Rambo (2008 film)

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Rambo (2008) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySylvester Stallone
Produced byAvi Lerner
Kevin King-Templeton
John Thompson
Written byArt Monterastelli
Sylvester Stallone
Based onCharacters
by David Morrell
StarringSylvester Stallone
Julie Benz
Paul Schulze
Matthew Marsden
Graham McTavish
Tim Kang
Rey Gallegos
Jake La Botz
Maung Maung Khin
Ken Howard
Music byBrian Tyler
CinematographyGlen MacPherson
Edited bySean Albertson
Distributed byLionsgate
Release date
  • January 23, 2008 (2008-01-23)
Running time
91 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[2]
Budget$50 million[3]
Box office$113.2 million[4]

Rambo (also known as Rambo IV[5] or John Rambo)[6] is a 2008 American action thriller film directed and co-written by Sylvester Stallone.[7] It is the sequel to the 1988 film Rambo III, and the fourth installment in the Rambo franchise. The film stars Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Rey Gallegos, Tim Kang, Jake La Botz, Maung Maung Khin, and Ken Howard. The film is dedicated to Richard Crenna, who played Colonel Sam Trautman in the previous films, and who died of heart failure in 2003.

The rights to the Rambo series were sold to Miramax in 1997 after Carolco Pictures went bankrupt. Miramax intended to produce a fourth film but Stallone was unmotivated to reprise the role. The rights were then sold to Nu Image and Millennium Films in 2005, who green-lit the film before the release of Rocky Balboa. Filming began in January 2007 in Thailand, Mexico, and the United States and ended in May 2007.

Rambo was released on January 25, 2008 to mixed reviews. It grossed $42 million domestically and $113.2 million worldwide against a budget of $50 million. Plans for a fifth film were announced on and off again since 2008, with Stallone confirming in May 2018 a fall 2019 release date for Rambo: Last Blood.[8]


Amid the political protests of the Saffron Revolution in Burma (Myanmar), ruthless SPDC officer Major Pa Tee Tint leads an army to pillage small villages in a campaign of fear. His soldiers sadistically slaughter innocents, abduct teenage boys to be drafted into his army and hold women hostage to be raped as sex slaves. Meanwhile, twenty years after the events in Afghanistan, John Rambo now lives in Thailand, making a meager living as a snake catcher and by providing boat rides. A missionary doctor from Colorado named Michael Burnett hires Rambo to use his boat to ferry their group up the Salween River into Burma on a humanitarian mission to provide medical aid to a village of Karen tribespeople.

During the trip, the boat is stopped by pirates demanding Sarah Miller, the only female in the group, in exchange for passage. Rambo is forced to kill them to protect her. Michael is greatly disturbed by Rambo's actions and upon arriving at their destination sends him back, claiming they no longer want his help. In the village the missionaries are giving care to is attacked by Tint's soldiers. The missionaries are abducted and the villagers are all massacred.

The pastor of the missionaries' church comes to Thailand and asks Rambo to guide a team of five mercenaries on a rescue mission. Rambo takes the mercenary team to the drop-off point and offers to help but the team leader Lewis, a former SAS soldier, refuses. Myint, a Karen rebel familiar with the area, leads the mercenaries to the village of the massacre. As they survey the damage, a squad of Tint's soldiers arrive in a cargo truck with a small group of hostages, intent on torturing them.

Outnumbered, the mercenaries take cover and watch helplessly as the soldiers prey on their hostages. Having secretly followed the mercenaries, Rambo emerges in time to singlehandedly kill all the soldiers with his bow and arrows, allowing the hostages to escape unharmed. Rambo joins the mercenary team and they make their way to Tint's soldiers' camp. They stealthily rescue the surviving American missionaries and Burmese hostages and flee under cover of night. The next morning, Tint and his soldiers pursue them and manage to capture everyone except for Rambo, Sarah, and School Boy, the mercenaries' sniper.

Rambo saves them from being executed by hijacking Tint's jeep, mounted with an M2 Browning machine gun, and igniting a massive shootout in the jungle during which he guns down much of Tint's army while a firefight ensues between the mercenaries and Tint's soldiers. Several of the missionaries and mercenaries are killed. The Karen rebels, led by Myint, arrive and join the fight, helping to overwhelm Tint's soldiers and kill them all. After realizing his defeat, Tint attempts to escape, but Rambo intercepts and kills him by disemboweling him with his machete. Some time later, Rambo returns to the United States to finally visit his father at his home in Arizona.



The film was an independent production between Nu Image and Emmett/Furla Films for Equity Pictures Medienfonds GmbH.[9] The film was green-lit and sold before Rocky Balboa was released.[10] In between the making of the third and fourth films in the Rambo franchise, the films' original producer, Carolco Pictures, went out of business. In 1997, Miramax Films purchased the Rambo franchise.[11] The following year, Miramax subsidiary Dimension Films intended to make another film, and a writer was hired to write the script, but attempts to make it were deterred by Stallone, who had stated that he no longer wanted to make action movies.[12] In 2005, the studio sold those rights to Nu Image/Millennium Films.[11]

Stallone had stated that part of the reason that it took so long to produce a fourth film was due to a lack of a compelling story that motivated him to return to the role.[13] An early idea was to have Rambo travel to Mexico to rescue a kidnapped young girl.[14] Stallone thought it was "good", however, he felt the idea lacked the "essence of Rambo", still wanting the character to be a "lost man wandering the world".[15] Stallone got the idea to set the film in Burma from the United Nations, which he later pitched to producers.[16]

The producers found the idea compelling after visiting Karen refugee camps.[17] Maung Maung Khin is a former Karen freedom fighter and stated that if he accepted the role of the film's villain, there was a chance some of his family would have been incarcerated in Burma, but accepted the role regardless, feeling that bringing awareness of the Saffron Revolution was important.[18]

A different director was originally attached to direct the film but left due to creative disagreements.[19] Stallone was reluctant to direct the film due to not being prepared nor having a vision for the film[20] but later became excited when he came up with the idea of "what if the film was directed by Rambo? What if the film had his personality?"[21] Graham McTavish later echoed this idea, stating, "In many ways, Rambo directed the movie."[22] Paul Schulze stated that there were rewrites by Stallone nearly every morning.[23] The film had a production crew of 560 people, including 450 Thai crew members, and over 80 foreign members from Australia, America, Canada, Myanmar and the United Kingdom.[24]

Stallone stated that due the small production budget the only way to make the film memorable was to make it graphically violent. He said "we were all sitting around in looking at the small production budget. Then I said 'Hey, fake blood is cheap, lets make it all out bloody.'" Filming started on January 22, 2007 and ended on May 4, 2007. It was shot in Chiang Mai, Thailand as well as in Mexico and the United States in Arizona and California. While filming near Burma, Stallone and the rest of the crew narrowly avoided being shot by the Burmese military. Stallone described Burma as a "hellhole". He said "we had shots fired above our heads" and that he "witnessed survivors with legs cut off and all kinds of land-mine injuries, maggot-infested wounds and ears cut off."[25]

Alternative titles[edit]

John Rambo was the original working title for the film but was changed in the US because Stallone thought that audiences might think that this is the final film in the Rambo series (due to the then recently released Rocky Balboa), which was not his original intent. In many other countries, the title John Rambo is used because the first and second Rambo films were known as Rambo in those countries. The film premiered on US television as Rambo, but the title sequence referred to it as John Rambo.

On October 12, 2007, Lionsgate announced that the film title was being changed to Rambo: To Hell and Back. After some negative feedback from the online community, Stallone spoke with AICN's Harry Knowles[26] and said:

"Lionsgate jumped the gun on this. I just was thinking that the title John Rambo was derivative of Rocky Balboa and might give people the idea that this is the last Rambo film, and I don't necessarily feel that it will be. He's definitely a superb athlete, there's no reason he can't continue onto another adventure. Like John Wayne with The Searchers."


Rambo: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score by
ReleasedFebruary 2008, 05 (05-02-2008)[27][28][29]
ProducerBrian Tyler
Brian Tyler chronology
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
Rambo: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
The Lazarus Project

Brian Tyler composed the original score for the film. Stallone wanted Tyler to incorporate Jerry Goldsmith's original themes into the movie. He did not rely on Goldsmith's actual theme, though he based his own theme and orchestrations on the style of the original to maintain the musical series. The soundtrack includes 20 tracks.[30][31] Tyler also composed the soundtrack to The Hunted, a film noted to be similar to the first Rambo film, First Blood.[32][33]

Track listing

All music composed by Brian Tyler.

1."Rambo Theme"3:34
2."No Rules of Engagement"7:09
4."The Rescue"4:04
6."Searching for Missionaries"7:07
7."Hunting Mercenaries"2:43
8."Crossing into Burma"6:59
9."The Village"1:43
10."Rambo Returns"2:44
11."When You Are Pushed"2:26
12."The Call to War"2:51
14."Prison Camp"4:42
15."Attack on the Village"3:01
16."Rambo Takes Charge"2:22
17."The Compound"7:48
18."Battle Adagio"3:10
19."Rambo Main Title"3:30
20."Rambo End Title"2:58
Total length:75:59


Box office[edit]

Rambo opened in 2,751 North American theaters on January 25, 2008 and grossed $6,490,000 on its opening day,[4] and $18,200,000 over its opening weekend. It was the second highest-grossing movie for the weekend in the U.S. and Canada behind Meet the Spartans.[34] The film has a box office gross of $113,344,290, of which $42,754,105 was from Canada and the United States.[4]

Europe's biggest cinema chain (and the third biggest in the world), Odeon, refused to show the film on any of its screens in the United Kingdom, due to a dispute with its British distributor Sony Pictures over rental terms for the film.[35] The film was shown in Ireland and the United Kingdom by other theater chains such as Empire Cinemas, Vue, Cineworld and Ward Anderson. The film was not shown in the French-speaking part of Switzerland due to legal and commercial problems with the distributor, even if it was available on screens of France and the Swiss German-speaking part.[36]

Critical reception[edit]

Rambo received mixed reviews,[37] with critics praising the film's action sequences and Stallone's performance, but criticizing the film's excessive violence. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 37% "Rotten" rating, based on 142 reviews, with an average rating of 4.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Sylvester Stallone knows how to stage action sequences, but the movie's uneven pacing and excessive violence (even for the franchise) is more nauseating than entertaining".[38] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 46 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[39] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.[40]

In his review for The New York Times, A.O. Scott wrote, "Mr. Stallone is smart enough—or maybe dumb enough, though I tend to think not—to present the mythic dimensions of the character without apology or irony. His face looks like a misshapen chunk of granite, and his acting is only slightly more expressive, but the man gets the job done. Welcome back."[41] Michael H. Price of Fort Worth Business Press wrote, "Stallone invests the role with a realistic acceptance of the aging process, and with traces reminiscent of Humphrey Bogart in 1951's The African Queen and Clint Eastwood in 1992's Unforgiven — to say nothing of the influences that the original First Blood had absorbed from Marlon Brando in 1953's The Wild One and Tom Laughlin in 1971's Billy Jack."[42] Jonathan Garret (a former writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution) said in an interview: "Rambo is the most violent movie I have ever seen. The last 11 minutes of the film are so violent, it makes We Were Soldiers look like Sesame Street".[citation needed]

When asked what his take on the film was, First Blood writer David Morrell said:

I'm happy to report that overall I'm pleased. The level of violence might not be for everyone, but it has a serious intent. This is the first time that the tone of my novel First Blood has been used in any of the movies. It's spot-on in terms of how I imagined the character — angry, burned-out, and filled with self-disgust because Rambo hates what he is and yet knows it's the only thing he does well. ... I think some elements could have been done better, [but] I think this film deserves a solid three stars.[43][44]

Reception in Burma[edit]

The film is banned by the Burmese government. Upon release, the then-ruling military junta ordered DVD vendors in Burma not to distribute the film due to the movie's content.[45] Despite having never been released there theatrically or on DVD, Rambo is, however, available there in bootleg versions. The opposition youth group Generation Wave copied and distributed the film as anti-Tatmadaw propaganda.[46]

The Karen National Liberation Army has said that the movie gave them a great boost of morale. Some rebels in Burma have even adopted dialogue from the movie (most notably "Live for nothing, or die for something") as rallying points and battle cries. "That, to me," said Sylvester Stallone, "is one of the proudest moments I've ever had in film."[45] Also, overseas Burmese have praised the movie for its vivid portrayal of the military's oppression of the Karen people.[47]

Home media[edit]

The DVD and Blu-ray Disc editions were released in the U.S. on May 27, 2008. The DVD is in 1 and 2 disc editions. The Special edition has a 2.40 anamorphic widescreen presentation and a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track. The single editions have a standard 5.1 Dolby Digital track. The Blu-ray Disc has Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS HD 7.1 Tracks. The DVD and Blu-ray Disc on disc one have the film, deleted scenes, 6 featurettes, and commentary by Sylvester Stallone. The Blu-ray Disc also has 2 extra special features, that includes a trailer gallery.

The 2-disc DVD and Blu-ray Disc editions have a digital copy of the film. There is also a 6 disc DVD set of all four Rambo films, packaged in a limited edition tin case with over 20 bonus features. A Blu-ray Disc set with Rambo 1-3 was also released.[48][49][50] The DVD was released in the UK on June 23, 2008. The film was the 19th best selling DVD of 2008 with 1.7m units sold and an overall gross of $39,206,346.[51]

Extended cut[edit]

During a panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2008, Cliff Stephenson announced that a "slightly different, slightly longer version of Rambo" will be released in 2009.[52] The extended cut premiered at the 2008 Zurich Film Festival.[53] The extended cut was released only on Blu-ray on July 27, 2010 and runs at 99 minutes.[54] The extended cut was marketed as "Rambo: Extended Cut" but the film itself replaces the original title card with the original working title "John Rambo".[6] The extended cut restructures the film and restores most of the deleted scenes from the Blu-ray and 2-disc DVD of the theatrical cut. The Blu-ray features a 7.1 DTS-HD mix, and an 84 minute production diary titled "Rambo: To Hell and Back".[55] The extended cut premiered on cable television (via Spike TV) on July 11, 2010, two weeks before its Blu-ray release.


In 2009, Stallone announced plans for a fifth film titled Rambo V: The Savage Hunt. The film would have been loosely based on Hunter by James Byron Huggins and would have focused on Rambo leading an elite special forces kill team to hunt and kill a genetically engineered creature.[56] In 2011, Sean Hood was hired to write a new script, separate from The Savage Hunt, titled Rambo: Last Stand that Hood described was "more in line with the small-town thriller of First Blood".[57] In 2012, Hood revealed that Rambo V was on hold while Stallone finishes The Expendables 2. Hood also revealed his uncertainty whether the film will be similar to Unforgiven or will be a passing-of-the-torch.[58] In 2016, Sylvester Stallone revealed that Rambo V was no longer in production.[59]

In May 2018, Rambo V was re-announced and is scheduled to begin filming in September with the plot focusing on Rambo taking on the Mexican drug cartel.[60] Stallone confirmed to be co-writing the script with Matt Cirulnick, but is unlikely to direct.[61] That same month, Stallone confirmed that the film is scheduled for a fall 2019 release.[8] In August 2018, Adrian Grunberg was announced as the director.[62] Principal photography began in October 2018.[63]


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External links[edit]