Dir: Peter MacDonald, 1988
The rule of thumb, is that by a third film, the appeal has worn off and is seldom a good film.
Sadly, Rambo III adheres to that rule, earning its title as the worst in the tetralogy.
Living a quiet life in a monastery in Thailand, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) makes a living by doing odd jobs for the monks and stick fighting.
However, his serenity is disturbed when American officials inform him that his commanding officer, Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna), has been captured behind enemy lines.
Under an illegal operation, Rambo infiltrates an Afghanistan compound and risks his life to save his friend.
To say it’s a bad film, isn’t fair. It isn’t. Not by a long shot. The movie just lacks the quantity of action that is found in the previous entries.
More dialogue laden than First Blood and Rambo: First Blood Part II, Stallone attempts to reinvigorate the last little bit of humanity that Rambo has left.
But, this slows everything down and, aside from the stick battle at the beginning, not much action happens. It takes a while for the movie to kick in.
Too much time is spent on Rambo’s character. As the last entry showed, the emotionless and robotic green beret generated much more excitement as he didn’t worry about exploding people into little pieces.
As a co-writer, Stallone tries to bring Rambo back from the indestructible comic book incarnation that he was in Part II. Highlighting the plight of rebel forces, and the fact that children as young as 10 are being trained to use weapons, Rambo III becomes more drama than action.
That’s all well and good, but it’s a Rambo film. And in a Rambo film, we want to see a one man army ignoring pain and bringing down the bad guys, singlehandedly, with a spoon or chip shop fork or something equally as ridiculous.
It’s there, that the biggest flaw lies. All this righteousness brings the film to a halt. Rambo III is incredibly slow, and drags itself along at a snail’s pace.
Unfortunately, the film’s release came at a very awkward time in the UK. Where the previous entries passed through the censors doors unscathed, this installment was due to be released when the Hungerford massacre happened. It was alleged, that the murderer was an obsessive fan of First Blood and violent movies were responsible for him committing the atrocities.
Inevitably, this caused an uproar in the press and government ministers held talks about whether violence in films and videos could incite someone to commit murder.
Right in the middle of the furore, was the British censors, being treated as a scapegoat and accused of being too lenient on violent scenes.
It’s important to remember, that only five years earlier the UK had to endure the “video nasty” upset, where violent videos were tried and prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act. The tragedy at Hungerford seemed set to re-ignite the fire. As a result of the fallout, the censors’ hands were tied, and they were compelled to take the scissors to Rambo III, the only film to receive the treatment.
Yet, even taking the backlash into consideration, the censors were still rather lenient, making only minimal cuts of just over a minute. The video, however, fared less well. Over three minutes was removed, before an ’18’ certificate was granted. Scenes taken out, included much of the stick fight, bloody impacts, stabbings, bones breaking and electric torture. A small cut was also made to Rambo cauterising an injury.
It wasn’t until the DVD release, many years later, that the film was finally issued with all the censored footage re-instated, bar a two second shot of a horsefall.
Overall, some enjoyment is to be had; it’s just not as good as the first two.