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Peter MacDonald
Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Marc de Jonge, Kurtwood Smith, Spiros Focás, Sasson Gabai, Doudi Shoua, Randy Raney, Marcus Gilbert, Alon Abutbul
Writing Credits:
Sheldon Lettich, Sylvester Stallone

When his friend Colonel Trautman is captured by Soviets 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
$16.745 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$53.715 million.

Rated R

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

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 5/27/2008

• Audio Commentary With Director Peter MacDonald
• “Out of the Blu” Trivia Track
• “Land in Crisis” Documentary
• Preview


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Rambo III [Blu-Ray] (1988)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 21, 2016)

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. According to IMDB, Dundee II actually made a good piece of change; that source relates that 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 assuming IMDB is correct, I was wrong.

However, my memories of the fate accorded Rambo III don’t seem erroneous. IMDB states that it made a mere $53 million, 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 take 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. Any semblance of his emotional distress or trauma vanished 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 strayed 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 did its predecessor, it still seem bland and inane.

As we start Rambo III, we quickly learn that our man’s (Sylvester Stallone) 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. This time he wants Rambo to assist with the anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Rambo declines to participate, as he seems content to live his simple life.

Trautman proceeds but gets captured by the Soviets. As one might expect, this spurs Rambo into action, especially when the local 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), 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, however. 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 Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio A- / Bonus B-

Rambo III appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not excellent, the transfer usually seemed solid.

Sharpness was nice most of the time. A few slightly soft shots appeared, but those remained minor; 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 enhancement. Source flaws were absent most of the time, though occasional instances of lines and marks cropped up, especially later in the film.

None of the Rambo films offered bright and vivid palettes, and Rambo III stayed with a pretty subdued color scheme. However, the Blu-ray represented those tones well, as it showed clear and concise hues throughout the movie. Black levels came across as fairly deep and dense, while shadow detail seemed fine. Without the print damage, this would’ve been an even better image; as it stood, it merited a “B”.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix of Rambo III provided strong audio. The soundfield featured solid use of all five channels and seemed surprisingly active given its age. Admittedly, 1988 wasn’t all that long ago, but most mixes that came out prior to the common use of digital surround in the early Nineties sound pretty dated. Rambo III managed to offer a rather lively and compelling affair. 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 excellent for its era.

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, he 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.

Next we find Afghanistan: Land In Crisis, a 29-minute and 48-second documentary. “Crisis” spends relatively little time on the film itself. Instead, it offers a quick history lesson about that region.

We see some movie clips amidst historical footage and a series of new interviews. In the latter category, 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.

For something new, we find Out of the Blu, a running trivia track. This uses the pop-up format to give us a mix of production notes. These don’t appear as frequently as I’d like, but they offer some useful information.

The disc opens with an ad for 2008’s Rambo. No trailer for Rambo III appears here.

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 Blu-ray features generally solid visuals, very good audio and a mix of decent supplements. This becomes a reasonably positive release for a mediocre movie.

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

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