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Rambo: Extended Cut (Blu-ray Review)

Rambo, Rambo: The Extended Cut, Rambo IV, John Rambo or whatever you want to call it is Sylvester Stallone’s follow-up, some 20 years later, to the successful Rambo franchise of the 80’s.  Unlike its predecessor, this film kicks a$$ in all four of my major action/war critical requirements: realism/believability, brutality, heart pounding action sequences and satisfying necessary emotional ties.  However, this time around, Lionsgate provides us Blu-ray customers with an alternate Director’s Cut version of what many peeps may call Stallone’s best entry into the franchise since the original film. Did we really need another cut of the successful 2008 film or should the question simply be did the fans really want another version?  I can’t speak for everyone, but in the case of the last question my answer would be a loud hell yeah, bring it on!  But perhaps the real question here is whether this new Extended Cut is really better than the theatrical presentation?  That was the firs thing that was on my mind as I sat down to watch/review this Blu-ray disc.  So give me a few minutes of your time and I will give you my two cents on this important issue/debate.

Film  

Like I said in the paragraph above, unlike the previous two sequels, this fourth film keeps the serious tone of the original one.  And interestingly enough, Rambo holds the record for the most kills out of the entire franchise with an astonishing 236.  Stallone has gone on record stating that the violence in the film is justified as to draw attention to what’s really happening in Burma.  I cannot disagree.  One viewing of this had me wanting to give up my freedom and take sides with the Karen rebels out there.  The way those innocent people are brutally slaughtered and mutilated is just sick.  It truly is hell on Earth there.  And this is where the movie completely tugged on my emotions and re-opened a lot of deep wounds.  I really wanted to make a difference in the world after watching this one.  And when you are left feeling like this after watching a movie, you know the director perfectly executed his job.  I give much respect and admiration to Sylvester Stallone for bringing about the awareness of this war torn region to moviegoers everywhere.  Now, if we can just all do something about it!  I can hear the film’s moving score in my head right now as I pen this review.  Brilliant!

Anyone already familiar with the 2008 film probably needs no refresher on the plot here.  It is what it is.  That is… Rambo returns to action, with the help of hired militia, to rescue U.S. missionaries who go missing from a village in Burma.  One of the missionaries in particular, Sarah Miller (Julie Benz), previously struck an emotional accord with John Rambo before leaving.  She made Rambo search his heart and he found out that he really does care about people and events going on around despite his previous beliefs and statements made.  John has put his war torn past aside for 20 years now only to find himself come full circle with who he really is… a killer… this time with a humanitarian interest.  Go Rambo!

The realism/believability part of the story comes into play where this time around, it’s not only Rambo making the difference, but it’s a cumulative team effort.  With the help of the hired militia (mercenaries) and Karen rebels, Rambo joins forces to temporarily overthrow the iron-fisted rule of the Tatmadaw led by Burmese military officer Major Pa Tee Tint.  At first I was kind of taken aback by Rambo not going all out on his own, but let’s face it, the dude is in his 60’s and he can use some help… finally!  Anyway, the mercenaries are hilarious and well developed in the screenplay.  They are a much-welcomed addition to the film and in hindsight; I would not want it done any other way.  It’s not like Rambo doesn’t save the day anyway in the end.  Right?

And as far as the action goes, well it doesn’t get any better than this folks.  Thanks to the brilliant score of Brian Taylor, the action is exemplified to the umpteenth degree.  I want to give kudos to Brian and Stallone for ingeniously arranging this.  From the heart pounding escape scene from the claymore to one of the most brutal Act III resolutions in modern film history, Rambo will not disappoint you in the action, brutality, believability and emotional categories.  You can take that to the bank and cash it.  Why did Stallone wait so long in life to develop this script and the Rocky one, I will never know?  But I do know this, both of those films are some of his best work, and despite the final like ending we have here in Rambo, I’m hoping for at least one more adventure.  Please Mr. Stallone.  Feed my hunger!

But I bet the real reason you are all here reading my review is because you want to know what differences you can expect from this 99-minute cut of the film compared to the original 91-minute one.  Right?  Well that’s easy, it’s 8 minutes of difference.  LOL.  No but seriously, I painstakingly put together this bullet point list below of all the MAJOR differences I found between the two.  I purposely left out some of the minor differences that I was just too lazy to write down.  Enjoy!

  • The film is titled JOHN RAMBO, but nowhere on the box art or disc is this name associated.  Weird huh?
  • There are a few more brutal real images at the beginning newsfeed.
  • There’s more snake catching and more playing around with the snakes as Johnny bags them up.
  • There’s more of Julie Benz bugging Rambo to take her group on a boat ride into Burma.  In fact, there’s a whole new scene of her begging him.  The law of 3!
  • There’s a longer night scene in a village that’s being raided.
  • They completely changed the “what is” speech on the boat that takes place in the rain between Julia’s character and Rambo.  John talks about politics and war and admits he wasted his life on war.  That’s a true statement I guess.
  • There are longer conversations to be had between the missionaries and Rambo on the boat ride to Burma.
  • There’s a slight change to the pirate shootout scene.
  • There’s a longer goodbye scene between John and Sarah when drops them off in Burma.
  • There are new flashback scenes when Rambo (I keep wanting to call him Rocky) is burning the pirate ship.
  • The raid on the village where the missionaries are starts out quicker.  In my opinion, it feels too abrupt.
  • There is a new scene where the missionaries are at the prison camp.  They talk about the treatment and torture of the prisoners.
  • After the pastor told Rambo about the missing prisoners, the hammer scene is a bit different.  Instead of Rambo’s voiceover where he says, “war is in his blood and all…” you hear a voiceover from the pastor.  It kind of loses meaning now in my opinion.
  • There are some slight variances in the rescue of the missionaries.  I did not mind this, as it is the thumping music that really fuels these scenes after all.
  • After the rescue, Rambo now notices that Sarah hurt her foot.  He wraps it up for her.  What a nice guy.
  • And last but not least, there is a longer goodbye scene between Rambo and Sarah at the conclusion of the brutal warfare resolution of Act III.

So there you have it.  Obviously, as I stated before, I did not list every little change above.  The above bullet points were the most notable changes I saw so I wanted to make sure they were captured on your computer screen for your reading pleasure.  All in all, if I had my way, I would prefer the theatrical presentation of the film any day.  I was excited to hear about this project when Cliff Stephenson announced it at Comic-Con two years ago (here), but ultimately I felt that these new and modified scenes did not lend themselves well to the flow and pacing of the story.  If I had not seen this, I would have lived life being completely satisfied with only my theatrical Blu-ray.  It’s still a must-see and probably a must-purchase for all the fans out there, but casual viewers may want to think twice about spending 99 minutes of their lives watching something they didn’t much care for in the first place.  However, the movie is still one of my favorite films from the new millennium so that’s the reason for the high score despite my sentiments toward the Extended Cut.  It would have been super if Lionsgate would have packaged this with a theatrical Blu-ray disc as well, but no such luck.  If you want to own the Extended Cut, then you are going to have to double dip.  Sadly, there’s no way around that!  But let’s move on and discuss the Blu-ray vitals of this new presentation, shall we?

Video 

The video presentation is where I always had problems with Rambo on Blu-ray.  I know a lot of critics will praise it, but to my eyes, it has always been a bag of mixed goods.  But enough of my jibber, let’s tackle the vitals first.  Rambo: The Extended cut is presented in AVC MPEG-4 video with a 2.40:1 widescreen aspect ratio.  And now back to my jibber…LOL.  When the video is looking good it’s razor sharp and pristine, but when it’s looking drab it can be a little blurry and hazy at times.  The jungle truly comes to life in all its breathtaking glory on this disc, but the night scenes are riddled with distracting grain at times.  Thankfully, this is not always the case, but I do have to point out the fact that it’s there.  When the sun shines, so does this Blu-ray.  Every drop of sweat and blood is gorgeously captured on this razor sharp1080p transfer.  The thing that strikes me odd about this disc though is that sometimes the blacks are not deep enough like we have come to expect from recent Blu-ray transfers.  This of course is a very minimal complaint about an otherwise phenomenal film.  I cannot give the video a score of a 5, but I’m oh so close to a 4.5.  Take it for what it’s worth.

Audio  

If this disc has its bright spot, then it’s the bombastic 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround track.  It’s absolutely divine, but it’s not perfect.  Yep, you were probably waiting for me to be the narcissist and I didn’t disappoint.  There isn’t much that doesn’t get past me, but rest assured, my complaints here are very few and far between.  Like in the video, the jungle comes to life here.  In fact, I never heard a jungle sound so fantastic, not to mention the rainfall.  I’m general a tropical person by trait, but I hate being trapped inside by the rain.  However, let the rain fall down here!  In fact… all around me!  It is quite blissful hearing that rain pour from every which direction.  This surround track is simply killer.  But wait… it gets better!  There are loud explosions, bombastic bass and bullets zinging from every which direction.  And that score… I could go on forever about it, but I won’t.  It’s simply brilliant.  Dialog, for the most part, is spot on.  However, that is my one complaint.  One fear I have where scenes are added in to make an alternate cut of the film is how good are these extra scenes going to sound and look.  There were a few instances where the dialog level wasn’t up to snuff in the extra scenes.  I had a problem hearing one line of dialog in a particular scene.  Had it not been for this minimal distraction, this one would have easily scored a 5.

Special Features  

Are you ready for this?  There’s trailers and one production diary to be found here.  That’s the special features section ladies and gentleman.  Thanks for stopping by.  No seriously, there’s not even a digital copy included like there was for the former release of the theatrical presentation.  How sad.  Well to make up for the lack of special features to discuss here I figured I would throw in a screenshot of the disc’s menu below and an image of what the Blu-ray disc’s icon looks like when popped into my favorite Blu-ray player… the Playstation 3.  Enjoy!

  • Rambo: To Hell & Back” Director’s Production Diary – This one is 1 hour and 23 minutes long and is definitely worth your time checking out.  It’s kind of a like a day-by-day production diary of the movie shoot.  It’s interesting seeing Stallone behind the camera and scoping things out.  There’s much to be learned here.
  • Trailers The Expendables, Terminator 2: Skynet Edition, and a Lionsgate commercial featuring their catalog Blu-rays that contain peeps from the upcoming Expendables.

Final Thoughts  

This final score would have been a bit higher had it not been for the lack of special features here.  Thanks to the special features department, or lack thereof, I had to round up to a 4.  It’s quite simple folks.  Do I think this is worth double dipping on?  Absolutely… if you are a fan of the franchise.  But if you were just a casual fan, then I would say a rental would be fine for now or wait until Wal-Mart has it in its $5 bin one day.  I’m going to go ahead and recommend this one as a purchase here, but buyer beware… I’m being biased here.  This movie is a favorite of mine, and I will go down swinging in opposition to anyone who bashes this film.  It is motivating, heart wrenching, action packed and completely brutal in its realism as it depicts the longest running civil war in the world and the genocide of innocent people.  And oh yeah… it’s Rambo!  “Let the bodies hit the floor!”

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Pre-order Rambo: Extended Cut on Blu-ray today!

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

9 Responses to “Rambo: Extended Cut (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Gerard Iribe

    Awesome!!!! I did not know you were reviewing this, Brian!

    After reading your review, looks like I will be keeping my first Rambo BD.

  2. Gerard Iribe

    *as well, because they’re two separate cuts. Not because it’s a bad film, etc…

  3. Brian White

    Ha ha. Neither did I Gerard. It just showed up unexpectedly one day on my doorstep. I was like BONUS! I wanted it anyway. I’m a collector so I will be keeping both my editions, but I prefer the theatrical cut. However, I may be in the minority here. You never know. It’s just a personal opinion here.

  4. Sean Ferguson

    I heard they changed the ending on this to signal an end to the franchise and you mentioned it in passing in your review but can you please elaborate on that? I hope they do another one!

  5. Arturo Lugo

    Hi, nice review, LOL.

    I’m a newcomer to the Rambo movies, my plan was to get First Blood, then Rambo, and be done with it.

    You, being a fan of the franchise, please help me! Which edition should I buy? The first, Theatrical one, or this Extended Cut? I have not seen the film in any form, and after I do, even if I like it a lot, I wouldn’t get the other edition.

    Specially since they are $10 and $14 @ Amazon respectively, so it’s not like there’s a big difference in price.

    Thanks! 🙂

  6. AS

    Keep up the good work, I like your writing.

  7. Brian White

    @ Sean… I noticed nothing different in the ending scene.

    @ Arturo… welcome here… thanks for your comments… if you want my opinion I would recommend the $10 Theatrical Cut. I enjoy that version much more!

  8. Gerard Iribe

    Just finished watching my copy. I prefer this cut of the film. I’ll be keeping the original TC for the features and just to have as a comparison.

    This EC version is called “John Rambo” when the credits start and is also slightly re-arranged. It also fleshes out the Julie Benz character and enhances the motivation behind Rambo wanting to see her through her own journey. I didn’t care for her in the TC.

    The added “bits” and “pieces” of even more gore was frosting to the bloody cake.

    “Rambo, unleash hell…on the gun turret!”

  9. Larry

    An honest review of Rambo: Extended Cut

    The beginning of the movie caught me a little off guard. The color, the sound and the overall movement of the actors looked different. The theatrical version seemed very shaky and progressive scan looking. This one seemed grittier with more vibrant colors and matched up perfectly with the old films. This got me excited to begin with. It went from looking like a straight to DVD movie, to a real Rambo 4.
    After watching roughly half the film I noticed something I never noticed before. It’s the quiet moments that makes a Rambo movie. The boat ride, the only with his thought moments and when he uses actual dialogue, really makes the character come alive. In the theatrical version Rambo comes off as somewhat of a prick. He seems very submissive in his relationship with the mercenaries. He is made out to be a bitter old man, which turns out no to be entirely true. In his dialogue with Sara, you find out why he doesn’t want her to go. It turns out to be a real RAMBO reason. He has seen first hand the endless cycle of killing and he feels like it never makes a difference. You stop it in one place, it starts up somewhere else right after. This actually makes sense. The biggest difference in the movie is the score. The classic Rambo tones flowed through this version in perfect harmony with the movie. I felt like I was watching a real Rambo movie for the first time. Since seeing the theatrical version, I never felt like Rambo 4 fit the others. I am and always will be obsessed with this character. It has been a character close to my heart since I was a child and I take it very seriously. So I have been unsettled since 2008. Its not that I didnt like the movie, it just had a different look and feel then the others. I felt Rambo’s personality was gone and it was just a killing machine movie. This cut puts the heart back into Rambo. I absolutely loved the prayer scene. Listening to the pastor start stating the lines of being a weapon of peace as Rambo goes off to create his knife, gave me that classic in the gut, smiling through tears scenario that I always got in the old movies. Basically that Rambo is off to be Rambo once again. A Hero, an unstoppable force. Because this movie filled in all of the holes from the theatrical cut, developed Rambo’s character perfectly (after 20 years), matched the score beautifully, removed a filter or something to make the colors more classic, and removed the strange progressive scan looking movement, I can finally say that Rambo 4 is the perfect ending to the series and I finally feel right putting the 4 movies together on my shelf. Rambo became that legendary hero once again in this version. When he returns home at the end, it actually means something because you have been through this journey with him. I recommend this version to anyone, and will definitely be the only version I ever watch again.

    Theatrical Version: Action, Loud Noise, Minimal Dialogue, Very little character development.

    Extended Cut: Back stories, complete thoughts. emotional investment in the characters, better sound, better SCORE!! (more of the original score left in), better overall movie.

    Original: **
    Extended Cut: *****