Rambo III (Arrow Recommends)

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

"Arrow Recommends is a column that has my sorry ass advise older movies to your royal asses. I will be flexible in terms of genres i.e. I will cover whatever the bleep I want. For now, it will be the way to keep my voice on the site."

PLOT: When Rambo’s long time friend and mentor Colonel Trautman (Crenna) is kidnapped by some big bad Russians in Afghanistan, Rambo leaves the peaceful monastery in which he had been dwelling and dives into the jaws of hell once again to save his broheem. In the process he kicks all kinds of Commie ass, blows lots of shit up and fights alongside the Afghans. Take out the baby oil, load up the M-60, it's Rambo time!

"God would have mercy. He won't. " – Trautman

LOWDOWN: When I first saw RAMBO III (GET THE BLU RAY HERE) in theaters upon its initial release in 1988, I left let down. And over the years I've had an odd relationship with the film in terms of; there are so many elements that I love within it, but also some glaring missteps. On that, the more I see it, the more my esteem for it grows. Lets cut this one open and see what we find!

Armed with a 68 million dollars budget (it was the most expensive film ever made in 1988) the movie was initially to be directed by HIGHLANDER's Russell Mulcahy. But Stallone fired him early in prep. I’ll let Sly tell you why:

“He went to Israel two weeks before me with the task of casting two dozen vicious looking Russian troops. These men were supposed to make your blood run cold. When I arrived on the set, what I saw were two dozen blond, blue-eyed pretty boys that resembled rejects from a surfing contest. Needless to say Rambo is not afraid of a little competition but being attacked by third-rate male models could be an enemy that could overwhelm him. I explained my disappointment to Russell and he totally disagreed, so I asked him and his chiffon army to move on.”

Hence Peter MacDonald, a veteran second unit director took over the captain's chair. It was his first feature but he had directed second unit action scenes on Rambo: First Blood Part II, so he wasn’t a cherry to the territory. Although the winning ingredients of the two previous entries were in the house (the script was written by Sylvester Stallone & Sheldon Lettich), our lone hero did lose some of his steam here.

John Rambo was dragged into battle once again but this time to save his mentor: Colonel Trautman (the great Richard Crenna who got way more to do here than in the 2 previous films). On the upside, I appreciated the turnaround in regards to Trautman’s and Rambo’s relationship. In Part 1 and 2 Trautman was the one coming in to save Rambo, here it was the opposite. And Crenna was obviously having fun here being part of the actual action as opposed to just popping up to drop "Rambo is the tits" lines here and there, and I had a hoot watching him. Unfortunately, that new spin on their relationship brought with it useless comic banter that felt totally out of place. Rambo actually spat out funny one-liners here (which lessened the gravity/tension of certain situations) while Trautman’s “Rambo” rhetoric’s were upped big time bragging rights wise. He no longer referred to him as the ultimate warrior but as a God-like figure.

The movie itself also followed in that same vein, portraying John Rambo (with Sly being as massive as ever) as an over-the-top God-like entity. Funny how the franchise went with the character: From traumatized soldier, to avenging angel, to God-ish figure, to ten finally land to bitter/jaded warrior. I wonder where RAMBO V will take him… but I digress.

The action set pieces on hand were rock solid though. Well choreographed, enthralling and varied in scenarios (the stalk and kill bit in the caves and the first rescue attempt on the compound were my favs). The artillery in this flick blew me away as well! Much like Rambo over the course of the franchise – the guns just kept getting bigger and bigger! Rambo wasn't playing in this one that's for sure! In short, this sequel gave me enough BANGS and BOOMS for my bucks with Jerry Goldsmith’s dead-on score accompanying the mayhem once again. And watching it again today, nostalgia did kick in and I got to esteem the more old school and practical style of filmmaking.  Say what you will about the picture, but you can’t deny that McDonald shot it beautifully, with majestic wide shots that captured the epic settings ideally and taunt action set pieces left, right, center and up your ying-yang.

Morever, the supporting cast was tops as f*ck!  Top of my head; Kurtwood Smith (as the tightly wound government type)  Marc de Jonge (as the ruthless Russian leader) and Sasson Gabai (as Rambo's homeboy and guide) owned it! And in true Rambo fashion, the picture did address the situation in Afghanistan at the time along with delivering the pow-wow and I appreciated that. Sadly Rambo III had the misfortune of being released right after the Russians pulled out of Afghanistan in real life and made peace with the USA hence making its subject matter suddenly irrelevant. The change in political climate hurt the film at the Box Office. And I won't even get into how the people that Rambo was helping wound up becoming the Taliban. Two years later Stallone would under-perform again with one of his key characters with Rocky V (1990). But that's the thing about Sly – he'll drop, but will always get back up and keep fighting. He finally bounced back with both characters years later which deviated his career on the right path again. Respect!

If I look at the film with a periscope (yeah a periscope… why the f*ck not) my main beef with it would be without a doubt the middle section which lagged at times (it took about 40 minutes for the first true action scene to kick in). Some snipping down here and there would’ve been dandy. I also could've done without the rambunctious kid sidekick. My rule of middle finger up – I loathe kid sidekicks. And having one in a Rambo film = awful idea! Unless it's in the cartoon Rambo The Force of Freedom that is! With that stabbed in your dead beat heart, although Rambo III is still the lesser of all the RAMBO films (in my useless opinion of course) – a weaker RAMBO is still better than most of the candy-ass action drivel we’ve been being treated to these days!

Personally I opted out of seeing that PG 13 THE MEG flick (you know the one that got all its gore cut out) to re-watch this bad boy instead. And I’m pretty sure I made the right choice. Give RAMBO III another shot! It’s better than you remember (some of its story structure and its themes were addressed again in RAMBO 2008). As for THE MEG, I’ll tap it on disk if it's unrated, if not, it will be on Netflix or never.

Rambo III



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Source: Arrow in the Head

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