Stripped down to a simple, engaging story about vengeance, Sylvester Stallone's Rambo is surprisingly entertaining and welcomed return to form, delivering some old-fashioned mindless escapism. The beloved hero invades the jungles of 4K Ultra HD with a very good Dolby Vision HDR presentation, a reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack, and the same set of bonuses. Recommended for hardened, loyal fans of the franchise.
After the hilariously over-the-top action machismo and excessive jingoism of the 1988 third entry in the John Rambo saga, it was a treat to see Sylvester Stallone allow the embittered Vietnam-vet to redeem himself twenty years later in the aptly titled Rambo. Granted, I was somewhat hesitant at first when it initially hit screens, but thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised by the simple, straightforward shoot-up story from a script co-written by Stallone. Under his direction, the film also feels like catching up with an old friend, largely thanks to a fairly nosy but well-intentioned missionary Sarah (Julie Benz of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame), who keeps bugging the reluctant and rather stoic Rambo. Then again, she's also the catalyst needed to push the beloved character to do what he does best, but within its simplicity, there hides a subtly poignant theme on interventionism and humanitarian efforts. The movie is a great return to what has turned the original into a favorite action flick, except with far more gore and just enough excessive violence to be enjoyed as mindless escapism.
For a more in-depth take on the film, check out Michael S. Palmer's review of the 2010 Blu-ray HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Lionsgate Home Entertainment brings Rambo to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital Copy. The code can be redeemed via moviesredeem.com or through VUDU and should unlock the 4K Dolby Vision version with Dolby Atmos audio. The triple-layered UHD100 disc sits comfortably opposite the same Region A locked, BD50 disc as the 2010 release. The UHD contains both the 92-minute theatrical version and the 99-minute "Extended Cut," which adds a few dialogue-driven sequences. Both discs come inside a black, eco-cutout case with a glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to the usual menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
The hardened, embittered Vietnam-vet is thrust back into action outfitted with a good-looking if also somewhat average HEVC H.265 encode, showing a few gains here and there but not enough of a notable face-lift to overpower its Blu-ray predecessor. Coming from a 2K digital intermediate, the upscaled transfer creeps into the jungles of Ultra HD with definition that's about the same as the 1080p HD version. To be fair, some sequences enjoy a welcomed uptick with slightly sharper detailing in the surrounding foliage, the jungle floor, and the various wood structures. Facial complexions, in particular, reveal wrinkles, pores, and blemishes with a bit more clarity and better lifelike texturing. However, overall resolution generally falls on the softer side of things with several poorly-resolved moments to boot, but much of this can be excused due to the original photography and not an issue with the encode itself.
Similarly, contrast also receives a small boost, heightening some of the action with a tad brighter and cleaner whites, but again, it's not a dramatic enough of a jump to be noteworthy. This is likely related to Glen MacPherson's cinematographic intentions, as much of the movie feels deliberately dreary and somber with lots of overcasts, giving the visuals a greyish appeal. This affects specular highlights on the whole, but the small improvement is still appreciable. The brightest, hottest spots are a tad crisper, which is best seen in the jungle scenes as the sun shines through the trees with a narrower glow allowing for better visibility, but in other areas, they reveal a smidge of posterization. Brightness levels enjoy the biggest upgrade, providing the 2.40:1 image with richer, truer blacks and strong shadow details within the darkest, murkiest corners.
The filmmakers' aesthetic design also affects the palette, favoring a drabber, slightly lackluster color scheme with lots of earthy tones. Seeming faithful to those intentions, the Dolby Vision presentation nonetheless supplies the gratuitous, gory violence with a slightly wider array of secondary hues, displaying a more nuanced variation of browns, tans, and greys. Scenes with fires and explosions, on the other hand, are a dramatic blend of vivid marigold yellows and intense fiery oranges. Flesh tones, likewise, appear healthier with a sunburnt rosiness that feels appropriate to the climate and the diverse cast. Also, greens are a livelier shade of emerald, pine, and moss while reds are fuller and animated, especially the crimson ruby of blood splattering everywhere.
In the end, it's not the sort of dramatic upgrade we've to expect of the format, but the 4K video is a small enough step up over its HD SDR counterpart for fans to admire, awash in a thin layer of natural grain to provide the presentation with a welcomed film-like quality. (Dolby Vision Video Rating: 72/100)
Our beloved, legendary one-man army storms into the thick of battle equipped with an earth-shattering, demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack, guaranteed to bring the warzone to home theaters and probably draw complaints from neighbors.
Rain is convincingly heard pouring from above the listening area and down the surrounds, and occasionally, individual water drops fall from the side of a roof or the canopy of Rambo's boat. When the weather is calmer, birds are distinctly singing in the distance or bugs are chirping from within the jungle. The stealth rescue sequence is a fantastic highlight, as the cheers of soldiers echo all around and through the ceiling speakers or footsteps walk directly overhead, generating a highly satisfying hemispheric soundfield. When the action suddenly erupts on screen, screams and yells come from every direction, bullets flawlessly zoom throughout the room, and debris immersively rains down.
Interestingly, given the movie's overwhelming loudness, pockets of silence are therefore all the more apparent, which is not an entirely bad thing. Only that the design can feel like a sudden front-heavy shift. Thankfully, imaging sustains a notably spacious and expansive soundstage, as various background activity fluidly spreads across the front channels and into the top heights. Brian Tyler's score also benefits from the extra-breathing room, bleeding to the sides and overheads with excellent orchestration and distinction. With precise, well-prioritized vocals even amid the chaos, the half-dome soundscape is continuously engaging, and the mid-range is impressively extensive and detailed, maintaining extraordinary clarity during the loudest, ear-piercing moments.
The real showstopper, however, is the insanely aggressive and beautifully responsive low-end, which digs every so often well below 20Hz but stays more consistent around 25Hz (bass chart). This provides the music with robust bump and presence, gunfire and especially the .50 caliber guns with a wall-rattling oomph, and the explosions with palpable, room-energizing weight. The climactic battle is, without a doubt, the go-to scene, as it is ridiculously bonkers with enough intense, subwoofer-damaging bass to shake the house and anger neighbors. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 96/100)
The same set of supplements from the 2008 and 2010 Extended Cut Blu-rays are ported ported for this Ultra HD edition and available on the UHD disc.
Co-written, directed, and starring Sylvester Stallone, Rambo sees the return of an action icon without the excess machismo and jingoism that plagued the last entry twenty years earlier. Stripped down to a simple, engaging story about vengeance, the fourth entry in the series is surprisingly entertaining and good, old-fashioned mindless escapism. The beloved hero invades the jungles of 4K Ultra HD with a generally satisfying Dolby Vision HDR presentation but a superior, reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack, offering a welcomed improvement over its Blu-ray predecessor. Porting over the same set of supplements as before, the overall UHD package is ultimately recommended for hardened, loyal fans of the franchise.