Posted by: Christian | May 2, 2009

Rambo III Review

Just woke up and Rambo III is on TV. I’m gonna have to watch this. I’ll just throw out my observations as the movie goes….

OK, the topography is clearly not Afghanistan. That’s understandable as this movie was made in 1988. [Just checked IMDB. And the main locations are in Israel, Arizona and California.]

Col. Troutman is imprisoned and yells to his Soviet captors about them “wiping out a race.” The Soviet officer calls it propaganda. They are both sorta right and both wrong. An article by Rasul Bakhsh Rais covers both sides. And, would you believe it, you can find Afghans these days with favorable opinions of the Soviets? But obviously, also many people who lost everything and don’t have anything nice to say.

And some chit-chat about Rambo and Massoud going to the “Valley of the 5 Lions” and its mythological etymology. Actually, it is a corruption of a pre-Western Iranian place name that sounds sort of like “Panjshir.” I believe it was “Banjhar,” as noted by Bartold’.

Some historical mythology about Afghanistan existing since Alexander came through and how they thrashed everybody. So far from historical fact, but so close to our hearts. :)

What is coming out of Massoud’s mouth? Checking IMDB…actor’s name is Spiros Focas. That explains a lot. Greco-Dari perhaps?

“Soviet poison gas, babies thrown into fires, complaints of nobody in the west complaining.” Did Freedom House write this script? And a display of land mines disguised as toys in order to maim Afghan children. Google this issue and you will find many, many references to back this up (ie, NY Times). But in reality, they are talking about the Soviet PFM-1 and PFM-1s:

I could see how a bored kid would pick those up. But not exactly something that every kid wants for Christmas this year. Cool looking landmine? Yes. Tickle-Me-Elmo? No.

Buzkashi! Hey, that’s not even a real calf (goats are for pansies). That’s a sheep skin stuffed with Styrofoam or something. And this isn’t the countryside buzkashi. It looks like a really weird version of government buzkashi. Check this book for the difference and the significance.

Bang! Boom! Argh!…… This just goes on for about 30 minutes.

Isn’t Rambo dressed inappropriately for Afghanistan? Put on some clothes!

What about those kick-ass Soviet Hind attack helicopters? They are “tweaked Eurocopter SA-330 Pumas” and the others are possibly “Aerospatiale Alouette IIIs fitted with some kind of nose cone and fake wings” according to this site.

OK, now Rambo is pretty much just naked, smothered in vegetable oil.

Odd APCs rolling around. No idea what they are.

My God, the Soviets are bad marksmen.

Doesn’t that woman need to put on a burqa?  She isn’t even up to Tehrani fashion-girl hijab. The Taliban didn’t invent the burqa.

“Inshallah!” Everybody understood that line, right?

Exploding arrowhead destroys helo. Classic 1980s action movie moment. So bad, so funny.

“давай! давай! давай!” Finally the Russians start to speak Russian.

The dialogue is just getting worse and worse: “What are friends for?” [guy dying horrible, painful death in the near vicinity]

Hey! There’s an Ocotillo bush behind Rambo. I guess they’re back in California.

Uh, uh. They’re gonna die. They’re surrounded by superior forces. Oh, look over there! Cavalry charge by mujahideen. Even a little boy using a mortar.

Rambo rams a flying helicopter with a tank. Why not?

“You fight good for a tourist!” says Massoud.

Script appears as movie ends: “This film is dedicated to the gallant people of Afghanistan.” But I suppose this excludes all those people who were in pro-government militias or military units, or working for the Afghan Communist government?

As a post-script, many people have made sarcastic comments about Rambo fighting alongside the Taliban, or the people who would later go on to become the Taliban. This is not right. In the movie he is heading for the Panjshir, meaning he was hanging out with Shura-yi Nazar, who fought the Taliban quite hard.

No need for you to watch the movie, this two-minute movie trailer covers it pretty well:

OK, back to real work now…..


  1. Thanks, that was fun!

    I still remember how I stood in front of the local cinema when I was a little child, trying to make sense out of the movie advertising. The slogan (in German) stuck: Rambo räumt mit Russen auf. Almost an alliteration.

    Oddly enough, despite being a Cold War child and all that, I’ve never seen that movie. I managed to tune in some years ago, marvelled at the incredibly bad acting, and decided not to waste my time anymore.

    My favorite Cold War AFG movie would be the Living Daylights, though. There’s nothing like a Bond movie!

    But: why did you leave out that most memorable quote in history?
    “Hamid: What’s that?
    Rambo: It’s blue light.
    Hamid: What does it do?
    Rambo: It turns blue.”

  2. […] Christian Bleuer reviews Rambo III and finds that, despite its ostensible setting in Afghanistan and featuring a highly competent Special Forces operative in the lead role, it is not an accurate depiction of warfighting in South Asia.   Additionally, it is not an ideal source for those wishing to study weapons technology circa 1988 or looking for tips for how to dress in that climate. […]

  3. RE: “It turns blue.”

    Quite right, probably the best line ever. I was making coffee in the other room and talking to my housemates a bit while watching the movie. So I may have missed some quality parts such as this.

  4. This film illustrates (via Hollywood) the primary US foreign policy for Afghanistan starting from the early 1970s to avenge the US defeat in Vietnam by trapping the USSR in Afghanistan so that USSR could get their own Vietnam.

    Here a Vietnam veteran, John Rambo, has the opportunity to directly take his revenge against the USSR along with the US and Pakistani proxy, the “mujaheddin” aka “freedom fighters”.

  5. […] (See Rambo III’s top ten scenes  – I also highly recommend Christian Bleuer’s analysis of the movie). The irony is consolidated when one compares the security paradigm during Lees’ era: a country […]

  6. bravo


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