Rambo III (1988) – Peter MacDonald

Sylvester Stallone’s third outing as Vietnam vet John Rambo came racing on the heels of the second film. Watching it now, it’s interesting to see how the political times have changed, as Rambo’s adventure takes him to Afghanistan this time.

Living in the Far East, Rambo is found by his old CO, Trautman (Richard Crenna) and Griggs (Kurtwood Smith), and offered a new assignment. Trautman asks Rambo to join him on an exploratory mission in Afghanistan to find a way to aid the rebels against the invading Soviet forces.

Rambo, knowing he has to leave the war and violence behind, declines, so Trautman goes it alone and is promptly captured by the Russians. Griggs reveals this to Rambo, and John knows that this time, the mission he will take on is personal.

So off he goes, on an off-the-book mission, which will put him smack-dab in the rebels’ encampment, palling around with child soldiers, and getting ready to infiltrate a Russian fortress to rescue his friend.

Stallone helps to pen the screenplay and the film boasts a score by Jerry Goldsmith (he’s scored all three of them). It’s loud and exciting, even as the story stumbles here and there with the way the idea of child soldiers is handled, the lack of real discussion of politics (the story needed Rambo to fight the Russians, and Afghanistan seemed like the best location, though the Russians were pulling out by the time the film was released).

Stallone is in great shape and seems intent on honoring the character he’s created, even as he takes on the seemingly insurmountable odds led by Zaysen (Marc de Jonge).

This outing is the biggest budgeted film of the three and there is a lot of it to be found on the screen; great locations, pyrotechnics, set pieces and Stallone kicking ass with his really long knife and his bow and arrow (not to mention an array of firearms).

Watching it now in the 21st century some of it doesn’t really work (and one wonders how much of it worked at the time) but the idea that Rambo gets pulled into action (again) makes sense with the way it plays out. He’s done his time for country, but for his friend, one of the only ones he still has, he’d do it.’

Rambo Part III is a fun, fairly brainless 80s action flick, embracing the ‘us vs. them’ sentiments of the time that made the Russians baddies in everything and let Stallone cement himself as one of the leading action heroes of the time.

He would set aside the character for twenty years, but in 2008, Stallone would slip behind the camera to direct Rambo’s next outing…

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