Film Review: Rambo: First Blood Part II

If you can look at that without wanting to be Rambo, you’re dead to me.

Come on. Rambo was always coming back. Sylvester Stallone was creating cultural icons like they were protein shakes in the morning. So, three years after the first installment, the marketing team is on top of it with 1985’s Rambo: First Blood Part II, i.e., putting Rambo’s name front and center.

Seriously, 1985 was the year of Stallone: the second Rambo came out in May, and broke all kinds of records, storming to $300 million globally on a $25.5 million budget. Then, Rocky IV came out in November (yes, Rocky freaking IV!) and on a similar budget of $28 million, that film also made $300 million globally. To put that into perspective for you, Rambo and Rocky IV, respectively, were the two biggest films of 1985 after Back to the Future and Beverly Hills Cop, and quite a distance away from the next biggest one, Cocoon.

The 1980s couldn’t get enough of Stallone, and 35 years later, I can’t either. Fun fact is that I’ve never seen the two ’80s sequels to Rambo. So, this was all new to me. He returns to this one with a rather simple premise: Col. Troutman (Richard Crenna) will take Rambo out of prison, where he was at the end of the events of the last film, if Rambo will go to Vietnam and photograph prisoners of war in Vietnam.

He’s a goner, and no, I’m not talking about Rambo!

But, it turns out the government was being deceptive and didn’t actually want Rambo to turn up the prisoners of war. Instead, the government essentially wanted to make it seem like they were doing something without actually doing something. So, Rambo is stranded in Vietnam and he knows he’s been betrayed. On top of everything else, remember last review I mentioned I’m surprised Rambo didn’t have a love interest? Enter love interest, Co Bao (played by Julia Nickson), who is killed in the course of the action to add to Rambo’s ire. Oh, and just like in Rocky IV, there’s some Russians to beat up on here, too.

I will say, the premise is bit of a stretch since reportedly the last POW to emerge out of Vietnam did so six years prior to when this film takes place, but hey, there’s all kinds of crazy explosions and scenes throughout this film, like Rambo’s expertise with a helicopter, and getting out of dire situations, but you know what the most unbelievable thing to me was? You have Rambo doing all this miraculous fighting and action, moving about the Vietnam jungle, and he goes at least three days without eating! There’s even a scene where Co offers him something to eat, and he shrugs it off. This man is a machine for real!

He’s a beast with this arrow explosion thingamajig.

Overall, I’ll go ahead and put my cards on the table: I actually liked this even more than the first one. It’s become fashionable and for good reason to say, wait a second, the first Rambo was great. Yeah, the others turned into the rock-’em-sock-’em 1980s action movie cliches we’ve come to known now, but that first one was great, intelligent film-making. And I agree! But let’s not write off the second Rambo. It’s great! It’s just pure adrenaline, oiled-up Stallone kicking ass, and it’s so much fun. It knows exactly what it is and delivers it to its audience.

There are two great scenes in particular that stand out in my head. The first is after Rambo has endured torture at the hands of the Russians and Vietnamese (and mind you, Rambo is literally being held captive with dozens and dozens of enemies all around him), and the Russian wants him to radio a message to the Americans. Oh, Rambo does, but his message is to Murdock (played by Charles Napier), the head of the government bureaucracy who left him and the POWs for dead, and Rambo’s hand tightens around the radio (and I get chills just reliving this scene in my head!), as he growls: “Murdock, I’m coming to get YOU!”

Then, of course, he goes full Rambo and with the help of Co (who pretended to be a prostitute to gain access), they break out and escape.

The second great scene is when Rambo is in, well again, full Rambo slasher mode picking off the Russians and the Vietnamese one-by-one in awesome vignette after awesome vignette, but the best of these is when Rambo is camouflaged in the mud and pops up behind a guy. So dang cool.

Another great thing to say about this film is that Stallone is so dang good at that dead-behind-the-eyes look. I don’t know how he does it, but that echoes a point worth repeating: These movies work because of Stallone. Stallone is the freaking man.

What a film!

So, where do you land on the second installment of more awesome Rambo action?

Hell yeah! That’s the face you decidedly DO NOT want to see.

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