Oscar, Fred J. Brown, [II] Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing
[II] Rambo: First Blood Part 2 follows Mr John Rambo, a Vietnam veteran, now slumming in up in a federal prison after beating Brian Dennehy one too many times at Mouse Trap. He is approached by his old military superior with the news that there are still some Americans in Vietnamese POW camps, and it is proposed that he go and partake in the operation to rescue them...Rambo: First Blood Part 2 has many layers and themes, never is anything quite as clear cut as, say, a Lundgren movie would be. We don't just have Rambo combating a bunch of leftist Northies intent on proving the domino theory to be correct, we also have a nefarious bureaucracy. The chiefs are out to get want they want, regardless of anything else, the Kafkaesque administration, too absorbed in public relations to give a shit about Rambo, those POWs, or anyone else...Rambo: First Blood Part 2, like the planet we scamper on, is an object of many layers. The violence is the crust which forms the rim around which all else is contained. The authoritarian corruption is the mantle which acts as a porous intermediary on proceedings. And at the core it's a story of two people, brought together under the ugly stage of conflict, who knew one another as few people have, who typified what is it to have a divine, diaphanously enriched connection, one that transcends life itself.
[First] "First Blood" may have signalled the beginning of the incredibly lucrative "Rambo" series but for Sylvester Stallone it represented his first success outside the "Rocky" franchise. The heavily dramatic "FIST." (1978), the critically acclaimed "Nighthawks" (1981), or the risible "Escape to Victory" (1981) were among the notable flops Stallone starred in between the "Rocky" films...Stallone plays the Vietnam vet John Rambo who falls foul of an over-zealous hick, town sheriff Teasle (Brian Dennehy). Taking an instant dislike to Rambo, Teasle arrests him. His subsequent humiliation in the local clink plus a forced shaving gives Rambo flashbacks to his torture in 'Nam and he breaks out, only for Teasle to stage a massive manhunt involving over 200 Guardsmen...At this point the film turns essentially into a chase movie with Stallone foiling his pursuers at every turn. As opposed to the later films his hapless enemies are only maimed by Rambo and never killed...Stallone underwent training in survival skills and hand-to-hand combat that helped give the film such a raw and authentic edge that excited the audiences of the time. This didn't prevent his by now standard hospital visits while making a film. Four broken ribs and a burned hand were some of the injuries he sustained portraying the cinema's most famous one-man army.
[Rambo] Make no mistake about it, this is the real "gorno"...Things blow up in Rambo. They blow up real good. Stallone has taken the forgotten skill of human detonation and turned it into an art form...Rambo is a pleasure of the guiltiest, most gratuitous kind. It's the typical heroes-and-villains formula on human growth hormones, laced with crack. It satisfies one's instinctual Neanderthal bloodlust and busts as many taboos as it embraces. This is a movie that blows big holes in kids during commonplace village raids, where angry goon squads lop limbs off the elderly and rape the ladies, both before and after they're dead...And that's exactly what this mindless action movie does. It's like XXX porn substituting evisceration for fornication. None of the supporting characters are memorable, and the plot is merely a setup followed by splatterific payoff. But when you're dealing with a one-dimensional death machine like Rambo, disemboweling, dismemberment, and decapitation are all the depth that's required. Longtime fans may wonder where the tired solider with the wounded soul from First Blood went. Just like the actor playing him, our hero no longer looks or acts like his predecessor. Oddly enough, as long as he covers his tracks in the entrails of his enemies, we really couldn't care less.
[III] Though the film is ultimately just as effective (and violent) as its immediate predecessor, Rambo III has clearly not aged all that well in the years since its 1988 release - as the film's portrayal of Afghan rebels as noble heroes is, within a contemporary context, awfully tough to take (the film is even dedicated to them!) The story - which finds Sylvester Stallone's John Rambo reluctantly forced to head into battle once again after his mentor (Richard Crenna's Sam Trautman) is captured by evil Russians during a mission in Afghanistan - is probably as interesting and fleshed-out as anything within the series, yet there's little doubt that the overtly deliberate build-up ultimately puts a damper on the movie's overall effect. And while the final half hour is devoted almost entirely to action sequences, one can't help but lament the absence of hand-to-hand brawls between Rambo and his plethora of enemies (the emphasis is instead placed primarily on big explosions and over-the-top stunts). Stallone's expectedly stirring performance certainly goes a long way towards smoothing over the film's rough edges, and it's clear that - despite its flaws - Rambo III remains an entertaining, sporadically electrifying piece of work that makes up in thrills what it lacks in relevance.
DVD, Widescreen, English, Subtitled, Spanish, Dolby Digital (5.1)
Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Alex Sandell, Juicy Cerebellum
[First] A thriller that's actually thrilling.
Almar Haflidason, BBC Online
[II] ...a movie of immense scale.
David Nusair, Reel Film Reviews
[II] ...precisely the sort of unapologetically brutal piece of work that's sorely missing from contemporary multiplexes.
[First] If you like Rambo, you'll love First Blood.
[Rambo] Stallone proves once again why he is a legend!
Johanna Steinmetz, Chicago Tribune
[III] This is a comic book movie, its outcome as predictable as it is satisfying, which is part of its charm.
Maitland McDonagh, TV Guide
[Rambo] ...a brutal, insanely excessive successor to grindhouse pictures of yore.
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
[III] ...has an undeniable momentum and, judged on its own terms, a certain comic-book appeal.
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