Rambo III (1988) starring Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Marc de Jonge, Kurtwood Smith, Spiros Focás, Sasson Gabai directed by Peter MacDonald Movie Review

Rambo III (1988)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Sylvester Stallone in Rambo III (1988)

Friends with Bazookas

Having retreated to a life living in an isolated Buddhist monastery where he only fights to make money for the monks John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone - Over the Top) is less than impressed when old friend Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna - A Case of Deadly Force) along with Government agent Griggs (Kurtwood Smith - RoboCop) track him down and ask him to go on a mission into a Soviet controlled region of Afghanistan. Having refused, Trautman goes ahead with the mission ending up kidnapped and tortured by the evil Colonel Zaysen (Marc de Jonge). When Griggs returns to Rambo and tells him that Trautman has been captured he agrees to go in to rescue his friend.

The originally Rambo trilogy sort of had a narrative; the first movie was about a Vietnam vet emotionally scarred, the second was about him turning patriot to rescue those who fought in the same war and then the third, "Rambo III", is all about the friendship of Rambo and Trautman being the only man he trusts and respects. Sadly what that means is that whilst in the original movie there was a psychological aspect that was whittled away until what we had in "Rambo III" was 99% action and 1% depth. For me that is not the reason why "Rambo III" didn't do well on its original release in America back in 1988 but by then the action genre has been hit hard with one muscle movie after another and audiences were beginning to tire of it all. There were still those who loved these movies, I was one, but those who just enjoyed the initial novelty of big muscle, big action were beginning to look for their kicks else where.

Richard Crenna in Rambo III (1988)

Now because "Rambo III" struggled some people think it is a bad movie and some also think it is bad because it strips away all the depth in favour of action but in doing so it knows what it is and doesn't try to be anything else. In fact "Rambo III" embraces the simplicity of the action not only with big set pieces and violence but also tapping in to the comical aspect of the movie especially when Rambo rescues Trautman and they start their run for freedom.

But there is something about "Rambo III" which wasn't present in the previous movies and that is it almost wants to be an epic. Maybe it is the desert setting but there is a sense of scale in this movie with a lot more cinematography which capitalizes on the location. It's not just the desert scenes as those at the monastery also have an element of scale about them and beauty which was not present in those early movies.

But that does lead me to the acting and because "Rambo III" is little more than action the characters have very little depth what so ever. Stallone is still impressive as Rambo but there is no tortured soul or emotion, purely a man going into to fight to rescue another. And as the character of John Rambo dominates the movie the rest of the cast stand no chance of making their characters more than just flat. Although having said that it is nice that Richard Crenna had a bit more to do in this sequel and certainly makes for an amusing odd couple with Sylvester Stallone.

What this all boils down to is that "Rambo III" doesn't have the depth of the previous two movies but it does have scale and for those just wanting big action it delivers it on being close to an epic scale.