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Peter MacDonald
Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Kurtwood Smith
Writing Credits:
Sheldon Lettich, Sylvester Stallone

When Soviets capture Colonel Trautman during a mission in Afghanistan, John Rambo sets out to rescue him while taking on the brutal tyrant and his army who rule that region.

Box Office:
$63 million.
Opening Weekend
$13,034,238 on 2562 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $22.99
Release Date: 11/13/2018

• Audio Commentary With Director Peter MacDonald
• “Afghanistan: Land in Crisis” Documentary
• “Rambo Takes the 80s Part 3” Featurette
• “Full Circle” Featurette
• “An American Hero’s Journey” Featurette
• “Rambo’s Survival Hardware” Featurette
• Alternate Beginning
• Deleted Scenes
• Interview with Sylvester Stallone
• “Guts and Glory” Featurette
• Behind the Scenes Featurette
• “Trautman and Rambo” Featurette
• “The Restauration” Featurette
• “How to Become Rambo Part 3” Featurette
• Trailers/TV Spots
• Blu-ray Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Rambo III [4K UHD] (1988)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 15, 2018)

Most thought that 1988’s Rambo III would reign as one of the year’s box office champs. Of the first three films in the series, it was the only one with much pre-release hype behind it.

1982’s First Blood and 1985’s Rambo: First Blood Part II became surprise hits that arrived in theaters without big expectations.

After the $150 million gross of the 1985 flick, however, Rambo III couldn’t sneak up on anyone. Along with another 1988 sequel - Crocodile Dundee II - the newest iteration of the Rambo series was supposed to scarf up some big bucks.

It didn’t happen, at least not for Rambo. Dundee II actually made a good piece of change, as it earned a positive $109 million.

That doesn’t live up to the $174 million of the 1986 original, but it seems pretty solid. In my memory, I retained the notion that Dundee II bombed, but obviously I was wrong.

However, my memories of the fate accorded Rambo III remain dead on. It made a mere $53 million in the US, which represented barely a third of what the prior film earned. It also didn’t even manage to surpass its own $63 million budget.

Since the Rambo films play well overseas, Rambo III ended up in the black with a worldwide total of $189 million, but it nonetheless had to be a considerable disappointment for its producers, and it killed the franchise – well, for 20 years, at least.

First Blood offered a pretty good action drama that actually had a reason to exist. It presented the pain of the Vietnam vet in a superficial but still interesting manner. First Blood Part II, however, degenerated into nothing more than a killfest and boasted little resemblance to the original film.

Rambo III takes us even farther from the character as originally conceived, so any semblance of his emotional distress or trauma vanishes as Rambo became a larger-than-life prototypical American hero.

During those “morning in America” years of the Reagan presidency, however, people seemed to want that. I thought - and still feel - that First Blood Part II stunk, but it obviously connected with a substantial audience.

So what happened to Rambo III? Perhaps the character became too generic.

At least First Blood Part II continued the Vietnam theme of the first film, but Rambo III strays from that path. While this seemed to be a wise decision - another Vietnam-based flick would risk serious overkill - it appeared to backfire, as audiences clearly didn’t care to see Rambo turn into a general action hero.

Ironically, I actually think Rambo III is a better film than First Blood Part II, despite its silly name. As many noted at the time, it should either be Rambo II or First Blood Part III.

However, I consider that to be faint praise. While Rambo III offers a moderately more engaging experience than its predecessor, it still seems bland and inane.

As we start Rambo III, we quickly learn that our man (Sylvester Stallone) has taken up residency in Thailand. There he helps out at a monastery and earns spare change as a stick fighter.

Rambo’s old boss Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna) comes to recruit him for yet another mission, and this time he wants Rambo to assist with the anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Rambo declines to participate, as he seems content to continue with his simple life.

Trautman proceeds but gets captured by the Soviets. As one might expect, this spurs Rambo into action, especially when the bureaucrats - led by Griggs (Kurtwood Smith) - decline to make any official response. They toss him a bone and set him free to do what he can.

In Afghanistan, Rambo meets his contact Mousa (Sasson Gabai), a local who doesn’t think our hero can accomplish the mission. Nonetheless, Mousa offers aid and Rambo starts his task.

Inevitably, he runs up against Soviet warlord Colonel Zaysen (Marc de Jonge), a sadistic sort who tortures Trautman. Rambo soon comes to save the officer, but their escape won’t come easily, as they go up against superior Soviet numbers. Gee, I wonder who’ll win?

Yes, folks - that’s sarcasm, and in its lowest form, too! It’s hard to resist cheap shots when I encounter such a generic film.

As I noted, I do prefer Rambo III to First Blood Part II, simply because it executes its story with a bit more life and a little less cheese. The dialogue still stinks, but the script includes fewer groaners.

However, Rambo III tries much harder to offer comic relief. Those moments start slowly, but by the time Rambo and Trautman team up, they turn into a regular comedy duo.

They trade lame witticisms that further mar the dramatic imagery originally accorded to the Rambo character. In prior films, neither Rambo nor Trautman seemed too light-hearted, so while their comments here never appear ridiculously jovial, they come across as forced and artificial.

But so does the whole movie. Yes, I like Rambo III more than First Blood Part II just because it seems more competently executed and it lacks the same level of stupidity. However, at least the second film offered a certain level of iconic power that totally evaporates here.

Rambo became an archetype in the first sequel, but here he turns into nothing more than another generic action hero, replete with silly one-liners and unbelievable action sequences. As a mindless shoot-em-up, Rambo III has some moments, but it never does anything to distinguish itself.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A- / Bonus B+

Rambo III appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This became a consistently positive presentation.

Sharpness was nice most of the time. A few slightly soft shots appeared, but those remained minor, so the image was crisp and well-defined through the vast majority of the film.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, and I saw no signs of edge haloes. With a good layer of grain, digital noise reduction failed to become an issue, and I witnessed no print flaws.

None of the Rambo films offered bright and vivid palettes, and Rambo III stayed with a pretty subdued color scheme, one that favored an amber tone. However, the 4K UHD represented those tones well, as it showed clear and concise hues throughout the movie. The disc’s HDR capabilities offered a bit more oomph to the colors but it didn’t exaggerate them or make them cartoony.

Black levels came across as deep and dense, while shadow detail seemed fine. I thought this disc presented a strong image that just narrowly fell short of “A”-level standards.

In addition, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix of Rambo III provided strong audio, as the soundfield featured solid use of all five channels and seemed surprisingly active given its age. Most mixes that came out prior to the common use of digital surround in the early Nineties sound pretty dated, but this one held up well.

Rambo III managed to offer a lively and compelling affair, as the various effects always emanated from logical places, and they blended together quite well. Panning and movement between channels was clean and well delineated.

The mix also showed a lot of ambient sound as well as many elements that made this an active piece. The rear channels worked as active partners and even featured a fair amount of split-surround material.

Audio quality also appeared solid. Speech sounded reasonably natural and distinct, and I heard no issues related to edginess or intelligibility.

Music seemed bright and vivid and showed good range. Some explosions occasionally demonstrated a little distortion, but the effects usually came across as clean and vibrant, and they packed a pretty good punch.

Bass sounded slightly boomy at times, but those problems weren’t major. Ultimately, Rambo III provided audio that seemed strong for its era.

How did the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray from 2008? Audio appeared to be identical, as both discs seemed to present the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix.

Visuals became a different story, as the 4K UHD looked better defined than the Blu-ray, and it presented superior colors, blacks and print cleanliness. I didn’t think the Blu-ray was bad, but the 4K UHD clearly worked better.

On the 4K UHD disc itself, we get an audio commentary from director Peter MacDonald, who delivers a running, screen-specific piece. Though not as bad as the clunker from First Blood Part II director George P. Cosmatos, MacDonald’s chat stands as a fairly weak commentary.

The biggest negative relates to the amount of information he provides. On occasion, extremely long spans of time pass between his statements, and when MacDonald does speak, he often just tells us what we see.

However, MacDonald does periodically manage to provide some good facts about the shoot. MacDonald presents a reasonably candid personality and he offers information about various problems encountered on location. He offers enough information to make the track worthwhile for big fans of the film, but others may find it to seem excessively frustrating.

The package includes a Blu-ray copy of the film, and that’s where we find the rest of the set’s extras. Afghanistan: A Land In Crisis runs 29 minutes, 48 seconds.

“Crisis” spends relatively little time on the film itself. Instead, it offers a quick history lesson about that region.

We get remarks from actors Sylvester Stallone and Richard Crenna, executive producers Andrew Vajna and Mario Kassar, producer Buzz Feitshans, author Larry Goodson, USC professor Richard Dekmejian, found and president of the Media Research Center Brent Bozell, vice president of the Afghanistan Relief Organization Abdul Satar, NYU professor Ella Shohat, UCLA professor Douglas Kellner, former senator Robert K. Dornan, and “LA Weekly” executive editor John Powers.

At times, this program delves into a few issues related to Rambo III, and we learn a little about the locations and some production problems. However, the majority of the documentary provides a quick but concise examination of the recent history of Afghanistan.

It looks at the Soviet military involvement that began in 1979 and mainly sticks with that conflict, though it briefly goes over the roots of the modern US problems there. I consciously decided not to discuss those issues in my review of the movie itself, for I didn’t think they seemed relevant.

Nonetheless, I’m glad the disc features this solid little documentary, for it helps put the circumstances into better perspective. If you want to learn about the making of Rambo III, you’re out of luck, but if you’d like a clear and compelling piece of useful background information, “Crisis” should work for you.

Next comes Rambo Takes the 80s Part 3, a 10-minute, 47-second reel with Macdonald, novelist David Morell, professional bodybuilder Danny Hester, ShortList Magazine editor Joe Mackertich, actor/writer/producer Nick Moran, film critics Anna Smith and Kevin Maher, storyboard artist William Stout, actor Chris Mulkey and digital editor Adam Woodward.

“80s” looks at the development of the action film in the 80s, political themes in Rambo III, production details, and the changes in Rambo over the movies. “Part 3” seems a bit more focused than its scattershot predecessors, so it becomes a decent snapshot.

Next comes Full Circle, a five-minute, 58-second piece. It offers a montage of movie scenes. Why? I have no idea, but it’s a waste of time.

With An American Hero’s Journey, we find a 25-minute, 29-second show with Morell and The Writer’s Journey author Christopher Vogler. “Journey” looks at the roots of Rambo and mythological elements of the character and his story. The show takes a scholarly bent and offers an insightful view of the subject matter.

After this comes Rambo’s Survival Hardware, an eight-minute, 41-second piece that shows all the weaponry our hero used across the movies. We view movies clips and get text overlays to tell us about the equipment. It seems wholly forgettable.

Cut footage arrives via an Alternate Beginning (3:37) and seven Deleted Scenes (7:20). The “Beginning” shows the peril for Americans in Afghanistan before Trautman recruits Rambo, and it feels unnecessary.

As for the deleted scenes, they mix minor bits of exposition with some action. They’re largely forgettable, though a view of what Rambo plans to do post-movie seems moderately interesting.

Up next comes an Interview with Sylvester Stallone. In this eight-minute, 41-second reel, the actor discusses how he came to First Blood as well as aspects of the character and his journey. The reel’s brevity means it doesn’t dig into the topics with great depth, but Stallone manages some good comments.

Guts and Glory runs 27 minutes, 11 seconds and features Stallone, Morell, historian Howard Zinn and a bunch of annoyingly unnamed participants. They cover aspects of the Rambo character as well as how he connected to the Reagan 80s.

“Glory” repeats some themes we heard earlier, but it still delivers a fairly introspective view of the character. It can be a bit scattershot but it does the job.

With Behind the Scenes, we locate a six-minute, eight-second reel that brings a circa 1988 promotional featurette. It includes comments from Stallone, Crenna, stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong and technical advisor Sadiq Tawfiq. A few mildly informative nuggets emerge but most of the reel just tries to sell the movie.

Next we get Trautman and Rambo, another 1988 promo reel. It takes up two minutes, 38 seconds and includes notes from Stallone, Crenna and Morell. Expect more promotional fluff, as it doesn’t tell us much of substance.

The Restauration runs one minute, 21 seconds and shows before/after examples of the movie’s clean-up. Why is it called “restauration” and not “restoration”?

Because it was apparently created for a French Blu-ray. It also reads “avant” and “apres” instead of “before” and “after”. It’s a fairly useless reel.

In addition to a trailer and eight TV spots, we wrap up with How to Become Rambo Part 3. In this 15-minute, 12-second featurette, we hear from bodybuilding coach Dr. Franco Columbu.

We learn about Stallone’s workout regimen for First Blood Part 2. I’m not sure why this got split into multiple parts and why it doesn’t entirely reside on the second movie’s disc, but I guess it’s painless enough if you want to get some exercise tips.

Though it was supposed to make a mint, 1988’s Rambo III tanked and killed the franchise – well, at least until Stallone decided to revive it 20 years later. In its own right, Rambo III isn’t bad, but it certainly doesn’t offer much that seems original or compelling. The 4K UHD offers very good picture and audio along with a pretty solid selection of supplements. Rambo III isn’t much of a movie, but the 4K UHD presents it well.

To rate this film visit the original review review of RAMBO III

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main