Rambo is back, and this time he’s in Thailand to sort out the 60-year civil war between the Burmese police and the Karen people, who are routinely killed, sometimes for sport.
It doesn’t start out that way, though. He leads a simple life taking travellers here and there in his boat and also capturing snakes for local snake show entertainers. At that point, he’s approached by Michael Burnett (Paul Schulze, who I last saw taking a bullet in the back of his head from Jack Bauer in 24), a Christian missionary who wants to rent Rambo’s boat to go into Burma along with his group and help the people.
After initially refusing, he’s eventually persuaded by one of Burnett’s helpers, Sarah Miller (Dexter‘s Julie Benz, below)… well, if he wasn’t then it would be a short film. Burnett’s clearly a complete dick, even when they arrive at their destination and he tells Rambo that he has to report the fact the he shot dead a few Burmese pirates who tried to take them hostage, even though they would’ve made mincemeat of the religious lot. However, you can imagine what happens when they do try to make a difference, and it shows an example of the genocide they were trying to stop.
With them now captured, killed or otherwise, he’s tracked down by Arthur Marsh (Ken Howard), pastor of the Christ Church in Colorado to enlist Rambo to lead a team of mercenaries to bring back those who are still alive. When we get to see where they’re held, we see Sarah’s tied-up and she’s panicking because she hasn’t been able to exfoiliate for a while…
Of the supporting cast, Julie Benz gets to do nothing more than cry and whimper a lot, which gets tiresome after a while. The only mercenaries who stand out are Matthew Marsden – because he gets more of a part than most – as School Boy, so-called because the name stuck from when he was in sniper school, and Graham McTavish as Lewis, the archetypal cockney wanker, trying to be a bigger double-hard-bastard than Rambo.
Of course, Stallone doesn’t really have a look of a man who’s spent most of his life out in Thailand and similar places because of his ridiculous plastic surgery. In fact, it makes him look a bit like Jo Brand does these days, in Getting On.
Overall, Rambo is worth watching the second half for the gory finale, but the first half is so plodding. It passes 90 mins okay, but it’s not particularly enthralling.
I was going to do a full review of the Blu-ray Boxset, but it’s been out quite some time and aside from all the films being in Blu-ray, there’s very little to get excited about. The box states each of the first three films contain a multitude of subtitled languages when, in fact, the only one is English. In addition, the subtitles are often an approximation of what’s being said and not what’s actually spoken, which is just jarring. The sound for each is in DTS 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and there’s a mere 12 chapters apiece (the DVDs of First Blood and Rambo: First Blood Part II had 20 each, with Rambo III having 16.
Like I say, they’re now in Blu-ray format, but for First Blood you wouldn’t really know it from the picture. At best, it’s like an upscaled DVD and occasionally slightly jittery, so if you have the Momentum Pictures DVD release from 2000 then stick with that. The second and third films fare a lot better, but all three DVDs certainly had a few more extras on.
In fact, on this Blu-ray set, extras are thin on the ground with the same interview on each disc, “Sly Vs Rambo: Paris 2008” – with him talking about why he was chosen for the role, and a couple of screens on which to check your video and audio configuration – it’s not a THX setup or anything, just the basics.
Presented in the original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio and in 1080p high definition, the picture is sharp and detailed with no problems whatsoever. Stallone makes fairly good use of the widescreen frame a lot of the time so, aside from the lulls, it makes for pleasing viewing. For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 37″ Plasma screen via a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.
As for the sound, this is in 5.1 Dolby True HD, or Dolby Digital 5.1 for those, like me, without the full technical dohickey. Dialogue (except for Stallone’s mumblings) and ambience/score are fine, while gunfire and explosions are just loud. It gives a good blast, but there’s rarely much in the way of split-surround effects and certainly nothing to wow you with.
The extras are as follows:
- BonusView Picture-in-picture: Stallone talks about the film and how they set the tone, early on, about the situation in Burma and that the actor who plays the main baddie, Major Tint, was one of the Karen rebels.
- Featurettes (70:27): Behind-the-scenes comments and chat, amongst the clips, from cast and crew including Stallone, Julie Benz and many more. There’s a look at the reason for bringing Rambo back after more than 20 years, the music in Rambo, the weaponry, the editing, the sound, the press reaction upon its release and a segment about the struggle facing the residents of Burma.
Most of these segments are in 16:9, with the latter two in 4:3.
- Deleted Scenes (13:51): Four of them here, although only one (the fourth) is a deleted scene, the rest are just extended ones. These are presented in open-matte 16:9. The film was shot in Super 35 which often allows for a decent 16:9 print to be struck.
- Trailers: None for this film, just one each for Hancock and Vantage Point.
- Audio commentary: with director Sylvester Stallone.
The menu mixes clips of film with a short piece of the theme. There are subtitles in English and Hindi and, annoyingly, when native language is used, Optimum have used exactly the same print for theatrical release so the English subtitles for those scenes are burnt into the print – hence you get TWO lots of subtitles(!)
Finally, the chaptering isn’t enough with a mere 16 over the 91-minute running time.
Running time: 92 minutes
Cat no: OPTBD1258
Released: June 2008
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 5.1 Dolby True HD
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Super 35)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Producers: Avi Lerner and John Thompson
Screenplay: Art Monterastelli and Sylvester Stallone
Music: Brian Tyler
John Rambo: Sylvester Stallone
Sarah Miller: Julie Benz
School Boy: Matthew Marsden
Lewis: Graham McTavish
Diaz: Rey Gallegos
Reese: Jake La Botz
En-Joo: Tim Kang
Major Tint: Maung Maung Khin
Michael Burnett: Paul Schulze
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.