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Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish
Writing Credits:
Art Monterastelli, Sylvester Stallone

In Thailand, John Rambo joins a group of mercenaries to venture into war-torn Burma, and rescue a group of Christian aid workers who were kidnapped by the ruthless local infantry unit.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$18,203,876 on 2751 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 5/27/2008

• Audio Commentary with Sylvester Stallone
• “Bonusview” Commentary
• Seven Featurettes
• Deleted Scenes
• Trailers


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 [Blu-Ray] (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 3, 2017)

When Sylvester Stallone decided to bring back his signature character for 2006’s Rocky Balboa, he endured many jeers. However, the movie received good reviews and a decent reaction from audiences. It didn’t turn into a major hit, but it did much better than almost anyone expected.

Stallone chose to tempt fate with a revival of his other iconic character, John Rambo. This meant the release of 2008’s Rambo, our first glimpse of the muscular Vietnam veteran in 20 years.

Critics didn’t embrace it, and movie found only a minor audience as it took in a blah $42 million. Will we get another Rambo adventure? I’d guess not, since crowds didn’t flock to this one.

But who knows? No one thought we’d find a fourth Rambo movie, so never say never, I suppose.

After trips to Southeast Asia and Afghanistan, this time Rambo goes to Burma. Actually, he starts off in Thailand, where he works as a snake handler for a cheap tourist attraction.

Humanitarian volunteers who support an oppressed Burmese minority try to rent Rambo as a tour guide to take them up-river into the civil war zone. Due to cynicism and a lack of faith in non-violence, initially he resists their request, but volunteer Sarah (Julie Benz) convinces him to escort them on their trip.

Despite an encounter with river pirates, Rambo manages to deliver his passengers to their destination. However, matters go downhill from there, as the oppressive Burmese military attacks the village in which the volunteers work. Rambo agrees to join a mission to rescue the survivors. Much mayhem follows.

Much, much mayhem, indeed. Rambo doesn’t shy away from the depiction of graphic violence, a choice certain to inspire a lot of controversy. Some will argue that Stallone chose to do this to convey the horror of the events, while others will opine that he uses these shots for simple audience titillation.

I lean in the latter direction. If Rambo went with a real “war is hell” bent ala Saving Private Ryan, I could better accept the use of graphic footage as cautionary tool. There’s something to be said for flicks that don’t sugarcoat their violence as they let us see just how horrible combat destruction can be.

However, Rambo doesn’t exist as a realistic depiction of the horrors of battle. Like the prior two sequels, it pours on action heroics without much connection to the real world.

Oh, I’m sure that bodies react as shown when assaulted by various weapons, but the film uses the gore for titillation and nothing more. We don’t view the violence as anything other than “cool” theatrics. This is blood porn.

One problem with Rambo - and the franchise in general – stems from its lack of surprises. Very little occurs that we can’t predict in advance, and that makes matters rather stale much of the time.

The film populates its world with one-dimensional characters and doesn’t invest anything in them beyond cartoonish good and evil. That flew better in the black and white world of the Reagan Eighties, but it seems much less satisfying decades later.

The action scenarios theoretically compensate for the boring participants, but in reality, they don’t. Rambo comes with the most basic story: save missionaries.

The characters who receive the most exposition remain exceedingly thin, and others are so poorly drawn that they don’t even count as one-dimensional; they’re more like one-eighth dimensional. Heck, I’m not sure if the main Burmese baddie even gets a name!

Rambo does take itself more seriously than any film in the series since the original First Blood, but that doesn’t make it any better than the other two sequels. Actually, the dour nature of the flick can be viewed as a flaw since it largely eliminates the rah-rah thrills audiences took from Rambo: First Blood Part 2 and Rambo 3.

I didn’t care for the way those films painted Rambo as a larger than life American avenger, but at least they mustered some general enthusiasm for their viewers.

Nothing like that occurs in the tedious, forgettable universe of Rambo. Stallone doesn’t acknowledge that the film exists in a different era than its predecessors, as we find no recognition that society has changed since 1988. With its simplistic view of the world, it feels like it could’ve come out two decades ago.

And that’s not a good thing. Rambo runs a short 92 minutes, though it fills only 80 of those with story; the end credits last nearly 12 minutes! Even at that brief length, it wears out its welcome well before we get to the conclusion. This is a tired, tedious tale.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Rambo appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a mostly good but slightly erratic transfer.

Sharpness usually looked solid. At the movie’s start, wide shots came with an odd sense of softness, and a few similar shots appeared as the film progressed. Nonetheless, most of the flick appeared well-defined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Source flaws were minor, as I noticed a small speck or two but nothing more.

In terms of colors, Rambo used a palette that either tended toward blue-greens or tans. Not a lot of vivid hues emerged, but the tones were accurate and full within the minor stylistic constraints. Blacks appeared dark and tight, and shadows were usually fine; some of the shots from the first boat trip could be a little dense, but not to a problematic degree. Overall, I found the image to work fine, though it came with inconsistencies.

I found a lot to like about the DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio of Rambo, as audio quality was good. A little edginess affected a few lines, but most sounded natural and concise. The score showed consistently solid range and vivacity, and the effects followed suit. Those components seemed bold and dynamic.

The soundfield seemed positive. Much of the audio stayed with environmental information; rain popped up frequently and used all the channels well.

In addition, the action scenes worked the soundscape in a strong manner. They created a fine sense of the mayhem and used all the channels to form a vivid attack. The movie delivered a powerful soundtrack.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? Audio showed better involvement and oomph. I thought the DVD’s mix seemed a little restrained and underwhelming, but the Blu-ray gave us a more dynamic impression.

Visuals also showed upgrades. Even with the occasional concerns related to softness, the Blu-ray seemed tighter and more accurate. It’s not a killer presentation, but it improves upon the DVD.

While the DVD I reviewed included no extras, the Blu-ray includes a good set of materials, and we open with an audio commentary from writer/director/actor Sylvester Stallone. He offers a running, screen-specific look at story/character areas, editing and cinematography, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, and other production domains.

Overall, Stallone delivers a good commentary. He comes across as invested in the process and provides a nice array of topics related to the movie. This ends up as a solid chat.

We also get a Bonusview Commentary. It offers the same discussion from Stallone mentioned above but throws in video of him as he speaks; we view him in a small inset that occupies a little box in the bottom right of the screen.

“Bonusview” also provides behind the scenes footage in that wee box, and it occasionally branches out for some featurettes, with programs that fill the screen and run about 28 minutes. These tell us more about the production and feature various cast and crew. They give us decent info but I don’t care for the format – especially because we can’t access the “Bonusview” components elsewhere on the Blu-ray.

Seven featurettes occupy a total of one hour, 10 minutes, 56 seconds. These include “It’s a Long Road: Resurrection of an Icon” (19:44), “A Score to Settle: The Music of Rambo” (7:32), “The Art of War Part I: Editing” (6:49), “The Art of War Part II: Sound” (3:16), “The Weaponry of Rambo” (14:33), “A Hero’s Welcome: Release and Reaction” (9:31) and “Legacy of Despair: The Real Struggle in Burma” (10:43).

Across these, we hear from Stallone, producers Avi Lerner, Kevin King Templeton and John Thompson, composer Brian Tyler, editor Sean Albertson, second editor Paul Harb, supervising sound editors Perry Robertson and Scott Sanders, re-recording mixer Leslie Shatz, property master Kent Johnson, and actors Paul Schulze, Julie Benz, Tim Kang, Graham McTavish, Matthew Marsden, Rey Gallegos, and Jake La Botz.

The shows cover the project’s roots and development, story/character/screenplay areas, sets and locations, Stallone’s work as director, cast and performances, music, editing, and sound design, props, stunts and effects, and the movie’s release/reception.

I expected a lot of fluff from these segments, but they boast a surprising amount of substance. The clips examine a good array of subject and does so with relative gusto. I find a lot to like here.

Four Deleted Scenes fill a total of 13 minutes, 34 seconds. We find “Do You Believe In Anything?” (2:29), “Who Are You Helping?” (4:42), “Boat Ride” (4:12) and “Let’s Keep Going!” (2:21).

These mostly extend existing sequences and focus on interactions between Rambo and Sarah, as all four expand that relationship. While this seems like a good idea given the thinness of the overall narrative, the scenes fail to do much to develop matters. They remain forgettable and without a lot of merit.

The disc opens with ads for “The Rambo Ultimate Edition Collection”, Crank, and War. We also find trailers for all four of the Rambo movies.

Rambo packages relentless gore without anything more than a rudimentary plot and anonymous characters. Not even the expected vicarious thrills arrive in this dull adventure. The Blu-ray provides erratic visuals with very good audio and a useful array of supplements. Rambo continues the series in a forgettable manner.

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of RAMBO

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