Rambo: The Fight Continues
US Rating: Unrated
Film Length: 99 Minutes
Video: Color / 1080P High Definition 16X9 - 2.4:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English, English SDH, and Spanish
Release Date: July 27, 2010
Review Date: July 8, 2010
“Maybe you've lost your faith in people. But you must still be faithful to something. You must still care about something. Maybe we can't change what is. But trying to save a life isn't wasting your life, is it?”
The Film: 3.5 out of 5
More than twenty years after Rambo III hit theaters and failed to capture the sentiment and support of audiences, Sylvester Stallone managed to successfully go back to the character well and resurrect the iconic John Rambo. The success of Rocky Balboa, which recognized and capitalized on the aged Stallone filling the shoes of a hero from the 80’s, was more than enough to open a door for audiences to accept the revisiting of another great character after all this time. In both cases, Stallone served as co-writer and director, personally orchestrating the revival of two of movie history’s most recognizable figures.
Rambo, happily resigned to a rudimentary routine in the heat of a Thailand existence, lives in the solitude of personal retreat. His days under the weight of his troubled inner-peace are complicated when he is approached by a group of missionaries’ intent on entering war torn Burma to provide aid and faith to the victims of the harsh Junta military regime. Resistant at first (isn’t he always); Rambo eventually agrees to take them on his boat into the dangerous territory where he drops them off before heading home. The Missionaries are caught in the crossfire of the deplorable slaughter that appears commonplace in Burma and the few survivors are imprisoned. When Rambo is once again approached, this time by a minister who needs Rambo to ferry a handful of mercenaries back into Burma for a rescue mission, the story has found its way to put the inexplicably evil Burmese military bad-guys in Rambo’s ferocious and unforgiving crosshairs.
As with Rocky Balboa, the thought of an aging Stallone bringing the iconic Rambo character back to the big screen was filled with reservations. However, again as with Rocky Balboa, there is much to enjoy in the experience of Rambo’s return, flaws and all. The story, co-written by Stallone with Art Monterastelli, pits the good guys against the bad guys in a fashion that harkens back to the disposable body counts of the 1980’s, but that is not to say that it is merely a flashback to the action films of that era. While the Burmese military are shown from the get-go to be brutal, heartless monsters, slaying unarmed men, women and children with a barbarism and perverse glee that is extremely disturbing, it is that very same gory, unfiltered gruesomeness that places the action in a different place from its 80’s relative. The Rambo films unlike many others of the same ilk, have worked a little bit harder to make a distinct point about war and its consequences. First Blood, the best of the quartet, explored the inner toll. Part two gave an action movie voice to the forgotten of war and showed the political walls that are erected ‘for the greater good’. Part three explored how the ‘enemy’ was doing irreparable harm to a kind and simple people in a county most people had never heard of (at the time); a worthy aim for an action movie. And so, twenty years and some serious body-building steroids later, Rambo is back doing the same thing, slashing and burning his way through the evil perpetrators and exploiters of war.
Stallone provides some pretty stable direction but does allow clunky and convoluted dialogue to spoil the moment from time to time. There are some stunningly beautiful shots of the Thai locations (where the movie was mostly shot), and the peace of these shots is an interesting counter to the unflinching bloodshed that washes over a grand amount of the running time.
The brutality of the violence will immediately stand out to fans of the Rambo series, or action movies in general. It is simply overwhelming at times but never to the point of parody. It exists, I believe, to be a persistent reminder of how despicable evil can be. It is a statement about the evil that men do. Most action movies, especially from the decade where Rambo first appeared, were filled with bad guys (and good), being shot and falling over a railings or smashing through a roof; being blown away by shotgun blasts or just dropping like flies. These action sequences were filled with disposable people that served, so it seems, to merely ‘up’ the films body count. Rambo does not do that. While it is an action movie and you will find yourself cheering a little when the bad guys get their comeuppance, the film shows what really happens when someone is hit by a bullet, blown up by a landmine or hacked with a machete. It is, oddly enough, an element of unfiltered reality in a purely fictional plot.
In the end, it is the reluctant and troubled hero, stepping in to do what no-one else can or will do, that is the main appeal at play here, and on that front Rambo is a success.
Special mention should be made of Brian Tyler who takes over scoring duties for the late Jerry Goldsmith. Goldsmith, one of the greatest composers to ever have lived, provided subtlety and depth to the Rambo films with his music in surprising ways. While Brian Tyler is a little more functional here, his treatment of the Rambo theme is a perfect ode to Goldsmith. Many parts of the score remind of Hans Zimmer’s lovely score for Beyond Rangoon as well.
The Video: 4.5 out of 5
The inclusion of an extra nine minutes has not changed the quality of this Blu-ray release, which mirrors the quality of the previous edition in 2008. The image quality is very good but does have some interesting qualities. There are times when the image appears to have been treated with a sepia tint, giving the image an almost ‘old photograph’ quality or war footage from the Vietnam era, a choice likely made by the director and his cinematographer. Some mosquito noise in brighter spots onscreen at times is a little distracting but the grain, appropriate to the film, helps create an almost Vietnam movie feel. The colors are bright in some places, especially the flourishing green of the jungle and fit the tone and spirit of the film. Overall, quite the solid high definition release. One note is the end credits, which appear to have an odd ghosting effect which I do not recall from the previous release.
The Sound: 4.5 out of 5
Rambocomes with a powerful English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, packing a punch and a half during the fighting scenes and providing great audio space for Bryan Tyler’s very capable score. There are a few scenes in the film set during heavy rain and storms and the surrounds put you directly in the midst of the downpour. Dialogue in the center channel predominantly is issue free but the real power comes from the bass and subwoofer as the bullets smack into bodies. The thump of bullet hits can be felt in the chest at times, especially during the carnage of the final showdown. This is a release with a terrific audio; powerful, punchy, clean, and immersive.
The Extras: 2 out of 5
Rambo: To Hell & Back – Director’s Production Diary: While this brand new special feature, which runs just about an hour, is interesting and welcome, the loss of the many special features available for this film (which were plentiful), does make one scratch their head. This covers 23 of the 51 days of production, with interviews with the cast, crew and more which are quite candid. The input from Stallone, however, provide this production diary with genuine value.
While the title on the cover remains Rambo, the opening credits reveal the alternate (and oft discussed title) John Rambo for this extended cut. The additional nine minutes don’t standout and appear to merely be the deleted scenes found on the previous release cut back into the film, but more keen fans may very well catch and appreciate the additional footage. The violence and gut-wrenching bloodshed from the unrelenting power of warfare weaponry remains astonishing. But rather that exploitative, it serves to remind of the evils of dehumanizing brutality – the kind that sadly can be found in far too many countries across the globe.
Overall 3.5 out of 5