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Blu-ray Review

The Ultimate Rambo Blu-ray Collection


Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Brian Dennehy, Charles Napier, Steven Berkoff, Marc de Jonge, Kurtwood Smith and Julie Benz
Optimum Home Entertainment
RRP: £69.99
Certificate: 18
Available 23 June 2008

When, for no apparent reason, a small town police chief (Brian Dennehy) arrests a vagrant hitchhiker, little does he realise that he has set in motion a catastrophic series of events. The vagrant in question is in fact John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), congressional Medal of Honour winner and Vietnam war hero. Responding to the harassment of his captors with sudden ferociousness. Rambo makes a daring escape from the small town jail, steals a motorcycle and roars off to the shelter of the nearby mountains. As the manhunt begins Rambo is in his element preparing himself for a one man war...

First Blood (1982) was the movie that started it all off. This is still a good, solid action adventure - the sort that Hollywood don't tend to make these days. Stallone doesn't really have to act, but when he does he only has to make you believe that he's a crazy man who is having a breaking down.

Another element that I though was interesting is that the movie almost seems to be written for a black character. The Sheriff's comments to Rambo at the start of the movie would have been stronger if Rambo were black. There would have been more tension there as the Sheriff tells Rambo he doesn't want his sort in his town - and then quickly adds to that statement that he doesn't like travellers breezing into his town.

While Rambo heads back into town, because he is annoyed at the way America treated its soldiers as they returned from Vietnam and wants to make a stand, it does look a little as though Rambo is just a bit of a nut. Again, a black character would have come off more rational - after all not only would he be angry that he wasn't allowed to eat in the town because he was a soldier, but there would also be the race angle for him to get justifiably angry about, and make the decision to stand up for his rights.

There's also a great unintentional comedy moment when the Sheriff picks Rambo up. Stallone mumbles, almost incomprehensibly: "Why are you pushing me?" To which the sheriff replies: "What did you say?"

This movie still stands up well today and is an entertaining action adventure.

Also, look out for an early screen role from David Caruso - who would go on to become the insufferably smug ginger head of CSI: Miami, Horatio Caine.

The only extra is the Sly Versus Rambo Interview - Paris 2008 (8 min 40 sec interview with Stallone.) It's not overly interesting, and to be honest I'm surprised that no other extras were included.

Rambo is released from prison and is sent back to present day Vietnam. His mission: To track down American MIAs. The plan: A parachute into forbidding jungle. With nothing but a serrated knife and a bow with arrows, he is told not to engage the enemy, just to take reconnaissance pictures. Betrayed by his own, Rambo struggles against deadly odds and vows revenge on those who made him an enemy. No man, no law, no war can stop him...

I have to admit to not having seen Rambo: First Blood - Part II (1985) before. I remember at the time thinking that one movie starring Rambo was enough, and that additional films would just spoil the original.

While this sequel isn't as good as First Blood, there's still plenty to recommend it - and I now wish I'd gone to see it on its original cinematic release. Rambo no longer appears to be crazy, or angry at the world, and despite the fact he's supposed to be an efficient killing machine with no emotions, he tends to do the right thing by killing only those who deserve it because they are the baddies.

There's an obvious attempt to steer this a little more towards James Bond territory. There's a female interest for our hero, and plenty of scenes with Rambo shown doing the right thing and not just killing for the sake of it.

We get another chance to watch the same interview as on the first disc - which is a bit of a con really. While I know these discs are being released as single edition discs too, there's not much incentive to buy the Blu-ray releases when the studio can't even be bothered to add any serious value added content.

This is a good solid follow-up to the original - well worth your time.

When John Rambo refuses the request of his old platoon leader Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna) for a new mission, he carries on with his new Buddhist life. However, when Colonel Trautman is kidnapped by the Soviets at the Afghanistan border, and the American government are unable to take official action, Rambo decides to take action of his own. This time, it’s for his friend...

Rambo III (1988) may be one movie too far for most people, I have to admit that I really enjoyed it. Again, this is the first time I've seen it and I was surprised at how fresh the film feels.

Despite the fact that Rambo's training was in jungle warfare, the desert beckons. To be honest though, this isn't as much of a problem as I was expecting - the idea is nowhere near as ludicrous as it seems.

Yes, you've guessed it. We get the same Sly Versus Rambo Interview - Paris 2008 as an extra.

Again, this movie is an enjoyable piece of mindless fun, and well worth watching.

Having survived many a treacherous campaign Vietnam vet John Rambo has withdrawn to lead a simple life in a remote Thai village near the Burmese boarder. When a group of Christian missionaries that he helped get into war-torn Burma fail to return, Rambo must lead a gang of mercenaries headed by psychotic Lewis (Graham Mctavish) to rescue them from their sadistic captors: Burmese government soldiers. Though hugely outnumbered Rambo and his men raid the army camp, rescuing the captives and making a break for the river. The army is soon hunting them down and the mother of all fights take place with Rambo back do doing what he does best...

Rambo (2008) was written and directed by Sylvester Stallone. I have to be totally honest here, I was expecting the worst! Again, as with the previous sequels, this was not a movie that really appealed to me on its cinematic release. As soon as I heard there was a new Rambo film, especially coming on the heels of Stallone revisiting Rocky, my mind switched off. It sounded like a guaranteed turkey. I mean, come on, it's been 20 years since Rambo III came out, surely John Rambo is a bit of a has been by now.

I was also under the impression that old Sly had maybe hit upon hard times. Why on earth else would he revisit two iconic characters from his past, unless he need the money?

Thankfully I was wrong in every respect. Stallone does have something new to say - and, as it happens, something damn important. The problems in Burma have never really been tackled to the same extent as other problems throughout the world. I mean, hand on heart, how many people in the west really know what atrocities are being committed over there?

Stallone is also, I was surprised to discover, a damn fine writer and director. Rambo is by far the most shocking of the franchise, and it goes for realism in almost every aspect. I'd say that this is probably the best movie in the series. The message is loud and clear (but is subtly delivered to the audience).

Extras include an audio commentary with Sylvester Stallone (which can be played with or without picture in picture footage of Stallone which cuts to behind the scene film as the movie progresses. This is a really interesting commentary, as Stallone explains his reasons for making this film, as well as pointing out how accurate everything is. While this is a fantasy movie, a lot of the scenes are based on documented events); It’s a Long Road: The Resurrection of an Icon (19 min, 47 sec look at why Stallone felt this movie needed to be made and why he is passionate about the plight of the innocent Burmese people); A Score to Settle: The Music of Rambo (6 min, 03 sec look at the work of composer Brian Tyler and how he tried to keep the style of the previous Rambo movies which were composed by the late Jerry Goldsmith); The Art of War: Part I - Editing (6 min, 47 sec look at the editing. Stallone starts off with a tongue in cheek intro that explains that he and his daughter edited the movie in their garage - then we get interviews with the real editors); The Art of War: Part II - Sound (3 min, 15 sec look at the use of sound in the movie); The Weaponry of Rambo (14 min, 23 sec interview with props master Kent Johnson, who was the weapons expert on the movie. It was interesting to learn that Stallone actually designed and made the knife he uses in the film); A Hero's Welcome: Release and Reaction (9 min 31 sec cast interviews about their experience of the premiere); Legacy of Despair: The Real Struggle in Burma (10 min, 42 sec featurette that includes shocking real footage. It was interesting to hear that the movie has been banned in Burma, and anyone caught with a copy is likely to be imprisoned); Deleted Scenes (13 min, 51 sec of scenes cut from the movie. Possibly the only one that would have enriched the movie is the scene on the boat with Rambo and Sarah - only there are a few bits of corny dialogue here, but otherwise this bonds their relationship much more than it did in the finished movie); and a few trailers for other releases.

The extras on the final movie are pretty impressive - it's just a shame that there weren't any decent extras on the other discs. This collection works out at £17.50 a disc, which is a little expensive when you consider that the first three discs don't feature much in the way of value added content. If you've got a large HD TV, then I'd recommend buying the Blu-ray collection, otherwise the DVD set might be better value for money as the RRP is less than half the price of the Blu-ray release.

Overall though, this is certainly a collection that will appeal to both fans who grew up on these movies, as well as those coming to this series for the first time.


Darren Rea

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