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Rambo is an action film series based on the David Morrell novel First Blood and starring Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, a troubled Vietnam War veteran and former Green Beret who is skilled in many aspects of survival, weaponry, hand to hand combat and guerrilla warfare. The series consists of the films First Blood (1982), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III (1988), and Rambo (2008).
Upon returning to the United States, Rambo has difficulty adjusting to civilian life and wanders the country as a drifter for almost a decade. In December 1981, Rambo travels to the fictional town of Hope, Washington, in search of a Special Forces buddy named Delmore Barry. Rambo arrives at Delmore's supposed residence and finds Delmore's little daughter and his depressed widow. Delmore's widow tells Rambo that her husband had died from cancer the previous summer due to exposure to Agent Orange, and that she must seek out a living as a cleaning lady and on Delmore's Servicemember's Group Life Insurance. Rambo, attempting some cold comfort, gives Mrs. Barry the photograph of Delmore's unit. He is left with a mild sense of survivor's guilt as he is now the last man still living of his once-proud unit (known in the Army Special Forces as Operational Detachment Alpha or "A" teams). He then travels to Hope in the attempt to find a diner and maybe a temporary job. However, the overconfident town sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy), does not welcome Rambo, judging the military hero negatively because of his long hair and scruffy look. Rambo disobeys the sheriff's order to stay away from Hope, as he has done nothing wrong to the community and he believes such banishment to be a violation of his freedom of movement, and is promptly charged for vagrancy and subject to harassment from the deputies.
The harassment triggers flashbacks of Rambo's traumatic memories of his torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese when he was a prisoner of war, and his mind regresses into thinking he is once again fighting in combat. Rambo fights his way out of the sheriff's department with his bare hands and makes his way into the wilderness via a stolen motorcycle. A manhunt ensues. The sheriff and his deputies cannot win against Rambo in the forest, and indeed, all are badly wounded as a result of trying to capture him. Rambo deals with them efficiently and although capable of doing so, he doesn't kill any of them. However, he unintentionally kills a police officer in self-defence by throwing a rock at a helicopter, causing the pilot to lose control and an officer to fall out. The Washington State Patrol and about 200 members of the Washington National Guard are called in to assist.
At this point, Colonel Samuel Trautman (played by Richard Crenna), the former commanding officer of Rambo's old Special Forces unit, arrives in Hope. Trautman warns that continuing the manhunt is dangerous to the authorities, as Rambo is too experienced to be captured easily in the wilderness where he thrives. Instead, Trautman recommends giving Rambo time to return to his senses by allowing him to be by himself in the Pacific Northwest back country, after which he could presumably settle down after some time and be arrested without incident. However, the authorities reject Trautman's recommendation and continue the manhunt, and Rambo's subsequent rampage culminates in the destruction of the sheriff's office and most of the town's main street. Rambo stands poised to eliminate the sheriff, but Trautman finally confronts Rambo face-to-face, and ultimately convinces his former soldier to surrender to the authorities.
In the afterstory of the timeline between the first and second films, Rambo is convicted and remanded to a civilian maximum-security prison where heavy duty labor is the norm. Despite being a convict, the rigid routine and discipline of prison life provides Rambo with some measure of much-needed stability, as it reminds him of his past in the military and its own rigid hierarchy.
In the second installment of the series in 1985, Rambo is tasked by Col. Trautman to return to Vietnam to search for American POWs remaining in Vietnamese captivity. Marshall Murdock (Charles Napier), the official in charge of the mission, is portrayed as a corrupt political figure who does not want to expose the truth. Rambo is not to engage the enemy and instead is ordered to take photographs of a North Vietnamese military base to prove to the American public there are no more POWs in Vietnam, although Murdock knows that there are.
Rambo is sent to a part of the jungle where Murdock receives confirmation that no POWs were being held at the time. Rambo works with a Vietnamese woman known as Co Bao, who is an anti-communist Vietnamese rebel serving as an intelligence agent for Rambo. However, Rambo discovers that there is a POW camp where he was dropped; POWs are rotated between camps, and coincidentally are nearby when he was dropped. Rambo breaks one POW out of the camp and attempts to escape, only to be refused access to the base by Murdock and to have himself and the POW recaptured by the Vietnamese soldiers. Rambo is immobilized in a pit of sewage and leeches, then tortured by Soviet soldiers, who are allied with the Vietnamese and training Vietnamese soldiers. Co enters the base under the guise of a prostitute for hire, where she aids Rambo in escaping. After Rambo expresses his deepest gratitude for his rescue, the two share a kiss, after Co implores him to take her back to America with him. However, as they prepare to move on, Co is shot down by surprise gunfire.
Enraged, Rambo then acts on his own initiative and starts a one-man rescue mission, stealing a Soviet helicopter and breaking all the POWs out of captivity. After returning to the US base in Thailand with all the POWs, Rambo becomes enraged at how the United States government has ignored the existence of surviving soldiers being held captive. Rambo then threatens Murdock and tells him to be forthright with the American public regarding the truth of the POWs and to spare no expense in rescuing them all, else he will return for Murdock's hide. When Trautman says Rambo will be honored once again, he declines, saying the POWs deserve medals and accolades more than him as they were regular soldiers who endured torture and extraordinary hardships. For his actions in Vietnam, Rambo is granted a presidential pardon and remains in Thailand to reside.
In the afterstory between the second and third films, Rambo takes up residence near a monastery where he engages in frequent meditation to find a sense of inner peace. Although Rambo believes his soldiering days are apparently over, he does not become a complete pacifist, as he often participates in violent stick fighting matches and donates the purse of his winnings to the monks to help renovate the monastery.
The film opens with Colonel Samuel Trautman (Richard Crenna) returning to Thailand (where the second film took place) to once again enlist the help of Vietnam veteran John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone). After witnessing Rambo's victory in a stick fighting match, Trautman visits the construction site of the temple Rambo is helping to build and asks Rambo to join him on a mission to Afghanistan. This brings Rambo more into the realm of the CIA's famed Special Activities Division which primarily hires Army Special Forces soldiers. The mission is meant to supply weapons, including FIM-92 Stinger missiles, to Afghan freedom fighters, the Mujahideen, who are fighting the Soviets. Despite showing him photos of civilians suffering under the Soviet rule, Rambo refuses and Trautman chooses to go on his own.
While in Afghanistan, Trautman's troops are ambushed by Soviet troops while passing through the mountains at night. Trautman is imprisoned in a Soviet base and tortured for information by commanding officer Zaysen (Marc de Jonge) and his henchman Kourov (Randy Raney). Rambo learns of the incident from embassy field officer Robert Griggs (Kurtwood Smith) and immediately flies to Pakistan where he meets up with Mousa (Sasson Gabai), a weapons supplier who agrees to take him to a village deep in the Afghan desert, close to the Soviet base where Trautman is kept. The Mujahideen in the village are already hesitant to help Rambo in the first place, but are definitely convinced not to help him when their village is attacked by Soviet helicopters after one of Mousa's shop assistants had informed the Russians of Rambo's presence. Aided only by Mousa and a young boy named Hamid (Doudi Shoua), Rambo makes his way to the Soviet base and starts his attempts to free Trautman. The first attempt is unsuccessful and results not only in Hamid getting shot in the leg, but also in Rambo himself getting hit by wooden shrapnel. After escaping from the base, Rambo tends to Hamid's wounds and sends him and Mousa away to safety.
The next day, Rambo returns to the base once again, just in time to rescue Trautman from being tortured with a blow-torch. After rescuing several other prisoners, Rambo steals a helicopter and escapes from the base. However, the helicopter soon crashes and Rambo and Trautman are forced to continue on foot. After a confrontation in a cave, where Rambo and Trautman kill several Russian soldiers including Kourov, they are confronted by an entire army of Russian tanks, headed by Zaysen. Just as they are about to be overwhelmed by the might of the Soviet Army, the Mujahideen warriors, together with Mousa and Hamid, ride onto the battlefield in an awe-inspiring cavalry charge, overwhelming the enemy despite its overwhelming numerical and technological superiority. In the ensuing battle, in which both Trautman and John are wounded, Rambo manages to kill Zaysen by driving a tank into the helicopter in which Zaysen is flying. At the end of the battle Rambo and Trautman say goodbye to their Mujahideen friends, and leave Afghanistan to go home.
After saving Trautman in Rambo III, Rambo departs from Afghanistan, presumably parts with Col. Trautman and continues to reside in Thailand. This is where the fourth film begins.
The film opens with news footage of the crisis in Burma. Burma (also known as Myanmar) is under the iron fist rule of Than Shwe and takes harsher stances against the nation's pro-democracy movement. Rebels are thrown into a mine-infested marsh and then gunned down by a Burmese army unit, while the Burmese military officer Major Pa Tee Tint gazes grimly at the scene.
Former U.S. soldier John Rambo still lives in Thailand and now resides in a village near the Burmese border. He makes a living capturing snakes and selling them in a nearby village. He also transports roamers in his boat. A missionary, Michael Burnett (Paul Schulze), asks Rambo to take him and his associates down the Salween River to Burma on a humanitarian mission to help the Karen people. Rambo refuses but is convinced by Sarah Miller (Julie Benz) to take them.
The boat is stopped by pirates who demand Sarah in exchange for passage. After taking advantage of the pirates' complacency, Rambo kills them all. Although his actions save the missionaries, it greatly disturbs them. Upon arrival, Michael says that they will travel by road and will not need Rambo's help for the return trip. The mission goes well until the Burmese army, led by the Major Tint, brutally attacks the village, killing most of the villagers and two missionaries, and capturing the rest. When the missionaries fail to come back after ten days, their pastor, Arthur Marsh (Ken Howard), comes to Rambo to ask for his help in guiding hired mercenaries to the village where the missionaries were last seen.
Troubled by Sarah's potential fate, Rambo decides to accompany the soldiers. After seeing the destroyed village filled with mutilated humans and animals, Rambo encourages the platoon to move on. Hijacking a truck, they create a plan to save the hostages at the P.O.W. camp, doing so within fifteen minutes to avoid alerting the army. Rambo helps Sarah and the others to escape. The Burmese Army (Tatmadaw) unit finds their hostages missing and organizes a massive manhunt. Everyone except for Rambo, Sarah, and "School Boy" is captured. Just as the group is to be executed, Rambo hijacks a truck-mounted .50-caliber machine gun and engages the Burmese army. A group of Karen rebels joins the fight to help Rambo and the mercenaries defeat the boats of the Burmese army. Seeing that the battle is lost Major Tint decides to flee, only to run into Rambo's machete, which Rambo then uses to disembowel the Major, killing him.
Encouraged by Sarah's words, Rambo returns to the United States. The last scene shows him walking along a rural highway, past a horse farm and a rusted mailbox with the name "R. Rambo" on it. He makes his way down the gravel driveway as the credits roll.
On February 2, 2008, Sylvester Stallone informed Reuters in an interview that making a fifth Rambo would depend on the success of the fourth movie but that he thought he was "gearing one up" and that it would "be quite different". On March 10, 2008, Moviehole.net revealed that in an interview with Metro magazine, Stallone said that he was "half-way through" writing Rambo V and that it would not be another war movie. On March 20, Moviehole.net also said that ScreenDaily.com had revealed that the film would be shot in Bulgaria and later received word from a source that Bulgaria was to double for John Rambo's home town in Arizona. On November 3, 2008, Stallone confirmed that they will be filming a Rambo V and that it's in the works. Stallone said: "Rambo hopefully will be back. We've just got to give you guys a story that's worthwhile." It was rumored that the fifth film's plot (which was an alternative for Rambo) would involve Rambo's daughter being kidnapped by cult leaders and his ensuing mission to rescue her. On February 4, 2009, Sylvester Stallone quoted, "Yeah, we are doing another Rambo, but the conflict is whether to do it in America or a foreign country."
On August 30, 2009, Millennium Films officially gave Stallone the green-light to make Rambo V, with Stallone writing, directing and starring again. At that time, the plot revolved around Rambo fighting his way through human traffickers and drug lords to rescue a young girl abducted near the U.S.-Mexico border.
Stallone later confirmed that Rambo V would be loosely based upon a novel called Hunter, in which Rambo and a Special Ops are hired to hunt and kill a ferocious beast (the product of illegal genetic engineering experiments) that has slaughtered and destroyed research facilities and is on its way to civilization. Stallone has had the film rights to Hunter for several years and has not yet made a film adaptation.
On November 11, it was reported that the plot had reverted to Rambo crossing the border to rescue a girl who had been kidnapped, which led commentators assume that Rambo will go to Ciudad Juárez, a Mexican border city infamous for numerous killings of women. However, this source could be considered unreliable at best as screenrant.com cites an indirect message delivered by a Stallone fan forum poster.
On May 1, 2010, Stallone told Empire magazine that he no longer wishes to do Rambo V. He stated, "I think Rambo’s pretty well done. I don’t think there’ll be any more. I’m about 99% sure, I was going to do it... but for Rambo to go on another adventure might be, I think, misinterpreted as a mercenary gesture and not necessary. I don’t want that to happen."
At the 63rd Cannes Film Festival, Millennium Films and Nu Image advertised Rambo V with posters and handouts. Following an interview with Stallone for Ain't It Cool News, in which the director emphasised the finality of his decision to end the franchise, Harry Knowles reported that "He then told me that the folks behind those posters essentially said that if Sly didn't do it - someone else would. And Sly seems fine with that."
Stallone has suggested there could be a prequel that would focus on the origins of Rambo.
On August 2011, Sean Hood submitted a finished fifth Rambo film script titled Rambo: Last Stand for Millennium films. Hood described the film to be "more in line with the small-town thriller of First Blood". He based the script on an incomplete draft of Rambo V that Stallone wrote which consisted of 20 pages. It is yet to be confirmed whether the film will be made or not.
On February 2012, Sean Hood offered an update on his Twitter account stating that "Rambo 5 on hold as Sly finishes Expendables 2. He hasn't decided if R5 will be an "Unforgiven" or a "passing of the torch." Meanwhile Stallone confirmed a fifth installment, saying this one would be the last one. It would bring Rambo to Arizona's Mexican border and to Mexico as well.
|Film||Release date (US)||Budget||Box office revenue||Reference|
|First Blood||October 22, 1982||$15,000,000||$47,212,904||$78,000,000||$125,212,904|||
|Rambo: First Blood Part II||May 22, 1985||$44,000,000||$150,415,432||$149,985,000||$300,400,432|||
|Rambo III||May 25, 1988||$62,000,000||$53,715,611||$135,300,000||$189,015,611|||
|Rambo||January 25, 2008||$50,000,000||$42,754,105||$70,490,185||$113,244,290|||
Ratings collected from film review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.
|Rambo: First Blood Part II||1985||29%|
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (July 2009)|
The first film, First Blood, was originally released by Orion Pictures, but all ancillary rights at the time were with Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna (operating as Anabasis Investments). After its initial home video release, the rights reverted to Thorn EMI, which later became Weintraub Entertainment Group. Shortly after that, Anabasis became Carolco Pictures and thus took over the rights to the Rambo franchise. Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III were released through Tri-Star Pictures, with Carolco retaining all other rights, including home video via Live Entertainment. After Carolco's bankruptcy, the rights were passed on to French production company StudioCanal, which continued the partnership with what became Artisan Entertainment. Artisan in turn was sold to Lionsgate, and today Lionsgate continues to hold the home video rights to the first three films under a continuing output deal with StudioCanal, while Trifecta Entertainment and Media (having inherited their rights from CBS Television Distribution and Worldvision Enterprises) handles television rights on behalf of Paramount Pictures.
In 1997, Miramax Films purchased the Rambo franchise; eight years later the studio sold those rights to Nu Image/Millennium Films. Nu Image and Millennium produced the 2008 sequel Rambo, with Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company. Lionsgate also handles video rights to the latest film, and by virtue of its output deal with StudioCanal, a box set of all the "Rambo" films was released on May 27, 2008.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (July 2009)|
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (July 2009)|
The original scores for the first three films were composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. The music from the first and second films was performed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra and the music from the third by the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra. Goldsmith's main theme for Rambo was the basis for the end title song "It's A Long Road", performed by Dan Hill, part of the First Blood soundtrack.
The music for the first film is harsher and more dissonant than that for the sequels, as is keeping with the tone of the film. As such, it bears more of a resemblance to Goldsmith's output of the 1960s and 1970s than it does most of his work in the 1980s. The first film's score does use electronics but is primarily orchestral while the sequel scores incorporate heavier use of electronics. The second film's score is the most popular, being that it is the most exciting. The music in the third film is an extension of the style used in the second, but with a few new themes. Both sequels feature new themes for Rambo that are based on elements found in the original "It's a Long Road" theme, which is also heard in its original form in each film as well.
Because Goldsmith died in 2004, film composer Brian Tyler (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, War, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem) scored the fourth film. He reassured fans at the time of Goldsmith's death that his score would be based on Goldsmith's cues for the first three First Blood/Rambo pictures.
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