Rambo III (1988)
Release Date: May 25th, 1988 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Peter MacDonald Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Kurtwood Smith, Spiros Focas, Marc de Jonge, Sasson Gabai
ambo III” is a largely forgettable film, but it does outdo its immediate predecessor, “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” as well as manage to be a highly entertaining action film – at least, during the course of watching it. Unnecessarily dramatic at times, though bubbling over with nonstop action, explosions, mayhem, and snappy one-liner rebuttals to sneering villains, “Rambo III” is about as decent as it gets for mindless fun. It’s the kind of schlock that requires absolutely no strain on the brain.
Col. Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) attempts to recruit John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), now residing in Thailand, to assist in an operation to provide aid to Afghanistan freedom fighters. Of course, Rambo refuses, as he’s no longer a military man, leaving Trautman to embark without him. In short time, word reaches Rambo that Trautman’s unit was ambushed by the Soviets and the colonel was taken prisoner. “Something went wrong,” explains Griggs (Kurtwood Smith). Knowing that Trautman would come after Rambo if their positions were reversed, the highly trained veteran deploys to Peshawar, Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border, to rescue his former commander.
An action junkie’s guilty pleasure and total viewer escapism rolled into one, “Rambo III” provides plenty of destructive, antihero energy. The titular he-man capably relieves Russian scoundrels of their smirks with detonators, rocket launchers, tanks, and anything else he can commandeer. While Stallone’s acting is only mediocre (so bad, according to many, that it garnered a Razzie nomination), his substandard performance is in part due to the overly sarcastic and smarmy dialogue (sadly, written by Stallone), and the idea that Rambo has become little more than a Terminator who marches into heavily fortified bases to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting Kremlin.
Should viewers condemn a hero who shows no weakness, no Achilles heel? “Who is this man? God?” asks Colonel Zaysen (Marc de Jonge), the Soviet leader who mercilessly tortures Trautman and sports a permanent scowl emblazoned on his face. “No,” replies the overconfident Trautman. “God would have mercy.” When Rambo cauterizes a metal shard wound in his right oblique, through the use of gunpowder and flames, it’s obvious he’s one tough hombre. Against all odds, he continually combats the enemy (injured or not) and goes back for a second rescue attempt, even when there’s no one left to help him. A combination of good luck, great weaponry, unlikely conveniences, and astonishingly good timing also comes in handy.
Dealing with the Cold War, much like 2007’s “Charlie Wilson’s War,” except without all the blatant comedy, “Rambo III” actually consists of several educational (perhaps politically incorrect) foreign policy ideas – and a rousing game of dead sheep football. But this is quickly overshadowed by a Soviet assault that gives rise to grand action sequences and dangerous stunts. The first attack on the enemy base is spectacularly thrilling, followed by the equally impressive pre-showdown in the underground caverns and the final all-out onslaught by the remaining USSR forces. The action sequences are some of the best of the ‘80s, though they routinely sacrifice grace for grandiosity.
If critics were to rate a film based on how sensational the main antagonist’s death is, along with the main henchman (much like most James Bond films), then “Rambo III” would rank quite high indeed. When a cinematic good time calls for daring aircraft escapes, defiance in the face of persecution, bravery while being grossly outnumbered, machinegun fights, missile attacks, rocket launcher assaults, Asian stick fights, explosive bow-and-arrow ambushes, tank melees, large-scale battles, and playing chicken with a combat helicopter, “Rambo III” fits the bill. It’s a satisfyingly action-packed B-movie dalliance.
– The Massie Twins