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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 the Afghan freedom fighters who are fighting against the Soviets in the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. 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. Just like the James Bond film The Living Daylights, Rambo III features Afghan mujahideen as good guys, before they morphed into generic terrorists following the September 11th attacks.


Rambo III contains examples of:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Flesh vs. Steel: The Afghans on horseback vs. the mechanized Soviets.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: In this movie, the Afghan mujahideen are portrayed as heroic characters, fighting back against the Dirty Commies trying to invade their land. Nowadays, such characterization is practically unseen in mainstream Western media post 9/11.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Kourov walks around with a bandolier of grenades on him. That ends up being his own undoing.
  • 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”.
  • Mohs Scale of Violence Hardness: It rates a rather a hard 6 (it might actually be strong enough for a 7). There are tons of blood squibs, but they generally don't spurt or splatter liquid blood in a noticeable, explicit way (although there are some puffs of blood vapor). There's also some harsh torture in there, too.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Ramming Always Works: Rambo destroys Zaysen in his Hind gunship by ramming it with the main gun of his tank.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • 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.
    • In desperation, Colonel Zaysen tries to attack Rambo head on with the Hind chopper after Rambo commandeers a tank. 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.
  • 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.
  • Take My Hand: After finally rescuing Trautman and some Afghani prisoners, Rambo steals a Hind chopper to escape. But during an ensuing air battle with another Hind, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Ti-72 tank. Just to make things clear: a fully-loaded Hind Helicopter weighs 9 tons, while a Ti-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.
  • Unwilling Suspension: Realistically portrayed. Being lifted up by chains on your wrists is painful.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: the Mujahadeen assistung 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 an entire Soviet army.

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.


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