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Rambo (2008) - 4K blu-ray Review

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Rambo (2008)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is the theatrical review I did back in 2008. My views haven’t changed. This is an awesome return to form.

If the last couple of years have taught us anything it should be never underestimate Sylvester Stallone. He was mocked at the beginning of his career and brought us Rocky. His popularity waned in the late 90’s and when word trickled down he was reviving not only his famous boxer, but the 80’s bandana-wearing cartoon character Rambo, more scoffs were heard.

"Stallone is back, his instincts and devotion to relevance are back, and so long as they remain, so is our willingness to watch"


 

It is said that everything in life moves in circles, and what once was will be again. Never has that been truer than for Stallone. He wowed us with his efforts to see off Rocky respectfully, and in Rambo he replicates that effort by returning his equally famous character to his roots, better than any of the other sequels.

I wasn’t convinced there was a place for this character in a new century, but Rambo has managed to remind this reviewer of something he’d had forgotten. Before the excesses of Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III, the character was compellingly, relatable human. The over the top super-human he would later become was nowhere to be seen in the original, and in this latest installment, Stallone strips away those silly, cartoonish excesses to present a relatable hero once more.

This fourth entry finds John Rambo living an isolated existence on the border of Burma (2019 edit* Now called Myanmar). A team of volunteers disrupt his solitude with a request to charter his boat into one of the most violent and dangerous war zones on the planet today. Of course, as always, Rambo is reluctant to do it, but eventually succumbs to the gentle but persistent pressure of a beautiful blonde volunteer (Julie Benz). All Rambo has to do is insert them into the area and go home. He does so, but of course things go down the proverbial shitter right quick for the do-gooders and it’s left to Rambo and—one of the few action clichés present—a rag tag band of devil-may-care mercenaries to save their asses.

What follows is one of the most shockingly violent action films ever conceived, but to accuse it of being excessive or glorifying is to miss the point of Stallone’s intention. Burma is a real war zone. Genocide and atrocities at the hands of a corrupt military regime are happening there now, daily. Stallone wanted this represented in an honest, unflinching and realistic way and delivers scenes that you may find yourself tearing up in, such is the brutality and realism displayed. He spares you nothing on the subject: from the effects of landmines planted to catch unsuspecting villagers to the rape and murder of women to children thrown into flames and burned to death—nothing is left unexplored or shied away from.Rambo (2008)

The story is simplistic, almost abruptly brief, and sticks closely to its aforementioned agenda. There are still some very Rambo-esque moments that take you out of the hell on earth milieu Stallone is going for, particularly in the final reel, but they are balanced enough not to detract (and for die-hard fans of the entire series they will probably be welcome.) Gone are the silly one-liners, so over-used in the 80’s (and not just by Rambo), and in their place is a pseudo-wise-man like mantra as Rambo shifts back into action: ‘Live for nothing or die for something.’ On the face of it, this seems a little too neat for the character, considering the amount of time that has past, but Stallone is no fool – he’s exposing just enough to get you interested and laying the groundwork for further exploration into his character’s return to civilization… in another sequel of course (2019 edit* TOOK A WHILE!).

All involved should be proud of their efforts. Action films have become the sparse genre in the last decade, and to see one from one of the greatest action stars alive, who is smart enough to adapt to a new world, and humble enough to admit—and avoid—his former out of date transgressions is a treat to behold. Stallone is back, his instincts and devotion to relevance are back, and so long as they remain, so is our willingness to watch.

4/5 stars

Rambo (2008)

4K UHD

4K UHD Details:

Home Video Distributor: Lionsgate Films
Available on Blu-ray
- September 3, 2019
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, Spanish
Audio:
English: Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: Region-free playback

VIDEO:

Rambo was shot on modern Kodak 35mm film stock, so I’m a little miffed they have gone for an upscale with this one; having said that, it’s quite a good picture. Grain is consistent and organic, with no obvious signs of DNR. Stallone, getting on by now, is rendered sufficiently with grizzled pores and crevices. The scan struggles in a few of the night rescue scenes, failing with some of the darker lit moments in the bad guy’s village. In 4K, the limits of the digital blood embellishments stick out like dog’s balls. It’s not screaming FAKE, but with modern day textures and blending tools, it’s showing its age (and perhaps its budget).

AUDIO:

Fucking flawless. Sorry for the BOOM rude adjective, but this ATMOS 7.1 track is as good as it gets. Harrowingly detailed in gun sounds, explosions, and ambience; you will feel steeped completely in this horrid place. Dialogue is layered, depending on where the characters are from scene to scene. Rain courses through all the surrounds. Gunfire and destruction will make your sub(s) jump off the floor. This is reference good and a perfect disc to show off your noisemakers.

Supplements:

You get both the theatrical and the (even BETTER) extended cut. As usual with 4K, there are no new supplementary additions, but on the included blu-ray you get archival features and commentary (on theatrical cut), as well as a digital copy. The boring (but era appropriate) poster art is used for the cover. Meh.

Commentary:

  • Audio Commentary with Sylvester Stallone (Theatrical Cut Only)

Special Features:

  • "It's a Long Road: Resurrection of an Icon" Featurette
  • "A Score to Settle: The Music of Rambo" Featurette
  • "The Art of War: Completing Rambo" Multi-Part Featurette
  • "The Weaponry of Rambo" Featurette
  • "A Hero's Welcome: Release and Reaction" Featurette
  • "Legacy of Despair: The Real Struggle In Burma" Featurette
  • "Rambo: To Hell & Back" Director's Production Diary
  • Deleted Scenes
    Theatrical Trailer

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 4/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

4/5 stars

Rambo (2008)

MPAA Rating: R for strong graphic bloody violence, sexual assaults, grisly images and language.
Runtime:
92 mins
Director
: Sylvester Stallone
Writer:
Art Monterastelli, Sylvester Stallone
Cast:
Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Matthew Marsden
Genre
: Action
Tagline:
The Fight Continues.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Don't waste your life, I did. Go home."
Theatrical Distributor:
Lionsgate
Official Site: https://www.lionsgate.com/movies/rambo
Release Date:
January 25, 2019
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
September 3, 2019
Synopsis: The ultimate American action hero returns – with a vengeance! After spending several years in northern Thailand operating a longboat on the Salween River, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) reluctantly agrees to carry a group of Christian missionaries into war-torn Burma. But when the aid workers are captured by ruthless Nationalist Army soldiers, Rambo leads a group of battle-scarred, combat-hardened mercenaries on an epic, last-ditch mission to rescue the prisoners – at all costs.

Rambo (2008)

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