In his third outing (wisely not called First Blood: Part III) Sylvester Stallone’s traumatised vet turns Afghanistan into Afgunistan when he goes there to rescue his only friend, Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna), and ends up fighting alongside the Mujahideen against the invading Russians.
Following the bloodbath of First Blood: Part II, Rambo has found sanctuary in a Thai monastery. But any hopes of a new life of peace and tranquility get off to a Rocky start, as he takes part in fights on the side for cash, and soon finds himself tempted to return to conflict.
The action is on a par with Part II, with more explosions than you can shake a stick of dynamite at, and Rambo even sneaks around and improvises based on his surroundings, things which felt lacking in the incessant machine gun fire of the last film. It holds the dubious honour of being the most violent film ever made, with the most acts of violence and onscreen kills. At least it did until it was surpassed by part 4.
Yet thanks to improvements in both the script and Stallone’s performance, Rambo is at his most human since First Blood, resulting in the second best film set in Afghanistan (after The Breadwinner). His desire to turn over a new leaf feels genuine, as do his motivations for returning to combat, even if best buddy Trautman doesn’t really seem to have poor Rambo’s best interests at heart. And once again Stallone gives a highly committed, obviously grueling physical performance.
But the most notable thing about the film is its support for the proud and noble Afghans who will never succumb to an invading force, even going so far as to dedicate the film to them. It’s nice that this time round Rambo takes the side of the oppressed against the oppressors, it’s just hilarious with hindsight, particularly in the Republican-feeling world of Rambo. Did movie fan George W. Bush never see this film? If he had things may have gone very differently.