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Film / Rambo III

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Col. Zaysen: Who are you?
Rambo: Your worst nightmare.
Col. Zaysen: It is just a matter of time before we achieve a complete victory.
Col. Trautman: Yeah, well, there won't be a victory. Every day, your war machines lose ground to a bunch of poorly-armed, poorly-equipped freedom fighters. The fact is that you underestimated your competition. If you'd studied your history, you'd know that these people have never given up to anyone. They'd rather die than be slaves to an invading army. You can't defeat a people like that. We tried; we already had our Vietnam! Now you're gonna have yours.

Rambo III is the third film in the Rambo franchise, released in 1988.

The film begins with Trautman tracking down Rambo and asking him to join him on a mission to Afghanistan to assist local freedom fighters who are against the Soviets in the Soviet-Afghan war. Despite being shown pictures of suffering civilians, Rambo refuses and Trautman goes alone. But when Trautman is ambushed and captured by the Soviets, Rambo must go in and rescue him.

Rambo III contains examples of:

  • Artistic License – Military: Colonel Zaysen leads his unspecified unit of dubious size and structure from a small mountain fort, doesn't answer to any superiors (nor liaise with any different units), and has enough free time to personally participate in helicopter raids and torture prisoners. And he wears a green leather jacket! In short, Zaysen is far closer to small-time warlord than to commander in much bigger army.
    • To put things in to perspective, typical position for a colonel would be CO of motorized rifle regiment, comprised out of ca. 2200 men equipped with hundreds of armored vehicles and its own tank battalion.
    • Helicopters can be seen routinely performing night patrols. In real life, Mi-24 got night vision equipment, that would allow such operations, only after Afghan war.
    • Colonel Zaysen, despite being a CO of infantry unit, is somehow authorized to be a pilot of attack helicopter.
    • Colonel Zaysen wears something barely resembling "M1969" service tunic for an enlisted men. In real life, by the end of the 1980s he will be wearing tan-colored battledress with a field cap, or a service uniform with open-collared tunic. And no green leather jackets for him, ever.
    • Soviet soldiers gear are insanely randomized. While French Tropical hats at least looks similar to Soviet boonie hat, fur hats is definitely out of regulations for tropical uniforms. And don't even think about guy in a black shirt.
    • All Soviet men are unshaven (or even bearded) and unkempt.
    • One can wonder, how exactly visibly fat Sergeant Kourov passed physical fitness tests.
    • Soviet Army, as represented by Colonel Zaycen's unit, are nothing but inept Mooks. Their incompetence shines in finale, when they are easily overrun by Mujahideen cavalry armed with bolt-action rifles, despite having superior weaponry, tanks and helicopter support.
  • Artistic License – History: While the movie claims Afghanistan has never been conquered throughout all of its history to portray its people as Proud Warrior Race Guys, this is not quite the case. While the various peoples of Afghanistan perfectly constitute a badass warrior race, the country has been conquered, occupied and pacified by several empires including Alexander's, the Samanids, the Rashidun Khilafat, the Kwarezmians, the Mongols and succeeding states, the Timurids, the Safavids, the Mughals and several others. Though in fairness, some of these empires may be considered indigenous to the region, such as the Samanids and Khwarezmians.
    • Soviet invasion is portrayed as a full-blown conquest without a cause, rather than intervention to support local pro-communist regime. Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and the Afghan Army is not even mentioned.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: The famous scene where Rambo cauterizes his wooden shrapnel wound with gunpowder would burn more layers of skin and possibly cause organ damage.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Trautman's boast about Rambo coming to rescue him, and the Soviet forces won't be able to stop him.
      Soviet Commander: Who do you think he is? God?
      Trautman: God would have mercy. He won't.
    • Followed later by Rambo introducing himself to the Soviet Commander over the radio of one of the Spetsnaz (Russian Special Forces, literally Rambo's opposite number) troopers he's just killed:
      Rambo: Are you listening?
      Soviet Commander: Who are you!?
      Rambo: Your worst nightmare.
  • Badass in Distress: Trautman is clearly capable of handling himself, but he does get captured which leads Rambo to come and rescue him.
  • Call-Back: When Rambo is informed that if he's captured in picking up where Trautman had left off, he'll be disavowed, he just says, "I'm used to it." This is a reference to when he was captured by the Soviets in the previous film.
  • Chromosome Casting: There is no female role in the main cast, and few women appear in the film.
  • Colonel Badass: We finally get to see Trautman kick some Reds With Rockets ass in this film.
  • Contrasting Sequel Antagonist: Both Podovsky and Zaysen are evil Soviet senior officers with personal Hind gunships, but while former was calm, collected and polite, latter is brutal, unhinged and psychotic. For example, Podovsky was pefroming tortures with "nothing personal" attitude, while Zaysen is visibly enjoying the process.
  • Contrived Coincidence: In the finale, Rambo and Trautman stay in the open, facing Soviet forces. Coincidentally, there is a convenient trench near them to provide cover.
    • While trench can be explained as a part of natural landscape, light blue pickup truck (with .50 cal mounted), conveniently parked near them, certainly can not. Note that said truck just appears out of the nowhere, and its appearance right in the middle of the desert is never addressed by anyone.
  • Crew of One: In the climatic battle, Rambo is able to drive a Soviet tank while at the same time loading and firing the main gun and coaxial machine gun. Well, T-72 features an autoloader, but aiming and firing from the driver' station is out of the question. Neither is driving the tank from the gunner' station.
    • On a side note, Rambo hit this tank with an incendiary bottle, and its crew immediately starts to bail out, suggesting that engine was disabled. Then Rambo kills the crew and takes the tank for a ride, like no damage to it was done.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Although he's usually sullen and serious, Rambo does manage to crack a few jokes.
    Rambo and Trautman stand alone against an entire Soviet battalion
    Trautman: What do we do?
    Rambo: Well, surrounding them is out.
    Trautman: Hell of a time for humor, John.
  • Dedication: At the end of the movie, the words "This film is dedicated to the gallant people of Afghanistan" can be seen.
  • Dirty Commies: This time, the bad guys are the genuine Soviet stuff.
  • '80s Hair: Rambo looked like he was in a Hair Metal band by this movie.
  • Every Helicopter Is a Huey: Averted, unlike in the second movie. However, that brings an issue of disguised French Gazelle helicopters, that looks like nothing from the Soviet helicopter park and doesn't even try to.
  • Flesh Versus Steel: The Afghans on horseback vs. the mechanized Soviets.
  • Gratuitous Russian: While some Soviet soldiers can be heard to speak in correct Russian (scenes in the compound were fimed in Israel, country with large number of Soviet expats), Colonel Zaysen attempts to sound Russian are just painful to hear.
  • Guns Do Not Work That Way: Using heavy machinegun, Rambo scores numerous hits on approaching Soviet helicopter, but none of them seems to inflict any damage. And then chopper explodes.
  • Hellish Copter: Rambo escapes with prisoners by hijacking Zaysen's Hind. However, guards reacts in no time and firefight ensues, in which Mi-24 sustained enough damage to crash-land nearby. At least it explodes when survivors already bailed out.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Kourov walks around with a bandolier of grenades on him. That ends up being his own undoing.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Soviet gunships circle on very low altitude right above attacked village, firing from point blank range. In real life helicopters are very vulnerable to machinegun fire, and dozens of Soviet choppers were lost in Afghanistan to automatic rifle and heavy machinegun fire. Correct attack run pattern would include firing rockets from 2km away, cannons from 1.5km, and turning off the target at 1km.
    • While sending recon squads in pursuit of escapees was a reasonable move, zero attempts were made to tighten security in the camp itself. Nobody even noticed second escape, until Zaysen conveniently walked in.
    • Shilka SPAAG is still known as extremely deadly in close combat, due to its four 23mm cannons with 4000 rounds per minute combined rate of fire. Guess how many horses and horsemen it would pulverize, if employed correctly.
  • Improperly Placed Firearms: Though the film was able to get access to some genuine Soviet hardware due to being filmed in Israel, they still had to make do with stand-ins on a few occasions, including AKMs and AKMSUs mocked up to resemble the smaller-caliber AK-74 and AKS-74U, and Kourov's AK having an M203 launcher that clearly wasn't made to work with it. Things got worse when production was forced to relocate back to the USA, and instead of actual Soviet armor we got a T-72 and ZSU-23 Shilka replicas made out of an M8 artillery tractor chassis.
  • I'm Your Worst Nightmare: When Rambo speaks to Zaysen using one of his fallen men’s walkie-talkie, the Colonel demands who Rambo is; Rambo responds with: “Your worse nightmare”.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Averted in one occasion: When Rambo and Trautman hijacks one of the Hinds, Soviets actually disable helicopter with rifle fire, forcing Rambo to perform emergency landing nearby.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: One of the Mujahadeen is a little boy who follows Rambo on a secret mission despite Rambo’s protests; instead of being an assist, the kid gets wounded by a Soviet bullet and doesn’t even get to do anything badass. In a darker movie, this kid would’ve been killed.
  • No Kill like Overkill: Rambo takes out Giant Mook Sgt. Kourov with the 1-2 combo of wrapping a rope around his neck, pulling the pin on one of his grenades, and then kicking him into a crevasse, where he's hanged and then gloriously explodes less than a second later.
  • The Only One: Rambo and the Colonel who trained him are attacked and cornered by what seems to be the entire Soviet army.
    Colonel: Got any ideas?
    Rambo: Well, surrounding 'em's out.
  • Precision F-Strike: Despite its R rating, this movie is incredibly light on profanity, so it really stands out when Rambo drops the movie's lone F-bomb ("Fuck 'em!") just before the final fight with the Soviets.
  • Prized Possession Giveaway: At the end of the movie, after the Soviets have been defeated, Rambo gives his jade necklace to his young Afghan kid sidekick as a memento, the same necklace which is a Tragic Keepsake from Rambo's lover Co Bao who died in the previous movie.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Afghans. Truth in Television, too.
    "Save us from the claws of the tiger, the bite of the cobra, and the wrath of the Afghan."
  • Railing Kill: In the night infiltration scene into the Soviet prison, when Rambo triggers the explosives a few Spetsnaz behind railings get knocked over to their deaths.
  • Ramming Always Works: Rambo destroys Zaysen in his Hind gunship by ramming it with the main gun of his tank.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Quite a bit of Jerry Goldsmith's original score for this film was replaced with music from the second movie. Goldsmith himself wasn't too happy with the recording sessions in Budapest.
  • Red Scare: This movie is the only one of the series (the second film aside) to explicitly deal with the Soviet Union.
  • Retired Badass: Rambo himself.
  • Revised Ending: The film's ending was longer: In the original cut, as Rambo and Trautman are driving away from the freedom fighter's camp, as seen in the theatrical cut, Rambo decides to not go back with Trautman home to America and Rambo decides to stay with the freedom fighters, feeling that he has finally found somewhere he belongs. Trautman understands and says goodbye to Rambo and wishes him luck and returns home to America alone.
  • Self-Surgery: Rambo digs shrapnel out of his side and then cauterizes the wound with burning gunpowder.
  • Shown Their Work: Rather bizarre example, considering how many things this film got wrong. Soviet helicopters had "excellent aircraft" marking. This award was given to maitenance crews for meeting exceptional standards in keeping aircraft working and combat-ready.
  • Take My Hand!: After finally rescuing Trautman and some Afghani prisoners, Rambo steals a Hind chopper to escape. But during an ensuing firefight with Soviet guards, one of the Afghans falls out and despite efforts to pull him back up, he gets shot then falls to his death.
  • Tank Goodness: In the final battle, Rambo takes over a Soviet tank and uses it to shoot up and ram Zaysen’s chopper. Colonel Zaysen attempts to attack Rambo head on; this ends up biting Zaysen in the ass since he can’t aim his missiles properly at Rambo’s tank at close range and, since he’s so close to the ground, Rambo ends up taking him out using the tank’s machine guns and by ramming the helicopter with the tank, obliterating it due to the tank out weighing the Hind.
  • Tanks, but No Tanks: All of the Soviet armor in the Final Battle as a result of the production crew being forced to move to the US (most of the movie was shot in Israel). Doubles as Prop Recycling. However, in the scenes filmed in Israel, you can see geniune Soviet-built T-62! This also was more accurate, as T-72 wasn't used in Afghanistan unlike older T-55 and T-62.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: When Rambo infiltrates Soviet compound for the second time, security isn't improved at all. Very laid-back sentry, supposedly manning a machinegun accidentally sees Rambo and, instead of quickly grabbing the rifle near him, tries to rotate the large .50 cal around, losing the time and life.
  • Too Dumb to Live: At the end of the film Colonel Zaysen decides to ram Rambo with his Mi-24 helicopter while Rambo is in a T-72 tank. Just to make things clear: a fully-loaded Hind Helicopter weighs 9 tons, while a T-72 tank weighs 42 tons. Helicopters need to be light enough to fly, while tanks are only expected to be heavy enough and tough enough to survive bullets and shells. It ends as exactly as you would expect. Not to mention that Hind normally carries anti-tank missiles and dozens of unguided rockets to deal with armored targets.
    • Considering, how inept are Soviet forces in the film, one can wonder why Mujahadeen were unable to destroy Zaysen' camp with portable mortars and RPG strikes.
  • Universal Driver's License: Rambo surely got one. While second movie established that he was cross-trained as helicopter pilot, here he is easily hijacks the Mi-24. Rambo wouldn't have any idea about its cockpit layout and startup procedure beforehand, for example.
    • He also can't be familiar with T-72 tank controls. Don't stop him from starting to kick ass right after he climbs in.
  • Unwilling Suspension: Realistically portrayed. Being lifted up by chains on your wrists is painful.
  • Worst Aid: The scene of Rambo cauterizing his wound with gunpowder, in any sane situation, would most likely have done infinitely more damage than his initial wound.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: the Mujahadeen assisting two American Special Forces soldiers. Terrible irony considering that the film is dedicated to their struggle against the Soviets. However, it should be noted that not all members of the Afghan Mujaihideen joined the Taliban.note 
  • The War Sequence: Rambo and Trautman face down... about a two companies of Soviet forces.

Col. Trautman: Hard to believe, John.
Rambo: What's that, sir?
Col. Trautman: Well, I hate to admit it, but the truth is, I think we're getting soft.
Rambo: Maybe just a little, sir. Just a little.