Sylvester Stallone is taking it the Russians like it's 1988 in Rambo III! Here's our review of the 4K Combo Pack!
Vietnam veteran John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is called back into action when his friend and mentor Col. Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) is captured by Russian troops while on a secret mission in Afghanistan. Also stars Mark De Jonge and Curtwood Smith. Directed by Peter MacDonald.
In 1988, Sylvester Stallone closed out the original Rambo trilogy with Rambo III, which delivered the action and stunts of a summer blockbuster, but the film faltered at the U.S. box office, and critics ripped it.
Rambo III is, admittedly, the weakest of the trilogy, even though it boasts some fantastic action sequences and a far more epic scope than the previous films. The plot, however, seems a bit contrived, even if it had political relevance at the time. Rambo as a character drifted away from what we saw in First Blood, becoming an indestructible killing machine who seemed content to echo his past adventures.
For the third outing, Rambo’s former commanding officer Col. Trautman is captured in Afghanistan by Russian troops who are occupying the country. Rambo, now trying to find peace in a monastery in Thailand, goes to save his friend and mentor and take on the Russians single-handed.
The rebellion by the Afghan mujahideen against Russian occupation certainly made for a riveting storyline, but the subject matter was undermined by some poorly-timed one liners and over-the-top action. A little more realism, and a little more seriousness, would have set the right tone to make it work.
According to director Peter MacDonald in his audio commentary (included on the disc), he wanted to inject more humor into the film. This seems obvious in the movie’s many one-liners, but they mostly fall flat and feel wildly out of place.
While the action is too fantastical, especially when compared to the first film, seeing Rambo mow through dozens of Russians in inventive ways is certainly entertaining. The film features several “tentpole” action scenes that are very well done, even if they do resemble scenes from the previous films (besides another helicopter fight, we also have Rambo once again using “duck and cover” techniques to pick off the enemy). The fort breakout and the cave scene are particular standouts, and director Peter MacDonald certainly knows how to film an action scene.
It is hard for any action film to live up to the standard set by the first two Rambo films, but Rambo III manages to entertain for its 100 minutes with some outstanding action and Stallone at the peak of his 80's popularity. Sure, there are a few groan-worthy lines, but it was the 80s, so all is forgiven. Relax, sit back, and enjoy the exploding arrows.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The video transfer for Rambo III is the best of the trilogy in 4K. Even with some film grain and age issues with the film print, the image shows excellent detail and consistent flesh tones. I compared the 4K image with a high definition image from a previous release, and saw a marked improvement. Previous transfers had inconsistent color and a soft image. The 4K transfer had some minor issues rendering smoke and dust clouds, but it showed excellent detail in the grays and blacks, especially in the night scenes.
The audio is a 5.1 DTS-HDMA soundtrack, and while a few scenes sounded a bit flat, the mix offered excellent clarity and the channel separation was adequate.
As was the case for the first two Rambo films, Lionsgate included a healthy amount of bonus features in the combo pack. Most are recycled from previous home video releases (the video quality of those features varies between high and standard definition), with one new extra: a “Rambo Takes the 80s” retrospective featurette.
The bonus features are well done, with a mix of insightful “behind-the-scenes” content and interviews. There are also a few promotional pieces that have a fun, nostalgic feel, and there’s even an interesting audio commentary by director Peter MacDonald.
It should be noted that the extras menu features several spelling mistakes. This is likely because it appears Lionsgate used the menu from the French home video release, and in changing the wording to English, errors were made. It doesn’t affect the features themselves, but it is an oversight someone should have caught before clearing this for release.
The bonus features included in the combo pack are as follows:
“Rambo Takes the 80s Part 3” featurette. Cast and crew members, as well as critics discuss the Rambo films and their impact on pop culture during the 1980s. Running Time: 10:47
“Full Circle” featurette. This “highlights” reel (of sorts) condenses the film down to about six minutes, featuring the all of the best action shots and one-liners. Running Time: 5:58
“A Hero’s Journey” documentary. “First Blood” author David Morrell leads a discussion that explores the themes and archetypes in the Rambo films. Running Time: 25:29
“Rambo’s Survival Hardware” featurette. The weapons and vehicles featured throughout the three Rambo films are featured here, from knives and bows to tanks. Running Time: 8:41
“Alternate Beginning” featurette. A scene involving the Russians attacking a convoy of aid for the rebels was supposed to open the film, but eventually cut. It is included here, with opening titles to put it in context. Running Time: 3:37
Deleted Scenes. Eight deleted scenes are included, featuring (among other shots) Rambo forging a knife for battle, an interrogation of Trautman, Rambo sniping Russian soldiers, an alternate take on the “Your Worst Nightmare” line, and alternate endings. Running Time: 7:20
Interview with Sylvester Stallone. In a 2008 interview, the actor reflects (with some brutal honesty) on the Rambo trilogy and discusses the fourth Rambo film, which came 20 years after Rambo III. Running Time: 8:41
“Afghanistan: A Land in Crisis” featurette. This historical featurette focuses on the Afghan conflict of the 1980s, during which Russia invaded the country. The war went south for Russia, and many modern historians consider it their “Vietnam.” The film’s portrayal of Afghanistan is also explored. Running Time: 29:48
“Guts and Glory” featurette. The impact of the Rambo films on pop culture and politics around the world is explored. It’s a great retrospective of the film series. Running Time: 27:11
“Behind the Scenes” featurette. This promotional piece from 1988 features interviews with Stallone and Crenna, as well as crew members, and includes footage of the climactic battle at the end of the movie being filmed. Running Time: 6:08
“The Restoration” featurette. This “Before and After” Reel (with French titles) shows how the film print was cleaned of dirt and scratches for a home video release. Running Time: 1:21
“Trautman and Rambo” featurette. This 1988 promotional featurette highlights the film’s relationship between Rambo and Trautman. Running Time: 2:38
“How to Become Rambo, Part 3” featurette. Dr. Franco Columbu, Sylvester Stallone’s bodybuilding coach, outlines the training program he created to get the actor into shape for the Rambo films. Running Time: 15:12
Theatrical Trailer. The original theatrical trailer is included, which features alternate takes and short snippets of footage that didn’t make the final film. Running Time: 2:07
Original TV Spots. Eight TV commercial spots are included here, showing the different ways the studio promoted the film. Running Time: 3:18
“Selling a Hero” featurette. The Rambo III 4K combo pack also has a nostalgic easter egg - a video featuring the Rambo toys of the 1980s. To access the easter egg, pull up the “extras” menu on the Blu-ray disc. When the top selection highlights (the “Rambo Takes the 80s” featurette), hit the “arrow up” button on your remote. A Rambo knife will appear at the bottom of the screen. Hit enter and the video will play, showing all of the different action figures and vehicles from Coleco’s Rambo toy line of the 1980s. Running Time: 4:32
Audio Commentary. Director Peter MacDonald is the sole participant in the commentary, and he actually provides some interesting stories from the set and his experiences working with Stallone. It’s not a particularly great commentary, but if you’re a die-hard Rambo fan, it’s worth a listen.
Digital Copy. A code is included that redeems a digital copy of the film in services including VUDU and FandangoNow. However, it appears the code currently only redeems a 4K digital copy with FandangoNow - VUDU will only redeem an HD version of the film. We suggest waiting to redeem your code until you can confirm a 4K UHD digital copy of the film is available from your preferred provider.
RAMBO III 4K SPECS
Release Date: November 13, 2018
Running Time: 102 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish
Audio Commentary: With director Peter MacDonald