a critiQal film review Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

Plot: On a top-secret mission to Vietnam, John Rambo (Stallone) is only supposed to take pictures of a suspected POW camp. But, when he is double-crossed and left behind, Rambo must rely on all of his training and skills to make it out alive.

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To recap: as the wife was planning on a Sex and the City (2008) movie night with her gal pals, I had started to watch Rambo (2008) – only to discover the DVD player was kaput.

I rushed out to the store and picked up a new DVD-R – and, since it was on sale, picked up Rambo – The Complete Collector’s Set as well.

After being pleasantly surprised with First Blood (1982), I plunged immediately into the longer-titled sequel, Rambo: First Blood Part II, the Rambo flick I most remember from my formulaic younger years. Would I be pleasantly surprised again, or are my memories of this film fonder than they should be?

Stallone is back as John Rambo, and this time he doesn’t have to worry about showcasing the tortured soul of the previous film. This time around, his bulky musculature is the real star of the show, not his acting. Apparently impervious to bullets (he barely even gets a scratch, much less a wound), he storms his way through Vietnam, wreaking havoc with bigger and bigger weapons.

Richard Crenna is back as well, and he takes up the acting reigns a bit more this time around. As Rambo is out blowing up the entire country, Trautman gets involved in a power struggle with the CIA officer in charge of the mission (played by Charles Napier). While it’s not OscarĀ®-worthy, it’s a lot more acting than Stallone does, and it’s kind of a refreshing change of pace for the film to switch to every once in awhile.

This time around, John Rambo is definitely one of the good guys. With his tortured soul apparently healed, he takes out America’s frustration on both Vietnam baddies and Russian no-goodnicks (remember, the Cold War was going strong back in ’85). Audiences rooted him on as he singlehandedly decimated the baddies – we just couldn’t get enough.

These days, however, viewers might take a more objective look at Rambo 2– and discover it isn’t all that great. Whether it’s the montage of killshots or the utter ludiocrisy of the bad guys having horrible aim while Rambo never misses, there’s a lot of ridiculousness in this film.

Other films (even Stallone’s action hero competitor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Commando) don’t go as over-the-top as First Blood Part II. In those other films, the hero is actually threatened at some point, and must fight for his life – plus, they tend to make the reason they are blowing things up much more plausible.

Apparently the filmmakers decided that revenge against Vietnam wasn’t enough for Rambo to go gun crazy, they needed something more…so they tossed in everything they could think of. From rescuing POWs to being double-crossed to being tortured to even losing a loved one (like so many films to follow, the hero falls in love with someone he just met, who is then brutally murdered), they pile the reasons on.

And yet, despite so many reasons, it still comes off as Rambo is just killing because that’s what he likes to do. It’s violence for violence’s sake – and oh, how did we love that in the 80’s!

Nowadays, we have calmed down a bit as a culture, so can laugh at the ridiculousness of the movie, rather than just being captured by our adrenaline and glossing our way through the gaping plot holes and silly killing montages.

Definitely not as good as I remember it, Rambo: First Blood Part II shows the beginning of the decline of the series. While the first half of the movie is decent – if a little light on plot – the second half degenerates into nothing more than a shooting spree.

Too bad we can’t get behind it like we used to – guess that’s the price we pay for growing up.

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