Rambo III 3
, ,
101 min.
Release Date
Rambo III

In the three years between Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III, Sylvester Stallone grew out and fluffed his hair, decided to remove the “First Blood” and “Part” sections of the title, and resolved that plot was not necessarily a requirement of an action movie. 1985 box office records were blown away with explosive-tip arrows by Part II, only surpassed by Marty McFly’s retro time traveling in Back to the Future, so another Rambo movie seemed inevitable. When the dust settled on this 1988 sequel, the franchise wouldn’t be returned to for twenty years. After watching this dreck on DVD recently, I can understand why.

The story begins with Rambo in Thailand. Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna) teams with another bureaucrat named Griggs (Kurtwood Smith), hoping to enlist Rambo in another covert mission. When they find our hero, he’s stick-fighting in an underground competition—worthy of a bad Jean-Claude Van Damme movie (is there any other kind?)—just for some extra money. Now seemingly contented, Rambo hands over his winnings to local monks, and in return gets a hefty supply of inner peace. Trautman and Griggs offer to destroy that inner peace by proposing Rambo and Trautman head into Afghanistan to arm the Mujahideen with Stinger missiles with which to fight Soviet troops.

Contented, Rambo declines, which turns out to be a bad idea when Trautman and his crew are captured by Soviets. And who’s the one-man wrecking-crew who can fight off all the Soviet army, single-handedly blow up all their tanks and helicopters within the span of 110-minutes, and get back Trautman in the process? John Rambo, that’s who.

Suited up with his bandana, bow with nuclear arrows, and gigantic elephant-killing bowie knife, Rambo joins forces with Afghan rebels to form a unique historical irony. Certainly an interesting time capsule from when American sympathies resided with Afghanistan, the oddity of Rambo III maintains throughout. End titles read “This film is dedicated to the gallant people of Afghanistan”, and after seeing the alternate ending on the “Ultimate Edition” DVD where Rambo stays to help the Mujahideen, this sequel renders itself historically irrelevant. We observe more out of curiosity than emotional involvement. Not that emotion or story play into this sequel.

Rambo tallies a body count somewhere in the billions, dropping the world population enough to free up a few small cities to solve the homelessness situation. One wonders why our government doesn’t just give him an atomic bomb; with it, he could probably define pi. Apart from the bombardment of death, the movie’s tagline gives us that This is so wrong feeling. All those 1980s movie patrons who read “God would have mercy. John Rambo won’t!” on a movie poster are still suffering a burning feeling in their souls. Rambo III is an incessantly dumb movie, filled with pointlessly bloody violence purveyed by a superhero American saving the world. Stallone’s intended message was to make American audiences aware of the then-troubling Afghanistan situation. Today, we watch out of pure peculiarity. It’s too unyielding even to laugh at…

After its release, the 1990 Guinness Book of World Records announced the film’s incredible display of mind-bogglingly masculine ’80s action made it the most violent movie ever made, with “221 acts of violence, at least 70 explosions, and over 108 deaths.” Even if viewed on home video, testosterone glistens off the screen; we receive nonexistent hints of Smell-O-Vision, with scents ranging from man-sweat and human blood. Indeed, our hero’s signature “hunting” knife is several inches longer than the one in First Blood, satisfying all those phallus-obsessed fans with an assurance that, yes, Rambo is still a man. A bigger man than in the first two movies, in fact (he has the higher body count and the bigger penis, er, knife to prove it).

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