The original was crisp and dramatically valid. The follow-up was passable but overly mechanical. This third entry, though, is a wall-to-wall success: colorful, exciting, and entertaining as all get-out. A stupendously alive motion picture.The best of the Rambo series. When Sylvester Stallone's John Rambo's previous commanding officer, Col. Trautman (played by the late Richard Crenna), is captured during an unofficial mission in Afghanistan and held prisoner by a brutal Russian commander, well-muscled ex-Vietnam vet Rambo goes behind enemy lines to attempt a rescue. After being criticized for the lack of characterization in the acceptable-but-mechanical Rambo II: First Blood, Stallone infused his character with some semblances of depth this time around; Rambo isn't exactly Shakespearean in dramatic power, yet he's become introspective and contemplative as he's aged -- he's learned to consider the consequences of his actions -- and Stallone underplays him with vivid, quiet conviction. The story itself is far from a grabber, though, with its heavy-handed metaphors and irksome inclusion of a spunky kid who tags along with Stallone slight deficiencies. But the name of the game here is action, and the production immensely benefited from the firing of original director Russell Mulcahy (Highlander) and the hiring of second-unit director Peter MacDonald, who makes a smashing debut here. In addition to his huge respect for actors (he favors wide shots of them in the same frame rather than each one in endless close-ups), he shows an incredibly refined film sense for shooting action at various interesting angles and juxtaposing them into cohesive sequences where the spatial logistics are coherently defined. (In other words, MacDonald is the opposite of a Michael Bay.) Several standout bits: a helicopter attack on freedom fighters on horseback; a cat-and-mouse battle inside a huge cave; an escape through the catacomb-like underbelly of a Soviet compound; Rambo closing a gaping wound by exploding gun powder into it; and even a neat throwaway line, like when an arms merchant asks what a strange-looking device called a blue light does, and Rambo answers, "Turns blue.".At the time, this was the most expensive film of all time, with a budget of $63 million. It did "only" $53 million in business in the U.S.; however, unsurprisingly, it, like its predecessors, cleaned up big overseas.