Rambo III DVD Review

Believe it or not, Rambo is named after a brand of apples. Yes, one of the single greatest Green Berets in movie history is named after a fruit. I can't say for certain if the apple company still exists, but the movies are still revered by many as the greatest action films of all time. The series ended here with "Rambo III," a disappointment at the box office when it failed to make back one of the largest budgets in movie history at the time. This couldn't possibly be a surprise to anyone viewing it.

Working at a monastery and stick fighting on the side for extra cash, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) now lives the solitary life. He is once again approached by his former commander, Colonel Samuel Trautman (Richard Crenna) to head into Afghanistan to help rebel forces fend off a Russian invasion. Refusing the offer, Trautman goes in with planned group but is captured. Unable to accept his commander and friends are held behind enemy lines, Rambo agrees to go in with minimal help to rescue the hostages.

With a reported budget of $63 million, "Rambo III" spends nearly all of that money on big, fiery explosions. The location shoot in Afghanistan didn't come cheap either, I'm sure. It's a shame that the movie fails so miserably. Originally tapped to direct was Russell Mulcahy, who would go on to create the excellent World War 1 film "Lost Battalion" for A & E. After dropping out, Peter MacDonald took over. His major credits include this film and "Super Dave." That should say something right there.

This is unquestionably a B-movie. They simply added on an A-movie budget. If the location shoot was scrapped and Stallone was dropped, all you would be left with is direct-to-video action flick with no substance. This is the longest film in the series, adding around ten minutes to the usual "Rambo" runtime. It takes quite a while to get going and useless scenes like the goat-carcass sport serve no purpose.

Once past this however, the movie kicks into what most people associate the Rambo films with. It sort of flows like this:

Close up of Rambo shooting in sweeping motion.


Insert shot of men falling in a chaotic fashion.



No flow is present in the action scenes and the amount of ammunition shot at this man is absurd. Either the Russian soldiers failed their marksmanship exams, or it's possible that this movie isn't very accurate. I have my money on the latter. "First Blood II" was at least a fun time and had crowds cheering for the guy. This one doesn't even qualify as a popcorn movie. It's impossible to eat anything because your mouth will be wide open in stunned amazement that someone could actually produce something like this.

To its small number of credits, "Rambo III" did make the Guinness Book of World Records. I'm not sure if it still holds the record for "most on-screen deaths," but it would certainly rank up there even today. It does feature one of the more innovative death sequences in the history of action movies, a hanging/grenade explosion combo towards the end. Otherwise, it's hard to believe the same group of people who wrote this tired sequel also gave us the script for the meaningful and innovative original. (* out of *****)

As with the rest of the films in this trilogy, "Rambo III" is presented in it's original widescreen ratio of 2.35:1 on one side and the atrocious mess that is pan & scan contained on the other. For being the newest film in this series, the print contains a lot of damage. It's never overpowering, but those little specks really add up. The usual round of film grain is a noticeable problem and this goes along with some inconsistent black levels. Color here is sharp, really showing off the explosions this movie seems to rely on. There is nothing spectacular here, just a nice transfer that remains just above average. (***)

Making up for any problems in the visual department, "Rambo III" is spectacular in the audio department. Selections include 2.0 surround, 5.1 surround, or the blistering use of the DTS format. The only real problem is the bass, which doesn't come through very clear and sounds a bit muffled. Still, it's enough to feel every explosion. Bullets, horses, helicopters, and tanks use every speaker for a truly immersive experience. Whoever created this outstanding blend (from just a standard stereo mix) deserves a promotion. (****)

Artisan is consistent with their "Rambo" releases, just changing commentaries and documentaries. Here we get the director speaking about his film, but he either falls asleep or takes an extended bathroom break more than a few times. He hardly ever talks and even then you really won't learn much save for some of the trouble they dealt with while shooting.

Then again, some of this is covered in the documentary "Afghanistan: Land in Crisis." This is a 30-minute look not at the film (though it is touched upon), but on the country and it's people. The actors and crew all put in their thoughts on the experience, but it is surprising that the film is talked about so little. Of course, a lot is said about how the country has changed and the American perception of it (the film ends thanking the country for their support). Those who want more on the film can check out the four-disc box set that includes a short featurrette. Production notes, trailers, and cast/crew information rounds out the disc. (***)

If the cult classic "Mystery Science Theater" had ever changed their format and began covering action films, "Rambo III" would likely be one of the first movies to get their treatment. This is an appalling motion picture that almost seems like it was made with children in mind (the series did have a toy line), but if you let your kid watch people explode, I recommend picking up a book on parenting. This is flat out dumb entertainment (if you can call it that) and one of the worst endings to a trilogy I've ever seen.

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