Rambo (2008)
Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden
Extras: Commentary Track, Video Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Trailers

Some time ago I revisited the original "Rambo: First Blood" movie and was disappointed to see that the film really didn't live up to the fond memories I had. Gaping plot holes and errors made it hard for me to really enjoy the film the way I used to 20 years ago. Now Sly has revisited his blockbuster franchise with a new entry, aptly titled "Rambo, " and to be honest my expectations weren't really high. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

Still the loner, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is making a living as a snake catcher in the jungles of Thailand where no one is bothering him. One day he is approached by a group of missionaries who want to sneak into neighboring Burma to help the victims of the raging civil war in the country. Although he is convinced that they are fighting a lost cause and only put their lives at risk, Rambo decides to take them up the river in his boat, but before they even get there the missionaries get a reality check and a healthy dose of real life bloodshed when the boat is attacked by pirates. Still, these river marauders are nothing compared to what expects the missionaries when they finally reach Burma, and soon it is up to Rambo to free the people who put themselves in harm's way despite his best efforts.

More mature and even darker than previous Rambo movies, this film is an action spectacle of the highest caliber. It is also extremely graphic and violent however, as viewers are bombarded with images of men, women and children being blown to bits as they step on land mines or razed down by machine gun fire. But it's not all gratuitous. As Stallone has honed his screen writing skills, suddenly there is a lot of empathy in the film, which while there latently, didn't come through as much in previous films. Here however we feel for the Burmese people who are slaughtered by their own corrupt military government. Especially in the light of the recent cyclone disaster that hit the region, the government's decision not to allow aid into their country suddenly makes sense – in a sad and twisted way. They were probably happy that 130.000 people were killed as it saved them the ammunition to have them all shot in the first place.

"Rambo" is Stallone's way of putting a spotlight on the genocide that is happening in Burma and for me it worked very well. Burma is one of those countries where many people probably had to ask themselves "Where the heck is Burma?" when they first heard about the natural disaster that hit the region recently. Never mind that it is the largest country in Southeast Asia, but the civil war that has been dividing the country since the military take-over in 1962(!) simply never makes headlines here in the West. Their fight for freedom and democracy has mostly gone unnoticed by many Western countries.

After a solid start that re-introduces us to an older and more mature John Rambo, who comes across more like a giant tree these days than the chiseled astral body of the 80s, the film quickly launches into an action segment that never stops. Quite literally, the film is a 90 minute non-stop action fest that never lets down until the final frames. It has all the things we loved about these films in the first place – very little dialogue, tough machos, macho-wanna-be's, really evil villains, machine guns, grenades, tripwires and tons of explosions left and right.

Lionsgate has prepared a cool Blu-Ray version of the film, offering it up in 1080p high definition in a pristine transfer that looks every bit as good as I had hoped. With incredible detail and sharpness the picture is flawless as it reproduces the theatrical experience. Deep solid blacks make sure the film's inherent gloominess and darkness comes across nicely but without ever losing detail or texture. It also helps to firmly root the image and give it very good contrast that is nicely balanced with solid highlights. The level of detail is impressive also and creates an image that holds every bit of detail. Textures in clothing, skins and the lush landscape are faithfully reproduced at all times, making "Rambo" a sight for sore eyes.

It is no wonder that the audio on the release is going to blow the roof off your house, I guess. Coming as a 7.1 DTS Master Audio track the audio on this release is every bit as explosive as the film itself. With brutal basses that will work out your subwoofer to their limits, and clear high ends, "Rambo" is a great example for modern audio technologies, both in the production of movies as well as their reproduction in theaters or at home. Spatial effects put the viewer right in the middle of the action as the discrete surround channels make sure you duck as you hear missiles and shrapnels hurl toward you from all imaginable directions.

The release is also loaded with bonus materials, such as a commentary track by Sylvester Stallone, in both an audio commentary form and as a picture-in-picture video commentary that takes you behind the scenes while you watch the feature film. This is a solid commentary that has a wealth of information and is a must-see for all fans of the film.

Also included are six featurettes covering various aspects of interest. First there is a look at the resurrection of Rambo showing how Stallone approached this new film to create a more mature character. Also included are featurettes covering the film's music, weapons, and production. I also found the look at the response to the movie of interest as the featurette follows the movie's theatrical run and audience reactions. A look at the political situation in Burma is also included, offering additional insight into the civil unrest in the country as its people struggle for freedom.

Deleted scenes and trailers also add to the value of this release.

As another bonus the Blu-Ray version contains an additional DVD ROM disc with a digital copy of the movie that you can download on view on your PC or mobile devices.

"Rambo" is a film that barely gives you the time to breathe and I have to be honestly report that to me this film is the best in the entire series. Just like he did with "Rocky," Stallone shows that he has been growing as a filmmaker and storyteller and knows what moves people. Whether it's a story about a former boxing champion on the edge of obscurity or a survivalist ex-marine saving the day, Stallone's recent films pack a punch that is a lot more emotional and visceral than earlier in his career. Quite honestly, "Rambo" blew my mind as I was not prepared for such an intense and gripping movie. I am sure it will leave you drenched in sweat as well.