Review: ‘Rambow’ goes where the action is

Two 11-year-olds make a film together, sealing their friendship with blood and producing carnage with ketchup, in “Son of Rambow,” a rough-and-ready action flick within a slice-of-boyhood comedy set on a memory wave of 1980s movie joy. Cute but contrived, the film contains vitality and likability to spare, but it doesn’t have the impact or the originality necessary to achieve the indie-gem status it seeks.

Delivering none of the bleakness and social criticism often found in fare set in post-industrial Britain, writer-director Garth Jennings (“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) has made a boy-buddy comedy and a nostalgic, goofy salute to cinema.

Familiar elements — the do- it-yourself foolery of “Be Kind Rewind” and fantasy-life bits recalling “Heavenly Creatures” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” — mix with Jennings’ own quirky ingredients.

Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner), whose puritanical religion forbids TV and movie viewing, meets Lee Carter (Will Poulter), a bully aiming to enter a filmmaking contest, in the school hallway where Will waits until his teacher’s video presentation finishes and where Lee does time for making trouble.

The fatherless outcasts bond, and Lee, via a bootleg video of “Rambo: First Blood,” starring a grunting Sylvester Stallone, introduces Will to movies.

Wowed and exploding with imagination, Will proclaims himself “Son of Rambo” and advances from stuntman to leading man as the two elatedly film their flick. But when a cool French exchange student (Jules Soitruk) comes aboard, everything changes.

Jenningsdisplays a bent for creating gently off-kilter atmospheres and character dynamics.

The Will-Lee relationship is sweetly off-the-wall and believably depicts 11-year-old mentalities. Newcomers Poulter and Milner are natural and convincing.

Recalling “Truly Madly Deeply,” which presented the afterlife as a place where denizens watch videos all day, the film captures the pleasure of movies and home viewing. It has amusing fun with 1980s entertainment; “Rambo” comes off as cult-level kitsch.

But Jennings hasn’t crafted much of a story. His reliance on movie- shoot material — running; leaping; flying; war paint — for dramatic thrust fizzles.

The supporting characters, including Lee’s brutish older brother (Ed Westwick) and the church official (Neil Dudgeon) who wants Will’s devout mother (Jessica Stevenson) to quash Will’s independent streak, are one-note.

Consequently, the movie sags midway and doesn’t regain steam until the ending, which is too predictable and sentimental to save things.

All totaled, the film contains enough merit to qualify as art-house sweetmeat, but it could have been a serious charmer.


Son of Rambow (two and a half stars)

Starring Bill Milner, Will Poulter, Jules Soitruk, Jessica Stevenson

Written and directed by Garth Jennings

Rated PG-13

Running time 1 hour 36 minutes

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

Deputy public defender Chris Garcia outside the Hall of Justice on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
As pandemic wanes, SF public defender hopes clients will get ‘their day in court’

Like other attorneys in San Francisco, Deputy Public Defender Chris Garcia has… Continue reading

Hyphen hosts a group show at Space Gallery in San Francisco in 2010. (Photo courtesy of Albert Law/Pork Belly Studio)
What’s in a name? Asian American magazine fights to keep its identity

An investor-backed media group laid claim to the moniker of SF’s long-running Hyphen magazine, sparking a conversation about writing over community history

A warning notice sits under the windshield wiper of a recreational vehicle belonging to a homeless man named David as it sits parked on De Wolf Street near Alemany Boulevard on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. A proposed SF Municipal Transportation Agency law would make it illegal for overnight parking on the side street for vehicles taller than seven feet or longer than 22 feet. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Fight over ‘poverty tows’ heats up

‘What can we do to ensure the vehicle stays in the hands of the owner?’

Crab fisherman Skip Ward of Marysville casts his crab net out off a pier near Fort Point. (Craig Lee/Special to The	Examiner)
San Francisco came back to life, and we captured it all

Last spring, in the early days of the pandemic, the bestselling authors… Continue reading

Revelers at Madrone Art Bar in the early hours of June 15, 2021 (Courtesy Power Quevedo).
No social distancing at Motown-themed dance party

‘I don’t care how anyone feels, I just want to dance!’

Most Read