Action Month - "Rambo III" Review

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When John Rambo's (Sylvester Stallone) Vietnam commanding officer Colonel Trautman is taken hostage in Afghanistan, it is up to Rambo to rescue him.
3.5

MRR's Action Movie Month - "Rambo III" Review

-- Rating: R
Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: May 25, 1988
Directed by: Peter MacDonald
Genre: Action / Adventure / Thriller

"Rambo III" continues the blood-soaked adventures of Vietnam veteran John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone). In this installment, Rambo travels behind enemy lines in Afghanistan in a mission to rescue his former commanding officer Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna) after a mission goes wrong. The film is set against the real-world political backdrop, as were the two films before it being set during and after the Vietnam War. This film takes place after Rambo has completed his tour of duty and settled in Thailand, at a time when United States is aiding the mujahideen Afghan rebels in fighting against their Soviet occupiers.

This ties in with the real-world conflict at the time-after Vietnam had cooled down and the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan. The United States actually was attempting to help the rebels. At the time, U.S. relations with the Middle East were warmer, especially because the U.S. government was willing to have any ally it could to prevent the spread of communism in the area. In fact, the film was dedicated to the mujahideen.

At the start of the film, Rambo has offered his help to the residents of Thailand in building a Buddhist temple and is also participating in random nonlethal stick fights for sport. This scene is taking place shortly after the United States forces have decided to supply weapons to the Afghan rebels to fight against the Soviets. For safety, Trautman decides to track down Rambo and have him accompany them on one last mission. Rambo, having had enough of war, declines and continues his civilian life to try and heal his psychological wounds. Obviously, this is not the end of the story. The mission in Afghanistan fails, and Rambo takes it upon himself to go track down and rescue Trautman after hearing about his capture via the field embassy officer in Thailand. He arrives in Afghanistan and is taken to a small village near the Soviet base where Trautman is being held and tortured for information by Zaysen (Marc de Jonge).

Because of the Soviet army's brutal treatment of the villagers, they do not want to take any direct action for fear of reprisal and leave Rambo to mount a rescue mission on his own. It turns out that a shopkeeper has informed the Soviets of Rambo's presence and they have come to kill him, having heard of his previous exploits. Rambo manages to destroy a helicopter with a machine gun. After the attack, he mounts a three-man assault on the Soviet mountain base.

Viewers of the previous films in the "Rambo" series will be well aware of Rambo's tendency to be an unstoppable one-man army and will accept this as part of the show. However, when Rambo takes wood shrapnel to the torso during the failed assault and immediately cauterizes it, it strains willing suspension of disbelief. He is up and ready for action-in the form of scaling a sheer cliff-the next day despite the severe muscle and tendon damage and shock he should be suffering. On the one hand, the superhuman resilience cements Rambo's status as a pop-culture larger-than-life hero, but on the other, it can undermine the humanity the first film attempted to portray with the character.

Per action-film conventions, Rambo finds Trautman just in the nick of time and saves him and a few other prisoners. They then make their exit in a helicopter, which takes damage as Rambo flies out, eventually crashing and making the prisoners hike the rest of the way to safety. They have to stop in a cave. Rambo and Trautman manage to kill a few Spetsnaz agents in a firefight. The base has mobilized its forces after the two soldiers. Dozens of tanks appear on the plains, and Zysen orders Rambo and his group to stand down and return as prisoners. A "Rambo" film is not complete without a major action sequence, so surrender does not occur. Instead, a force of hundreds of Afghan horsemen sweep onto the field to fight. After the battle, Rambo and Trautman return to the United States.

Overall, the movie pays lip service to the real-life contemporary conflicts, using them as a backdrop for a "one man against an army" story line between America and the Soviet Union. If you can accept improbable action and somewhat campy dialogue, as well as the idea that the film is a kind of propaganda, you can probably enjoy this film for what it is.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5 stars