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When a group of missionary aid workers in Myanmar disappear into the vast green inferno, vigilante Vietnam War veteran John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) leaves his job as a Salween River boatman behind to accompany a group of mercenaries on a daring rescue mission. It's been twenty years since Rambo helped mujahedeen rebels fend off Soviet invaders in Afghanistan, and these days the former soldier lives a simple life in northern Thailand. But it's time now for Rambo to take up arms once more and mete out his own, unique, brand of justice.
For more about Rambo and the Rambo Blu-ray release, see the Rambo Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 29, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish
Director: Sylvester Stallone
» See full cast & crew
Rambo Blu-ray Review
The best 'Rambo' since 'First Blood' brings its title character full circle in an emotional and fitting resolution.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 29, 2008
Live for nothing or die for something.
"It's a long road when you're on your own." So begin the lyrics to the theme song from 1982's First Blood, the movie that introduced the world to the cinematic representation of John Rambo, played by Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa), a legendary character first presented to the fictional world in David Morrell's novel "First Blood," originally published in 1972. A long road indeed, the John Rambo character is now in his 26th year since the first film was released, and 2008's Rambo marks the third sequel to the now-famed franchise. First Blood is a film near and dear to my heart -- it's a terrific movie not just because of the action, acting, or direction, but because of the human drama and the film's representation of a generation of Vietnam veterans and their search for both acceptance and place to call home after an unpopular war. Stallone's portrayal of Rambo in the film's final minutes is one of the most gut-wrenching and well-acted scenes in cinematic history, his breakdown playing in stark contrast to the previous ninety minutes of raw energy, stamina, and skill displayed by the character, leaving us with a sense that all he wants is to discover who he is and put his past behind him. That theme was explored in the next two films but never brought full circle. Thankfully, Rambo does just that, leaving this longtime fan of the character wholly satisfied and emotionally fulfilled.
As Rambo begins, audiences are shown stock footage of the devastation wrought by civil war in Burma, a war, we are told, that is the longest-running civil war in the world. A group of Colorado missionaries, led by Michael Burnett (Paul Schulze, Zodiac) and accompanied by Sarah (Julie Benz, TV's "Angel") approach a bitter John Rambo, now playing out his life in Thailand and making a living as a river boat captain, asking him to take them into Burma. Rambo initially refuses because Burma is a country where villages are destroyed, people slaughtered, and young boys forcibly enlisted into the military. The missionaries intentions to bring medicine, prayer books, and support to the people are foolhardy, according to Rambo, who says that the only thing that will make a difference are weapons. Ultimately, Sarah convinces Rambo to take them. All of a sudden, an explosion rocks the village where the missionaries are doctoring the locals and spreading the Word of God, and the villagers are slaughtered. The brutality of the scene is stomach churning, not so much because of the on-screen gore, but because of the inhumanity of it. Rambo soon thereafter meets with the church's pastor, learns the missionaries have been kidnapped, and agrees to ferry a ragtag group of mercenaries the church has hired to rescue them. John Rambo must choose to either accept his lot in life as a soldier and work with the mercenaries to save the missionaries or continue to isolate himself from the world and leave them behind, once and for all eschewing what he is and continuing to live out his life in misery.
Rambo is a fitting tribute for longtime fans of the character and franchise, such as myself, because the film is a conclusive tribute to the classic series, and for our dedication to the character of John Rambo, we receive this final reward where the character reaches a destination we've wanted him to arrive at since the end of First Blood. I must admit to being apprehensive about the film based on the marketing campaign that focused solely on the violence and played with that "let the bodies hit the floor" music, but much to my relief, the movie understands its roots, its characters, and its place in the franchise. Right from the typeface used during the opening credits, which hearkens back to those used on previous Rambo films, not to mention the use of Jerry Goldmith's famed theme, I felt reassured that the filmmakers had not left behind the themes and ideas of the previous films, especially those of the first. Goldsmith's mesmerizing, trumpet-heavy theme feels right at home in Rambo, and many of the sensory touches in the film's opening sequence brought back memories of the first three films. What follows is indeed a violent, gruesome film, but unlike so many others, the violence is a necessary evil not only to tell the story, but a means of showcasing who Rambo is and resolving his decades-old emotional crisis.
Other critics have denounced the film for its unrelenting violence but have missed the point of the film. Indeed, the film is one of the more gruesome I've seen with violence akin to that of Saving Private Ryan, but the violence isn't the reason for the film's existence. Despite the unrelenting violence depicted at the film's climax, it is nevertheless one of the most intense and well-staged action pieces I've seen. The film exists, as written by Sylvester Stallone himself, not only as a means of calling out attention to the atrocities in Burma, but also as a fitting "end of the journey" for John Rambo. You know what you are. What you're made of. War is in your blood. Don't fight it. You didn't kill for your country, you killed for yourself. The gods are never gonna make that go away. When you're pushed, killing's as easy as breathing. With this, Rambo has chosen his destiny, and come full circle, finally accepting what he is rather than trying to run away from it, as he tried desperately to do in the first three Rambo films. Here, he also eschews the hatred he feels toward the world he lives in (which is well-depicted early in the film when he initially refuses to help the missionaries), a hatred that is understandable and grounded in his experiences as depicted in the first three films of the series. The movie ends far better than I could have ever hoped. It's the absolutely perfect end to the entire franchise, and even though a fifth Rambo film is said to be in the works, I cannot imagine it topping the simple yet honest ending of this film, an ending I've been waiting for since I first saw First Blood years ago.
Rambo Blu-ray, Video Quality
Rambo hits Blu-ray with an impressive 1080p high definition transfer, framed in the film's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The picture looks a bit intentionally saturated which results in an image that appears a bit brighter than normal with black levels that are a bit bright and gray at times. The print is pristine, as is to be expected, free of any blemish. The darker scenes, of which there are many in the first two acts of the film, look good, considering the lighting conditions (say, the dim artificial light and moonlight providing the only lighting on Rambo's boat in chapter four). The colors of the jungle are incredibly lush and vibrant. Detail is excellent, be it on the wood and sticks and hay that make up some of the villager's dwellings, or the material of the clothing worn by the missionaries (look at the stitching in the white hat worn by Sarah), or even the lines on the worn face of John Rambo himself. The gruesome "day after" scenes at the slaughtered village show painstaking and gut-wrenching detail, not only of the violence but also in the mud, murky water, dirt, and debris; we can almost feel the filth and gore depicted in the scene. The image is virtually grain-free; grain is only visible during the darker sequences. Rambo looks fantastic on Blu-ray. Unfortunately, it's not the finest presentation I've seen on the format, but the transfer befits the mood of the film perfectly nevertheless.
Rambo Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Rambo explodes onto Blu-ray with a reference-quality DTS-HD MA 7.1 channel lossless sound presentation that may very well be the finest I've heard to date. That score that I love so much sounds fantastic here, easily the best I've heard it (and far surpassing the MP3 version I have playing in the background as I write). This entire soundtrack provides room-filling sound that is focused in the front but finds its way into the rears to truly engulf the viewer in the experience of hearing it again, sounding so good it's like hearing it for the first time. Even the most subtle of nuances throughout this track sound great. Take, for example, the snake charming scene at the beginning of the movie in Thailand. The man announcing what's happening on the microphone is played and placed appropriately in the right channels, and it truly does sound like a man on a cheap microphone being played through a cheap speaker. A rainstorm in chapter three envelopes the viewer, perhaps the most natural rainstorm I've ever heard on a Blu-ray disc. Ambience is always heard in the rears, be it flowing water or the chirping of insects, all making this a highly realistic soundtrack. Dialogue reproduction is excellent. Stallone's grisly, reserved voice comes to life on this disc, his performance enhanced by not only his demeanor and the way he carries himself and his character, but also through the raw emotion heard every time he speaks, an emotion effortlessly conveyed by this high-quality soundtrack.
Of course, this track truly shines the most during the action sequences. A mortar attack on the village in chapter six is frightening, the chaos of the moment represented to great and chilling effect by the pounding soundtrack. Every gunshot packs a punch, be it from pistol shots or the repeated thumps of AK-47s or the awesome power of the .50 caliber weapons used throughout the film. One character carries a Barrett 82A1/M107 semi automatic .50 caliber rifle, and is ordered to fire a single round by Rambo at one point in the third act of the film that marks the beginning of the film's climax. The shot hits home, reverberating through my chest and entire body and shaking my media room. It's not just the initial crack of the gun, but it's so powerful that we can still feel the reverberations seconds after the bullet is away. On an even larger scale is the subsequent explosion of an old World War II bomb left behind for some 65 odd years. Once the climactic gun battle begins, the track is simply too powerful and devastating for words. Needless to say, it's an adrenaline rush just listening to it, let alone watching it. Every channel is a barrage of gunfire, representing the zenith of gunfights on home video. Lionsgate has certainly not failed in their endeavor to recreate this experience for home, and if your viewers can stomach the violence, this is your new reference disc for lossless audio presentation.
Rambo Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Rambo joins the fight on Blu-ray with an impressive selection of bonus materials. Leading things off is a feature-length commentary track by writer/actor/director Sylvester Stallone. Stallone begins the track by discussing the problems in Burma and why the public isn't more aware of the situation. Sly offers up yet another great track (have a listen to his thoughts on First Blood). He proves himself to be a highly intelligent and eloquent man, far from the stereotype that surounds his persona. He reaches in-depth to every facet of the movie and rarely permits dead air to interfere with the track. Sly discusses the plausibility of all the action scenes, going so far as to actually shoot dummies with a bow and arrow at the distances depicted in the movie to ensure that such a shot could be made, albeit by a great marksman only (which Rambo is). He also discusses the brutality which occurs at the end of the film, justifying the damage the weapons do, defending the chaos during the scene, and pointing out some character arcs that are completed during this sequence. The comments are fascinating, the track one of the best I've heard, and is a must-listen.
Next is a bonus view (Blu-ray profile 1.1) picture-in-picture commentary track that runs over the length of the film (although it's not always on-screen). The commentary track itself is the same one heard and described above, but this time with behind-the-scenes footage (sometimes the movie breaks for some full-screen featurettes) as well as showing Sylvester Stallone as he provides the track. It's a bit disconnecting watching him look at the camera and deliver his comments, but it's a nice addition to the disc. The entire track runs for just over two hours and the full-screen segments are presented in 1080p high definition.
Seven featurettes are next. It's a Long Road: Resurrection of an Icon (1080i, 19:44) looks at the origins of the story, the skepticism of brining the character back after such a long layoff, and other ideas for the story. This feature also focuses on the difficulties inherent in filming in Thailand, and the hardships of shooting a movie in general. A Score to Settle: The Music of 'Rambo' (1080i, 6:31) looks at Brian Tyler's score and Jerry Goldsmith's influence on it, as well as the input from Sly Stallone. The Art of War: Part 1: Editing (1080i, 6:47) examines the editing process and the fine work of editor Sean Albertson and second editor Paul Harb. Much of this piece has a comedic twist to it scattered amongst the finer details. The Art of War: Part 2: Sound (1080i, 3:15) is a brief behind-the-scenes look at the importance of making sure the sound was on par with the excellence of the rest of the movie and what realistic sound can add to a good movie. The Weaponry of 'Rambo' (1080i, 14:23) is a firearms enthusiast's dream featurette. Armorer/property master Kent Johnson takes us through the weapons seen throughout the film (including the .50 caliber sniper rifle and the rough knife made by Rambo in the film) and the firearms training the actors endured for their roles. A Hero's Welcome: Release and Reaction (1080i, 9:31) looks at the film's premiere, an appearance there by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the reaction of the fans to the film and its return to its roots, and the reactions of real soldiers to the film. Finally, Legacy of Despair: The Real Struggle in Burma (1080i, 10:42) looks at the history of the conflict in Burma.
Four deleted scenes (1080p, 13:44) are available on this disc. Rambo is a BD-Live (Blu- ray profile 2.0) compatible disc and it features "MoLog," which allows users to chat via text while the movie is playing. 1080p trailers for First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo III, Rambo, the Rambo Ultimate Edition DVDs, War, Crank, and The Punisher. Finally, Rambo comes with a separate DVD disc that contains a digital copy that can be transfered to a personal computer for playback on said computer or various portable video devices.
Rambo Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
John Rambo is a character I care deeply about. His ordeal as a man in First Blood, not knowing his place in life, wondering what it is he's become (or has always been), is resolved in this film, and the ending was absolutely better than I could have hoped for, one of the finest conclusions to not only a movie, but to a man and a franchise in film history. It's simple yet powerful, Rambo's final choice hearkening back to the "long road" theme that runs through the films. The Blu-ray edition of Rambo is spectacular. From an incredible video transfer, to what could be classified as a historically great lossless soundtrack, to a wonderful supplemental section that is as entertaining as it is informative, this Blu-ray is as good as the movie itself. Well done, Mr. Stallone. Your latest film, the entire Rambo franchise, and the Blu-ray discs on which they now proudly reside receive my highest recommendation.
Rambo: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with Rambo (2 bundles)
Rambo Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Amazon Blu-ray Deals of the Week: Apocalypse Now and Rambo (Expired) - June 4, 2012
Amazon's Blu-ray Deals of the Week affect both Lionsgate Home Entertainment's Apocalypse Now: Full Disclosure Edition as well as the distributor's Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set. Through June 9th, Amazon is offering Apocalypse Now for $20.99 and Rambo: The ...
• Amazon Blu-ray Deal of the Week: The Complete Rambo Collector's S... - October 30, 2011
Amazon's Blu-ray Deal of the Week affects Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set. The collection bundles together all four films starring filmmaker Sylvester Stallone's iconic action hero as well as a wide assortment of bonus supplements. Through November 5th, Amazon ...
• Lightning Deal: Rambo 1-3 Blu-ray for $18.49 (Expired) - May 11, 2010
Amazon has an interesting Blu-ray related lightning deal: up to 2 p.m. PDT, you can order the Rambo 1-3 Box Set on Blu-ray (consisting of First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III) for only $18.49 (56% off MSRP). This works out to a little over $6 ...
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