Sylvester Stallone built a lot of goodwill 13 months ago when he returned to his “Rocky” roots, but that may all be evaporated with his latest time warp project “Rambo,” an unintentionally hilarious comedy disguised as a bloodbath action film.

This latest installment featuring the reclusive Vietnam vet is like watching a late night rerun of an ’80s action movie - the only difference is that the gore quotient has risen exponentially. It’s so retro I half expected Chuck Norris to make an appearance as his Braddock character from the “Missing in Action” movies.

This story begins with John Rambo (Stallone) withdrawn from society and leading a simple life in Bangkok, doing what everyone else would do, rounding up snakes and fishing with a bow and arrow.

Rambo is approached by a group of Christian missionaries, looking to rent his boat to travel up river to war-ravaged Burma.

At first Rambo is reluctant, but he is eventually convinced by a young woman (Julie Benz) in the group.

After getting them safely up river, Rambo returns to Bangkok. But he soon learns the missionaries have been taken hostage by Burmese soldiers and agrees to help a team of mercenaries rescue the surviving relief workers.

The plot is really just a diversion for the real purpose of “Rambo,” which is to find a way for Stallone to revive his sagging career as an action star. The movie doesn’t quite succeed in that regard, but I have to say it did entertain me to a certain extent.

The action sequences are beyond absurd, with heads exploding like watermelons and body parts flying all over the place. There is so much death and carnage that my friend who watched the movie with me suggested they put up a running tally of how many people were killed at the bottom of the screen. (If they did, that ticker would be running like an odometer).

The acting is just as laughable, with Stallone barely speaking (which is actually a good thing) and Benz looking like a poor man’s Laura Linney.

Stallone tries to throw a message into “Rambo,” but even that attempt at drama results in laughs. It’s too bad Stallone didn’t realize how funny this was while he was making it, because this had the potential to be comedic gold.

Instead, it’s just another example of why January is usually the worst month of the year for moviegoers.

DVD dandy of the week

This week’s dandy is “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters” (A-), director Seth Gordon’s documentary about two men’s battle for the world record in Donkey King that feels more like a Christopher Guest fake-documentary than a real live true story.

Gordon details the exploits of the champion Billy Mitchell and his newest challenger, Steve Wiebe.

Mitchell is a hot sauce mogul and world record holder in Centipede and Donkey Kong - sort of the Barry Bonds of classic video games.

But Mitchell’s reign is challenged by Wiebe, a 35-year-old man who found solace in Donkey Kong after losing his job at Boeing.

When Wiebe appears to have broken Mitchell’s 24-year-old record, the duo engage in a cross country duel to see who can set the high score that will be included in the 2007 Guinness Book of World Records.

What makes the film so intriguing is the whole “no way this could be real” factor.

Gordon presents the battle like an old-school wrestling promoter, with Mitchell perfectly playing the evil heel (wrestling term for bad guy) and Wiebe the sympathetic baby face (good guy), with surprisingly effective results. It almost crosses the line into self-parody, but manages to avoid that - mainly because it appears that Gordon respects his subjects, but also realizes how silly the whole thing really is.

“The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters” is rated PG-13 for a brief sexual reference and is now available on DVD.


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