escapist entertainment; their goal is to send a message.

When you take action film genre tropes and graft a political narrative onto them, people often imbibe the ideology along with the spectacle. That is when they become propaganda.

The MAGA fever dream of "Rambo: Last Blood"

The best film in the series is easily the second installment, 's "Rambo: First Blood — Part II" you'll quickly notice that the titles become progressively more nonsensical , which at least had the good sense to be premium-grade cheesy '80s action shlock. Things blow up real nice in that one, people get mangled and mauled in creative ways and from a pacing perspective it zips right by like other '80s action classics such as 's "Predator" and 's "Die Hard.

Yes, "Rambo: First Blood — Part II" is all about the idea that Communist no-goodniks and their liberal pencil-pushing bureaucratic enablers in Washington secretly know that there are Vietnam War POWs being held captive by one-dimensional Vietnamese caricatures, being tortured because America reneged on war reparations after the conflict one wonders how leftists are supposedly such spendthrifts on certain occasions and then cheap on others.

It vilifies both the Soviet Union and the Vietnamese in ways that are consistent with a neoconservative philosophy, both in the Cold War era and by implication in our own, and adds some conspiracy theorizing on top of that. One can imagine a casual Republican watching this movie, having a blast and then cursing about the damn liberals who betray America's soldiers but never pick up a gun themselves.


The irony is that the Rambo series should have learned to stop being political after 's "Rambo III. One of the Afghan rebels famously tells Rambo, "Alexander the Great try to conquer this country Now Russia. But Afghan people fight hard, they'll never be defeated.

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Politically speaking, this is the most ironic movie in the series, given that we have been in Afghanistan since There are obvious implications toward American foreign policy today, but the movie couldn't have known that, so it unintentionally criticizes the same neoconservative foreign policy ventures that the second film directly promoted and this one tries to do too.

One would hope that after such a humiliation, the Rambo series would have been discontinued or at the very least refrained from propagandizing in the future. Yet after a year hiatus, 's "Rambo" hit theaters. It had the least offensive message in the series — it discusses the persecution of Christians in Burma, as well as the Saffron Revolution, both of which were real tragedies — but treats all of its non-white characters as disposable, whether because they're cartoonish villains or because their terrible deaths are meant to make the film seem substantive.

Even worse, instead of leaning into its shlocky action movie roots like "Rambo: First Blood — Part II," it tries so hard to be "serious" in its style that the end result is simply depressing. Think "The Hurt Locker," but stupid. This brings us to "Rambo: Last Blood. Even worse, because Stallone is now in his '70s, the film can't pull off the virtuoso action sequences that were once the hallmarks of the franchise.

Fever Dreams

As a result, from the sole perspective of action movie spectacle, this is easily the worst of them all. There are no memorable action stunts and Rambo seems less like a badass than a delusional old man one who does dumb things that would have gotten him killed if the script didn't need to find implausible ways of keeping him alive.

Everything about this feels lazy and half-hearted: Even the subtitles have erratic and inaccurate punctuation, a little detail that is symptomatic of the bigger problems. The one viscerally effective moment of the movie comes at the very end, when a character has his chest carved open and his heart ripped out.

It would have been a powerful climax to a better action movie, but feels like a cheap geek-show gimmick here. Nothing about this movie works — not Adrian Grunberg's directing, or Matt Cirulnick's and Sylvester Stallone's writing.

Not the acting, the stunt work or the special effects.