- Movie Rating -

Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

| May 22, 1985

Looking back on my original review of First Blood, I find that my expectations were a little more than the movie was able to handle.  I noted that it was an uneasy balance of the sublime and the ridiculous – the two genres of Vietnam pictures that inspired it.  One had to be a melancholy statement on the war and the other had to be a balls-out action picture.  It tried to be both and the results were, needless-to-say very uneven.

I don’t really have the problem with Rambo: First Blood Part II.  It’s drama and its action are at equal measure.  They’re both pumped up to 11 and the movie has all the subtle charms of an eating contest.  If you’ve seen the promotional material then you pretty much have an idea of what this movie is all about.  Ads feature Stallone shirtless and obviously fresh off of several months at the gym.  He’s beefed up and the movie never shies away from that.  This is the kind of movie that takes this physique and gives it every chance to glisten with sweat, stand in the rain or come up out of a river.  It’s that kind of movie.

Stallone’s John Rambo, if you don’t know, was a combat soldier in Vietnam who returned home with an open wound in his soul.  He’s haunted by his experiences and it eventually goaded him into a war with the law enforcement of a small town. 

Needless to say, the sequel finds Rambo behind bars where, of course, he won’t stay for long.  His old commander, Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna) has an assignment that, for some reason, only Rambo can tackle – travel into the deepest jungles of Soviet-occupied Cambodia and collect photographic evidence that American POWs are still being held there.  Well, of course, that doesn’t go as planned.   Very soon, Rambo realizes that he’s been double-crossed by U.S. government officials and is now stranded in enemy territory.

This leads to the back half of the movie which is an endless bloodbath as Rambo stalks about the jungle dispatching bad buy after bad guy in scenes that if not logical, at least entertaining.  Less of this logic is wise because then you’d be asking how Rambo is able to know exactly where said bad guy will stand so that he can pounce on him.

It is, of course, ridiculous and it is wise to turn off your logic center but the direction by George Cosmatos, the editing by Mark Goldblatt and the music by Jerry Goldsmith make this one of the most exciting and entertaining dumbbell action movies that I’ve seen in a while.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense but you don’t mind because of the craft that has gone into it.

And at the center is the same issue that plagued the first movie.  How do you mount a meat and potatoes action picture like this on top of the serious subject of American POWs and the still lingering issue of the Vietnam war?  Well, it’s the same question that I posed in my review of Missing in Action 2.  You don’t.  It’s not trying to be Coming HomeRambo First Blood Part II is trying to be a rah-rah American action picture that pulls some measure of victory out of the Vietnam conflict, the war we lost in real life.  It’s a fantasy, its what commercial movies are supposed to be.  Are there better ways to deal with this issue?  Certainly.  But there is room for an entertainment like this with a healthy discussion afterwards.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1985) View IMDB Filed in: Action