Rambo III (1988) (part 3 of 4)

Rambo and Mousa finally reach the village (I’m skipping over a lot of stuff here, because I’m a nice guy), and meet with the freedom fighters. Since we don’t have enough heavy-handed stuff going on, we now get a kid named Hamid getting attached to Rambo. Okay, film. Now you’re getting on my bad side.

Long story short, after some more pathos, Rambo and Mousa meet with the freedom fighters, who in spite of being talked up as unstoppable fighters who don’t know the meaning of the word surrender, and who have a few defecting Russians on their side as well as freaking Rambo, prove to be a bit on the reluctant side. Even with a moving explanatory speech by one of them (played by Greek actor Spiros Focas, who was also the bad guy in The Jewel of the Nile), it still ends up with Rambo going it alone.

Rambo III (1988) (part 3 of 4)

And the sound you just heard that reminds you of a flowing river was the entire point the filmmakers were trying to make being whizzed right down their legs. Why build up the freedom fighters this much, only to have them essentially benched until the bottom of the ninth? Sure, we get a nice speech, but we still don’t see them again until the last five minutes of the film.

You know, even though The Living Daylights was primarily a 007 thriller, it still made better use of this conflict, and even there they had enough sense to also throw in a drug/arms deal. Shit, no wonder the Rambo franchise went on a twenty year hiatus after this.

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In the aftermath of the meeting, we get more of Hamid’s backstory, and there’s more bonding between the kid and Rambo. It doesn’t get sappy or anything, but the pathos does get a bit thick.

Rambo is wearing the necklace he got in the second film, from the cute chick he forged a bond with who ended up riddled with bullets. He calls it a good luck charm, and I do have to say that the more I get hit by anvils in this film, the less they hurt. That last one felt like a little mosquito bite, in fact.

You know, at least Death Wish 4 had the courtesy to get the message bullshit out of the way in ten minutes. It’s been so long, I can hardly remember what an explosion looks like!

The pathos is done with, so now it’s time for Rambo to do some light aerobics as he gets drawn into a game with some of the men that involves horses, a dead sheep, and three circles.

And no, that isn’t an opening for a sheep fucking joke. I do have a little more class than that.

Well, okay, in actuality I just can’t think of a good one right now. Sue me. I’m not Robin Williams.

Caption contributed by Ed

Rambo’s first day as caterer for the Roadkill Café.

Rambo gets involved in the game and of course, this being a Stallone movie, it plays out like a Rocky film, with Rambo eventually getting the sheep, and even though the game has only been vaguely explained, at least something’s happening.

The game is broken up when Zaysen and his two choppers attack the village. A shitload of innocent people are killed, and Rambo mostly runs around, finally getting to a big mounted anti-aircraft machine gun and taking out one of the choppers. That makes a body count of about two for Rambo so far. Let’s say one pilot, and maybe a gunner.

And yes, I am going to keep track. Would you expect anything less?

After the attack, the survivors are heading for the border, but of course, Rambo is ready to go in and kick ass. He’s told to go back, and that this isn’t his war. Rambo simply replies, “It is now,” and with that, the message portion of our film is over.

Rambo III (1988) (part 3 of 4)

Now, it starts getting good. And we’re 49 minutes in, which means there’s less than an hour to go. Say what you will about Cannon movies, but at least they tended to not waste a lot of time. Well, at least not as much as Stallone does in his scripts.

Mousa goes along with Rambo, and even though Hamid is told not to come, you just know he’s going to show up later. To be fair, this is hardly the worst use of a kid in a movie I’ve seen. He never comes off as cutesy, and really doesn’t do anything truly irritating. Of course, he’s still a fifth wheel for the next few minutes, but screw it, we’re on to the good stuff now!

Strap in, folks. Reality is taking a backseat, common sense has left the building, and Rambo is ready for action.

We begin at night at Zaysen’s base, as Rambo and Mousa sneak in through a minefield, with Rambo checking for mines with his knife. Evidently, this is the element of surprise Rambo was going for, mainly because the Russians probably figured nobody would be stupid enough to try it. This being a Stallone film, it works perfectly, of course.

They get past the minefield and go through some tripwires lined with grenades, with Mousa getting stuck, of course, and Hamid showing up from out of nowhere.

There’s a lot more sneaking around and setting of explosives, as we periodically cut back to Zaysen and his men torturing and killing prisoners. One funny bit I have to mention is when Rambo evades detection by grabbing onto the bottom of an oncoming tank and going for a little ride.

Rambo III (1988) (part 3 of 4)

Rambo finally makes it into the prison area, finding Trautman’s cell. As he’s about to free him, Hamid appears, followed by a guard who gets a knife in the throat. Four more get ventilated, and the body count is up to eight.

As Rambo shoots victim #9, the bombs go off, so let’s add about six or seven to the total. Three or four are taken out by another explosion, and I think we’ve gotten to 20 in record time!

Rambo tosses a grenade, bringing us to 22, as Zaysen and his men begin to panic. Understandable, I’d say. It’s not every day a one man army drops by to kick your ass. Well, maybe in action movies it is.

Five more go down as Rambo and Hamid make a break for it. Rambo gets another (for a total of 28), but Hamid takes a bullet to the leg courtesy of Zaysen. And then Rambo ends up with some shrapnel embedded in his side courtesy of the obligatory Giant Guard.

This only pisses Rambo off, as he takes out two more from the ground before getting up. Jesus, this is great! This film has gone from lame to awesome in the span of ten minutes! I think it’s because they’re not letting Stallone or anyone else talk.

He tosses another grenade, which takes out at least one guy (29 and counting) and comes out of the building with the kid over his shoulder. Now wounded and lugging Hamid around, Rambo is a one-armed killing machine. Shockingly enough, this does nothing to affect his abilities, as he and Mousa make it into the sewer system, but not before bringing the body count up to 32. Oh, and Mousa gets to kill a few, just so he’s not completely useless in the scene.

Rambo and company make their way through the sewers, pursued by a few soon to be very dead soldiers. Rambo rigs a bomb in one of the tunnels, and hides underwater until they’re close. Because he’s an ‘80s action hero, and therefore can sense when the enemy is just where he needs them to be, we get a hilarious shot of Rambo rising from the water to shoot the bad guys just as the bomb goes off, bringing us spectacularly to 34, and allowing Rambo and the others to escape.

Rambo pries a grating loose with his bare hands, and they all escape to where horses are being led by a freedom fighter. Of course, there are still loads more Russians, so our body count is about to spike upwards a lot more, I would guess.

Rambo III (1988) (part 3 of 4)

The random freedom fighter is shot by a guard in a tower, so Rambo grabs a rocket launcher, while deftly avoiding the bullets that fly around him. He takes aim at a truck underneath the tower and takes it out, probably bumping us up to one or two more dead Russians. Rambo and company ride off as the Russians tip over the fallen truck (actually, it’s more like the shell of a truck at this point).

In Trautman’s cell, he’s given a beating, and Zaysen demands info on Rambo, saying he’ll hunt him down and skin him.

Trautman: You don’t have to hunt him. He’ll find you.
Zaysen: Are you insane? One man against thirty commandos? Who do you think this man is, God?
Trautman: No. God would have mercy. He won’t.

Ah, words to live by. Damn, Richard Crenna was a good actor!

In a cave somewhere, Rambo tends to Hamid’s wound, and gives him the good luck charm necklace, and then sends him off with Mousa to join the other rebels. This leads to the most hilarious part of the movie: the self-surgery sequence.

Rambo has a bullet he got from Mousa, from which he extracts the gun powder. He pushes the shrapnel out through the wound (we get a nice bloody close-up of this), and pours in the gun powder, after which he jams a flaming stick into the exit wound (shrapnel went in pretty deep, I guess) where it blows out the entry point, cauterizing the wound.

Caption contributed by Ed

That’s the worst case of acid reflux I’ve ever seen!

Somehow, “Holy shit!” doesn’t quite cover it. I do have an explanation for how the man can survive this, though. It’s the shirt, or rather the lack thereof. Note what happens to him when he’s wearing a shirt. He thinks, he broods, he gets hurt, he’s somewhat mortal.

Take the shirt off, and he’s an indestructible force of nature. It holds true for the second film, and it holds true for this one. The first one is counted out because they were sort of going for reality, and as for the fourth one—Do you really want to see Stallone without a shirt these days?

And because his shirt was torn off, I think the body count in this movie is about to reach biblical levels.

Ed Harris

A fan of less than great cinema since childhood, Ed divides his time between writing scripts, working an actual paying job and subjecting himself willingly to some of the worst films society has produced.

Multi-Part Article: Rambo III (1988)

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