Rambo 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack
Check out our review of Sylvester Stallone's action masterpiece, 2008's Rambo!
When a group of American missionaries is taken captive in war-torn Burma, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) returns to his warrior ways to rescue them. Also stars Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden, and Graham McTavish. Directed by Sylvester Stallone.
Nearly twenty years after his last cinematic adventure, John Rambo is back in action, in a brutally entertaining film that ranks as one of the best action films in years.
2008’s Rambo (titled John Rambo in the extended cut also included on the 4K disc), takes the character back to its First Blood roots. In Rambo III, the character of John Rambo had become a near parody of himself. By single-handedly taking on hundreds of Russian troops in the mountains of Afghanistan, there was no time for Rambo to focus on his internal conflict or character development. There were only implausible stunts, bad one-liners, and some misplaced attempts at humor.
For the 2008 film, Stallone did a reset of sorts. The previous films were not directly referenced, and the tortured soul seen in First Blood was revived. There is a gritty reality to Rambo not seen in previous films, and the violence and gore, while excessive, stays grounded. When Rambo delivers the film’s signature line, “Live for nothing or die for something,” it carries the proper resonance.
As in previous films, the storyline incorporates a real-life conflict: here, it is the civil war in Burma. The country is led by a brutal dictatorship and a military that acts like a crime syndicate. Now living in Thailand, Rambo reluctantly guides a group of Christian doctors on a missionary mission across the border into Burma. After he learns the missionaries have been taken captive by the brutal military regime there, Rambo joins a group of mercenaries on a rescue mission.
The film opens with real news footage of the atrocities in Burma, so the tone is set from the get-go. Things don’t get any lighter: there isn’t a single laugh, intentional or otherwise. The violence is dark and emotionally overwhelming, and because Stallone presents it in the proper context and tone, it is gratuitous without being exploitative.
It’s clear why Stallone focuses on this relentlessly graphic depiction of the violence against innocent Burmese farmers and the American missionaries. Once Rambo unleashes hell, the bad guys get their comeuppance, and it’s wildly satisfying. Against the real-life backdrop, Stallone crafts a riveting story that does not relent. Running at a mere 91 minutes (the extended cut runs 99 minutes long), Rambo moves along briskly and builds to a fantastically bloody ending.
The John Rambo extended cut adds nearly 9 minutes of footage, mostly character development. Some shots are added to action scenes, and other scenes are moved around and extended. Stallone himself says in the bonus features that the theatrical cut was his original intended cut of the film, and mentions his surprise that it managed to avoid an NC-17 rating. The extended cut does include scenes he says he wished he had included in the theatrical version, but it doesn’t change the overall tone of the film.
The realistic, graphic depiction of war may turn many off, but Rambo delivers a hard moral: the only way to deal with true evil is with violence. At a time when movies are often delivering lifeless, CGI-laden PG-13 action, Rambo delivers a hard-core antidote. It’s one of the best films in the action genre in recent memory.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
Rambo’s 4K video transfer is excellent, far superior to the high definition transfer used for the previous Blu-ray release. Detail, at times, is stunning, and the jungle’s color palette is deep and rich, due in large part to the transfer’s effective HDR and Dolby Vision.
There is a fairly light yet consistent sheen of grain throughout the image, but it isn’t heavy enough to affect the presentation. There are a few inconsistent scenes, in which the focus and detail is soft. In some darker scenes, grain is far heavier and blacks get a bit muddled. In the bonus features and audio commentary, Stallone discusses that certain shots were captured rather hastily, using hand-held cameras in some very unforgiving terrain. That likely explains the inconsistency.
The audio is a very effective Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which gives proper balance to the dialogue in the film’s first act. Brian Tyler’s excellent score, which includes highlights of the late Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic Rambo themes, swells at the proper times with excellent clarity. When the action gets rolling in the second act, the gunfire booms with an almost shocking effect. It’s very well done.
The special features on the disc are ported over from the previous Blu-ray release, which is disappointing that new features weren’t added for a 4K release. And yet, the bonus features that are included are quite good, including an audio commentary by Sylvester Stallone and a feature-length “production diary” with lots of behind-the-scenes footage.
Most of the bonus features date back to 2008, and many are presented in high definition. Some behind-the-scenes footage, however, seems to come from standard definition sources.
The special features included on the disc are:
- “It’s a Long Road: Resurrection of an Icon” featurette. Sylvester Stallone and the producers of the film discuss how Rambo found his way back to the big screen after nearly 20 years. Interesting note: Stallone discusses an abandoned idea for the film involving Rambo going into Mexico and taking on the drug cartel. It appears to be the idea he is now using for Rambo: Last Blood. Running Time: 19:43
- “A Score to Settle: The Music of Rambo” featurette. Composer Brian Tyler discusses how he crafted the score for the film, using Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic score from the previous films. Sylvester Stallone also weighs in on Tyler’s work. Running Time: 6:31
- “The Art of War: Completing Rambo” featurette. This featurette is split into two parts: “Editing” and “Sound.” In the first part, Stallone and Editor Sean Albertson discuss the challenges of cutting Rambo from massive amounts of footage in a short amount of time. There is also a discussion over whether the cut would earn an NC-17 rating. In the second part, sound editors Perry Robertson and Scott Sanders discuss the sound mix for the film. Running Time: 10:02
- “The Weaponry of Rambo” featurette. Stallone and Property Master Kent Johnson discuss the various weapons featured in the movie, from Rambo’s new knife to the Barrett sniper rifle. Running Time 14:23
- “A Hero’s Welcome: Release and Reaction” featurette. The actors and producers share their experiences at the film’s premiere and screenings. There are some great stories from the actors describing what it was like sitting in on public screenings of the film and seeing an audience react. Running Time: 9:30
- “Legacy of Despair” featurette. The real civil war in Burma is highlighted here. Viewers should be warned: real-life graphic footage of the violence and atrocities committed by Burma’s army is shown here. It is disturbing, but it highlights a crisis the world has ignored. Unfortunately, the situation has changed little since the film opened in 2008. Running Time: 10:41
- “Rambo: To Hell and Back - Director’s Production Diary” documentary. This feature-length “production diary” features nearly 90 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage with Sylvester Stallone providing voice-over commentary. It’s actually quite entertaining, even if it lasts as long as the actual film itself. Stallone provides an honest look at some of the problems they experienced on location (he had particular problems with a group of pigs), and it’s extremely interesting to watch. Watching him train with handling cobras is impressive. Running Time: 1 hr, 24 minutes
- Deleted Scenes. Four deleted scenes are featured here: “Do You Believe in Anything,” “Who Are You Helping,” “Boat Ride,” and “Let’s Keep Going.” They each provide better character development, but considering Stallone wanted the film to be leaner and the pacing faster, it’s easy to see why they were cut. Still, there’s some pretty good acting from Stallone in the scenes. Running Time: 13:45
- Theatrical Trailer. The original trailer is included in high definition. Running Time: 2:27
- Audio Commentary. Sylvester Stallone is the only participant in the commentary, but he is all that is needed. He provides plenty of insight into the making of the film, and is brutally honest with the challenges he faced filming in the jungle. He also voices some regrets in the editing choices he made. Thankfully, the extended cut of the film, which was crafted after he recorded the commentary, restores the cuts he voiced regret over. For any Stallone fan, the commentary is a must-listen.
- Digital Copy. A code for a digital version of the film is included. The code can be redeemed through services including VUDU and FandangoNow, but currently, Lionsgate movies do not redeem through the Movies Anywhere service. According to 4KSheet.com, the code will redeem a 4K version of the film (UHD) with both VUDU and iTunes, but not FandangoNow. In that case, the code will redeem a high definition version of the film (HDX) only. We strongly suggest confirming with your preferred service that you will receive a 4K version before using the code.
- Release Date: August 3, 2019
- Rating: R
- Running Time: 91 minutes (theatrical cut), 99 minutes (extended cut)
- Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
- Audio: English Dolby Atmos (4K disc only), 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (Blu-ray only)
- Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish
- Audio Commentary: By writer/director/actor Sylvester Stallone
- Label: Lionsgate