Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) / Action-War

MPAA Rated: R for violence, some sexuality and language
Running Time: 94 min.

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Charles Napier, Steven Berkoff, Julia Nickson, Martin Kove, George Cheung, Andy Wood, William Ghent, Voyo Goric
George P. Cosmatos
Screenplay: Sylvester Stallone, James Cameron
Review published December 31, 2007

Rambo: First Blood Part II is one of those films that doesn't really have much going for it these days save for the social significance for the time in which it was released, where it tapped a nerve with American audiences who gobbled the revisionist rhetoric up and clamored for more.  Despite the R rating, it would be the second highest box office performer of the year, a blockbuster year for its star, Stallone (Cop Land, Get Carter), with Rocky IV coming in third place.  Vietnam, America's freshest and deepest wound, might seem to heal a bit with the tagline "This time, we win," a proposition that had a lot of merit to the troubled public who wanted retribution for the lives lost, and the government that sent them there. 

The story follows First Blood, where John Rambo is in prison for his one-man army heroics against the law enforcement in the first film.  Here, Colonel Trautman (Crenna, Sabrina) approaches Rambo to undergo a covert operation that will presumably save the lives of thousands of POWs still in Southeast Asia, if he can find evidence that they are still being held captive.  Rambo is hired only to take pictures, but that doesn't sit well with the disgruntled vet, who uses the opportunity to get them out while he can.  However, corrupt government officials don't want Rambo to find any POWs, as this would complicate American relations in the area, and when irrefutable evidence is given, the mission is aborted, leaving Rambo all by himself -- one man against an army of sadistic Vietnamese and Russian soldiers.

Removing political importance aside, Rambo: First Blood Part II is a mediocre film at best, poorly shot, with anemic dialogue by screenwriters Stallone and James Cameron (The Terminator, True Lies) .  The direction by Cosmatos (Tombstone, Cobra) is serviceable at best, and the dispatching of the villains borders on the level of high camp.  Wrong turns are taken at nearly every step, with an awkward romance coming into play in the strangest of environments.  The enemies Rambo faces are nameless fodder for his wrath, while the POWs have no distinction -- just a huddled mass there for Rambo to protect and to give him a thumbs up when he saves their bacon from the fire.

Action junkies may rejoice at seeing mindless carnage on display without heavy plotting or thinking ruining the tempo, but it sure would be nice to have had a script accompanying it that contained more than five pages of dialogue.  Rambo II features the famous shot of Rambo tying his headband on and preparing for battle.  I'm guessing the rest of the crew tied one on as well, as big budget filmmaking this imbecilic could only come as a result of a lack of blood to the the brain.

-- Follows First Blood.  Followed by Rambo III and Rambo.

Qwipster's rating:

2004 Vince Leo