John Rambo, living in a Buddhist Monastery in Thailand, returns to action when Colonel Trautman is captured by the Soviets while supplying stinger missiles to the Afghan resistance. Rambo opts to go in on a one-man rescue mission to rescue his old commanding officer.
Though there’s a dud stretch with Israeli actors in robes blathering on about the spirit of the Mujahideen and the vileness of the Russian occupation forces in Afghanistan, Rambo III offers the usual procession of fire-fights, shoot-outs, tortures, escapes, one-on-one conflicts, crashing helicopter gunships and minimal dialogue.
The sole stylistic frill is the use of tilted cameras for much of the action, presumably because the cinematographer was cringing out of the way of the explosions. The interesting quirks of David Morrell's original novel First Blood have been ironed out, and the script even tries to take back the entire premise by having Trautman claim he did not turn Rambo into a supersoldier but simply smoothed off the rough edges of a natural warrior king.
With Trautman an unquestioning patriot and Rambo a spaniel-eyed liberal, it's hard to believe these are the same characters we saw before. It doesn't have the comic book verve of Rambo: First Blood, Part 2, and too many sequences that should have been highpoints - the duel between Rambo and a huge Russian soldier, for instance - are fumbled by awkward editing. Stallone often resorts to camp self-parody as a writer and as an actor, and the film goes so far as to have a cavalry rescue climax.
With its busy but painless battles, flip wisecracks and globe-trotting locales, this is more like a Bond movie with its shirt off than a proper Rambo film, and is consequently a good deal less like mindless fun than it might have been.
Strays slightly from the formula and therefore loses some of its mindless fun credentials.
Reviewed by Kim Newman