While Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo is currently gearing up for a fifth (and supposedly final?) outing, the first three entries in the Rambo franchise have been given some swanky new 4K Ultra HD releases. Having already taken a look at Rambo: First Blood and Rambo: First Blood Part II, then, let’s sink our teeth into the new release of the oft-maligned Rambo III.
Plot-wise, we pick things up with Richard Crenna’s Col. Sam Trautman again looking to enlist Rambo for a mission that most logical, sensible sorts would promptly say no to. This is no logical, sensible sort, mind, for this is John Rambo, which means his answer to Trautman is a resounding… err, no?! Yes, Rambo initially turns down Troutman’s plea to join him in tackling some nefarious Russians in Afghanistan. And thus, Trautman goes solo and ends up swiftly captured and tortured. But wait, what’s that mullet-adorned silhouette on the horizon? Of course, that’s John Rambo swooping in to save the day. From there, the stage is set for one of the most ‘80s-tastic ‘80s actioners out there.
Rambo: First Blood may have been layered in political points geared towards the fallout from the Vietnam War, and Rambo: First Blood Part II went for a more action-heavy slant, but Rambo III goes all-in on machismo to the point of parody. We have bigger muscles, bigger explosions, and, of course, bigger hair as Stallone again finds himself involved in the dick-measuring contest of the ‘80s and early ‘90s that saw the likes of Sly, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Bruce Willis trying to outdo each other on the action front.
The thing is, while some of those names largely had to rely on brawn and body count, Stallone’s strength has always been in his actual acting. With the first few Rocky movies and that first Rambo picture, Sly proved what a stunning talent he can be when given more to do than simply spout one-liners, have intense close-ups of his impressive physique, and blow shit up. Sadly, Rambo III is very much a prime example of Stallone at his worst, and it’s no surprise to look back at history and see how this was a film that played a part in the fall from grace of Stallone. Audiences were beginning to get tired on action movies by the time of Rambo III’s release in 1988, yet Rambo III still rode the action train hard.
To be fair, Rambo III isn’t totally awful, for there are some moments that shine and, in hindsight, can be enjoyed simply for what they are: mindless, muscle-bound spectacle. This threequel is entertaining at points, but it’s by far the weakest entry in the Rambo franchise to date. Here we have a film that tries to take itself seriously, but utterly fails due to how outright ridiculous so much of the content on display is – hence why it plays as much as a parody as it does its own movie.
With that said, you’re likely already well aware of Rambo III and its shortcomings, so let’s get to the rest of this release. Firstly, the 4K restoration is good if not great. For some reason, this 4K transfer doesn’t quite feel as stunning as the 4K treatment given to Rambo: First Blood and Rambo: First Blood Part II, yet it’s still obviously an upgrade on the other releases of Rambo III we’ve seen so far. Where the special features and bonus content are concerned, the highlight is again the Rambo Takes the ‘80s input. Across the new releases of the first three Rambo efforts, Rambo Takes the ‘80s has proved to be an engaging, entertaining watch, and that is once more the case here.
Taking all of that into account, is Rambo III in 4K Ultra HD worth shilling out for? Let’s just say it’s one for the completists, or maybe one for those curious as to how ludicrous the ‘80s action landscape eventually became.
Special Features: Audio commentary with Peter MacDonald / Rambo Takes the ‘80s Part 3 / Interview with Sylvester Stallone / Eight featurettes / How to Become Rambo Part 3 / Alternate beginning / Deleted scenes / Original TV spots / Original trailer
RAMBO III – 4K ULTRA HD / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: PETER MACDONALD / SCREENPLAY: SHELDON LETTICH, SYLVESTER STALLONE / STARRING: SYLVESTER STALLONE, RICHARD CRENNA, KURTWOOD SMITH, MARC DE JONGE, SASSON GABAI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW