Although the film was already released on Blu Ray a few years ago, Lionsgate has decided to give Rambo a re-release (no doubt to tie in with Stallone’s upcoming film, The Expendables). The new package gives us nine more minutes of footage and a new behind the scenes documentary. With not a whole lot of new material to offer, is the extended cut worth the purchase? Or is it just a feeble attempt by Lionsgate to grab some more money and promote The Expendables?
26 years since the character of John Rambo was first created, Sylvester Stallone brings one of the most iconic 80’s action heroes back to the big screen. The name Rambo has faded from people’s minds in recent years but with the fourth Rambo film, Stallone hopes to change this.
Now in his sixties, Stallone looks like a walking tree trunk. Pumped with a bit too much botox and certainly too much of that HGH hormone, this time around Rambo looks like a true killing machine. His mere presence is something to be afraid of and every time he’s on screen he doesn’t just ask for your attention, he demands it.
Opening with stock footage of the Burma civil war, the longest running civil war in the world, the film sets the tone right off the bat. It reminds us of the authoritarian abuse being carried out in Burma and it helps place the film in a real world context which makes things feel all the more genuine.
The fact that we know this stuff is actually going on, makes Rambo’s inevitable killing spree more than just mindless and gratuitous violence. It makes the violence come off as almost a necessary and justifiable act and one that can be accepted.
After the brief opening footage, we finally get to see our beloved hero. Spending his days in Thailand, Rambo is a bitter and tormented old man who makes a living as a river boat captain. Haunted by the events of his past, Rambo has completely disconnected himself from the real world and distanced himself from anyone he ever knew or loved. Coming off as stoic and haunted, Stallone plays the role with ease and familiarity.
Shortly after the film starts, a group of Colorado missionaries approach Rambo and ask him to take them to Burma. The missionaries want to bring supplies to the people of Burma but Rambo initially refuses. He tells them their efforts are futile and the only things that will solve the problems in Burma are weapons. After the inevitable and eventual persuasion of Rambo by the lead doctor Sarah (Julie Benz), he decides to take them to their destination.
All is fine at first, but when the village that the missionaries are helping out in comes under attack by the Burma military, all hell breaks loose. Rambo learns that the missionaries have been kidnapped and taken hostage. The church, in an attempt to rescue their missionaries, hires a motley crew of mercenaries. Rambo, reluctant to help at first, eventually joins up with the mercenaries and proceeds to tear Burma apart in order to find the missionaries.
In what is a fitting tribute to one of the most beloved action heroes, Rambo is a film that works surprisingly well. The story, acting, directing, editing and everything else all come together to create a well deserved tribute to a truly great film character.
The star here is obviously Stallone and while Julie Benz and Paul Schulze do an adequate job in their role as the lead missionaries, everyone else’s performance is fairly run of the mill. They get the job done but no one stands out. None of the supporting characters have much depth and they’re all forgettable.
It doesn’t really matter though because this is a Rambo film. Stallone is the star here and Stallone is who people came to see. In a role he knows all to well, Stallone instantly embodies the John Rambo that we’ve come to know and love. As he takes Rambo from stoic and pensive to downright vicious and brutal, he’ll have audiences cheering the whole way. Stallone brings back everything that made the character so great and fans of the series will feel right at home here. Like he proved to us in Rocky Balboa, Stallone has still got it.
While Rambo II and Rambo III veered off the edge of seriousness and entered the realm of silly, this time around Stallone sets the tone right away. He wants to deliver a message and he wants to make a point. No more violence for the sake of violence, no more gratuitous gore or killings, everything here is done for a reason. The real life scenario that the film is set in helps drive this tale of war and cruelty and this installment has a much more serious tone than the last two films in the series.
Rambo is a vicious film. Stallone has crafted a tapestry of violence that shows us just how cruel and inhumane people can be. Rape, be-heading, dismemberment and more are all part of the Burma military’s daily activities. These people are monsters; they terrorize the villagers and treat them like animals.
The scene in which the village is attacked by the soldiers is almost painful to watch. Stallone gives us an unapologetic look at the atrocities these soldiers committed. He pulls us into this hell on earth he has created out of Burma and he instantly makes us care about the situation. The film never revels in any of the violence but it doesn’t shy away from it either. It is out to make a point. It’s telling us, ‘hey look, these things really are going on and something needs to be done about it’. It uses violence to deliver its message.
Stallone does a pretty good job directing the film and the action scenes are staged perfectly. There is a perfect amount of build up before every big fight scene and as each one plays out, the violence and action is exhilarating and intense.
The script which was also written by Stallone is fairly good as well but I did have one complaint. Despite its 99 minute runtime, the film took too long to get Rambo to the point where the audience wants to see him at. People want to see Rambo as a one man killing machine. They want the action, the killing, the thrills etc. The film’s more serious and mature tone makes it so that we as the audience have to wait far too long to see Rambo get to that point.
By the time we hit the third act, Rambo is finally unleashed and he decides to take matters into his own hands. What follows next is an explosive symphony of relentless and unyielding violence that doesn’t let up until the film ends. When our fearless hero hops up onto the .50 caliber machine gun, we know that Rambo is about to go apeshit.
Every kill in the film is overkill. Rambo doesn’t just kill men, he obliterates them. Over the top would be an understatement for the killing here. Some of the kills are pretty brutal and nothing is left to the imagination. That being said, it does all provide for some very stylized and entertaining violence. With an explosion of fury and vengeance, Rambo charges head on into the Burma jungle unleashing a barrage of carnage upon the Burma military. Relentless in his goal, Rambo literally decimates anyone who gets in his way.
Taken to the umpteenth degree, the violence in this film is heavy and it’s not afraid to tone it down. It flirts with excessiveness but thankfully it never becomes too gratuitous. The film attempts to justify it all by showing us that this is what needs to be done to stop the Burma military. The film’s portrayal of the enemy also makes the violence against them a bit easier to swallow.
The showcase of violence is certainly a sight to behold even if it is a little over done and unrealistic. One scene in particular has Rambo setting up a claymore mine for the soldiers that are pursuing him. When triggered, the mine goes off but it seems to have the effect of a mini nuke rather than a claymore. It’s way over the top but no doubt entertaining.
After all the killing and thrilling that Rambo has to offer, it will leave you pretty satisfied. Fans of the series will surely enjoy it and casual moviegoers will be satisfied with the high octane and no holds barred action flick that they’ve just seen. Where it fits into the overall Rambo series is up for discussion but I think that most fans will be pleasantly surprised with the film. It is not without fault, but in the end it gives fans exactly what they wanted, an entertaining experience featuring the Rambo we know and love.
Blu-Ray Details and Extras
Both the audio and video look terrific here and are equally as good as they were on the original release of the film. The lush green jungle setting springs to life and mixed in with the strong red blood it provides for a very visually arresting experience. The picture is pretty sharp and the amount of detail is great. Things like the wood on the villager’s huts, clothing, mud, debris etc are all very detailed. There are also a lot of shots showing off some beautiful scenery that all look fantastic and although there is a bit of grain present, the picture looks very good overall.
The pulse pounding audio is just as good as the video. An immersive track no doubt, the audio pulls you in as bullets whiz by, explosions roar through the speakers, rain hammers through the surround sound system and gunfire furiously erupts. The ambient noises from the jungle create a nice atmosphere and bass comes through strong in all the action scenes. Dialogue is never drowned out and Stallone’s trademark one liners all sound great.
One great sounding scene is when Rambo hops up on the .50 caliber machine gun and starts ripping into his enemies. The gunfire pounds through the speakers and envelops the room with its thunderous roar. During the entire third act, which is filled with violence and gunfire, the audio does not let up as it is firing on all cylinders to deliver a great sounding track.
In terms of extras, everything from the original Blu-Ray release was done away with. Instead we get the extended cut of the film, some trailers and an 84 minute production diary. The extended cut adds on about 9 more minutes but none of it is truly significant. A couple of scenes were moved around and recut and there are also some alternate takes.
There are also a couple new scenes. There’s one where Sarah tries to convince Rambo to take them to Burma, a new flashback scene, and an additional scene of Rambo with the snakes at the start of the film. A bit more depth is given to the character of Rambo and although Stallone said that some of the violence was trimmed, I didn’t really notice it. The film is still incredibly violent and whatever trimming was done was minor. Overall, the extended cut doesn’t add a whole lot to the film but it doesn’t take away a whole lot either. Casual fans probably won’t even notice any differences.
The production diary talks about exactly what you’d expect it to. It shows some of the problems they faced while filming, how they overcame the problems, how the actors adapted to the roles, Stallone weighs in on some issues etc. Despite being fairly standard stuff, it is pretty interesting and worth a watch if you enjoyed the film. It’s the only extra on the disc but it is well done and I did enjoy it.
Overall Rambo: Extended Cut is a terrific package. The film itself is great and although it feels slow at some parts as we wait for the action, in the end it’s all worth it. The audio and video are top notch and although we only get one special feature, it’s certainly worth the watch. If you already own the original Blu-Ray this may not be worth the buy but if you haven’t picked up this film on Blu-Ray yet, this is the version to go with.
Stallone proves that he still has what it takes to play John Rambo. This is a very entertaining film with well staged action that looks and sounds great on Blu-Ray.