"Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set" 6-Disc DVD Review
June 10, 2008 by James Harvey
Probably one of the most patriotic characters in cinema, even if he didn't really start out in that fashion, Rambo is back in theatres once again. With old franchises being seemingly reborn over the past few years, Stallone puts the bandanna back on for one more go around as John Rambo, the tortured Vietnam vet who just wants to be left alone. Of course, he finds himself sucked backed in, battling to save the life of a group of innocent people. As one can expect, there will be blood. As with any franchise, it's a long road to get to this point, and, thankfully, we now have the entire franchise in one great box set, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment. So, let's get the synopsis out of the way and dive into this beloved (believe it or not) hero.
He has gone through countless struggles in his life, coming out as a Vietnam veteran and dealing with who he is, a killing machine. The Rambo franchise has shown his journey, and how Rambo, the latest installment, will bring it to an end. John Rambo has retreated to a simple life in a rural Thai village near the Burmese border. He captures snakes for local entertainers and transports groups in his old PT boat. Following repeated pleas, Rambo helps ferry a group of Christian aid workers into war-torn Burma for a humanitarian mission, where local villagers are regularly tortured and massacred by sadistic Burmese soldiers. The mission is going well until the village is attacked, and the missionaries are taken prisoner by the soldiers. The missionariesí minister enlists Rambo to help him rescue his group in the midst of a deadly civil war.
And there you go. Now, we've all seen the first three installments in the Rambo franchise, likely years ago on the USA Network or TBS, so, I'm going to focus the review here on Rambo, the fourth and (apparently) final installment of the franchise. After a successful run in theatres back in January, it has now found a new home on DVD and Blu-Ray and, well, this is one move that will definitely rattle your home theatre system. And why? Because, well, there's a lot of action. A lot of intense, incredibly graphic, bloody action.
But not only will the action rattle your theatre, it may end up rattling you, too. Now, the synopsis above gives the breakdown for the plot, but what they donít tell you is how disturbing and absolutely shocking some of this violence is. Now, the violence early in the movie reminded me of the violence we've seen in recent Cronenberg movies, like A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. It's brutal, it's hard to look at, and just plain ugly. The movie starts off with sequence some villagers being tortured with a treacherous mine game. As one can expect, if you step on a mine, you're finished. It's painful to watch and gripping. Later on in the movie, when a village is raided, be ready to cover your eyes and look away. Some of the violence that happens here, including violence toward children, is disturbing. I understand that Stallone is trying to make a point, but still, it's really difficult to watch.
Overall, going into a Rambo movie, you can't expect any type of Shakespeare. The plot is quite simply and doesn't throw any real curve balls at you. In fact, this installment has some of the roughest dialogue I've heard and, well, can be just hard to sit through at times. Still, regardless of the weak dialogue and predictable nature of the film, I still found this to be an enjoyable movie. Again, I had no real set expectations, but, regardless, I found it a good film and, probably, the second best out of all four films, coming second only to First Blood.
Now, the second and third films were okay, but, Rambo easily surpasses them, and mainly because of how nicely this movie actually ties the whole franchise together and wraps it up with a nice, big bow. I really enjoyed how this movie ended. It's rare to see a franchise effectively close up in this manner, especially one as cynical and narcissistic as the Rambo films, but, it's a smart way to end it.
But I'm getting ahead of myself there, so let me backtrack a little bit. Like I said, this is a brutal, brutal film, to an extent. There are two major violent set-pieces, not counting the encounter with "pirates" that takes place between the two. Regardless, these two sequences, one involving a dehumanizing and cruel game, the other a devastating raid on a village, contain some utterly shocking and really effective uses of violence. The raid, especially, is just jaw-dropping in its presentation of horror. However, as the movie moves on and the "action heroes" start to step up, the violence sort of . . . changes. It becomes that movie violence that is oh so easy to roll our eyes at, and it seems like Stallone made a point to showcase the difference between these types of violence.
But the violence does get a bit tiring by the end. Sure, there's some impressive and really over-the-top sequences (if you saw that R-rated montage released last year, you know the clips I mean), but it's just wave after wave of gunfire and death and, during that big climactic end battle, it does get a bit tiring. Still, it's an impressive display and does hammer home what Rambo says about the type of life he leads (as well as the mercenaries who join him for the rescue mission). And I guess all of this carnage makes the final scene seem all that more rewarding for Rambo's character. He needs it, and he finds it. It's a nice way to cap off the rather short 90 minute movie (roughly ten of which are the end credits)
Now, the fourth Rambo is a good movie. Sometimes it can be difficult to watch, but, still a good movie. Now, toss in the previous three movies and you have a solid collection of action movies. Based on just the fourth movie alone, Rambo comes Recommended for fans of the genre. It can be a difficult movie to watch, but, regardless, it's a great flick to check out.
Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set comes packaged in a sturdy, great looking embossed metal tin. Once opened, you'll find the discs housed in a nicely designed fold-out digipack. Mixed in are a few inserts explaining what is found on the collection as well as how to use the digital copy available on the fifth disc in the collection. It's just a great looking packaged, one that is well-designed and perfectly put together. Based on looks alone, this is, without question, the collection that Rambo fans have been waiting for. Add on some great audio and video transfers and, so far, everything looks pretty good.
Alright, let's run through the extra features collections. The first disc, which houses First Blood, includes two audio commentaries, one by Sylvester Stallone and another with character creator David Morrell. After that we get an alternate ending and the Interactive Military Special Operations Features. The second disc, holding Rambo: First Blood, Part Two, features a commentary with director George P. Cosmatos and another Interactive Military Special Operations Features. Disc Three holds, as you could expect, Rambo III, along with a commentary by director Peter McDonald, deleted scenes and, yet again, another Interactive Military Special Operations Features. This wraps up the first three discs.
Now, disc four is when the bonus material really starts to heat up. On disc four, which also houses Rambo, we have a plethora of special features. We have audio commentary with Stallone, a collection of deleted scenes, the "Legacy of Despair: The Struggle in Burma" featurette, the "It's a Long Road: The Resurrection of an Icon" featurette, the "A Score to Settle: The Music of Rambo" featurette, the "The Art of War: Completing Rambo featurette, the "The Weaponry of Rambo" featurette, and, finally, "A Hero's Welcome: Release and Reception" featurette. Yup, that is all on just disc four and it is a great collection of extras, extras that Rambo enthusiasts will no doubt appreciate and enjoy.
Before we hop onto disc six, where the rest of the bonus features are stationed, I just want to make note that disc five contains the digital copy of Rambo.
The sixth and final disc brings us a whole heaping of bonus features, apparently culled and collected from previous Rambo franchises releases, into one location. The longest extra on the disc is "The Real Nam: Voices from Within," a nearly 90-minute documentary looking at the real effects of the Vietnam War. Next up is a look at the Rambo franchise in the "Guts and Glory" mini-documentary. "The Forging of Heroes: America's Green Berets" is a brief historical featurette on background for these operatives. "Rambo-nomics" takes a look at the profit generated, while "Selling a Hero" looks at the toys sold. After that we have "Suiting Up," a featurette about the weapons in the movie, and then "An American Hero's Journey: The Rambo Trilogy" gives us a vintage look at the first three films. To wrap things up, we get three half-hour documentaries looking at the first three films, including some redundant information, and trailers for all four movies to wrap everything up on this collection.
Overall, I'd have to give this collection a solid Recommended rating. Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set is really a well-designed, well put-together collection, especially for fans who may not own any of the previous releases of the franchise movies. Now, be warned, there are duplicate extras in this collection from previous releases, with the majority of new bonus features coming with the new Rambo movie. If you own the previous movies and look to just add Rambo to your collection, you may want to consult your older copies and search out some retail prices before making a decision, but I can firmly say that Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set is definitely worth picking up, and can usually be found for an extremely affordable price.
Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set is now available to own on DVD and Blu-Ray.