RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II swallows injured national pride and regurgitates it as scalding bile in the irresponsible 1985 sequel to the exciting First Blood from three years earlier. This time, Sylvester Stallone’s ultra-stoic, predator-lethal, sulky ex-vet takes his seething muscle mass and less-endowed repertoire of grunts and yells from the cold woods of Washington State back to the steamy rivers and jungles of Vietnam from whence his skill-set and attitude evolved. Rather than fighting a few brutal homegrown cops, John Rambo, American and Body Builder, takes on platoons of vile Communists who for some reason act like they own the place.
The budget raised 195% to $44,000,000, the stakes heightened to looking for unreleased P.O.W.s, the body count zooming from one to 75, the credibility and taste ante ambushed and slaughtered. Rambosian superior officer/mentor/counselor and guy-who-warns-others-of-Rambo ‘Col. Trautman’ (Richard Crenna) is back, arguing with the duplicitous government official running the operation. He gets to intone things like “A pure fighting machine with only a desire to win a war that someone else lost. And if winning means he has to die, he’ll die. No fear, no regrets. And one more thing: what you choose to call hell, he calls home.” Credit where due: Crenna was a good enough actor to pull that off.
In ‘Nam’ (Mexico standing in as apparently The Philippines was taking a break), the glistening, barechested Rambo finds evil Soviets in charge of that side of the pond. Many must perish.
Reagan-era rah-rah revisionist retchfest was co-scripted by the conservative star, who heavily revised James Cameron’s original draft (the action was Cameron’s, the politics Stallone’s) and was directed by George P. Cosmatos. A giant success, #2 in ’85 ,with planetary grosses of at least $300,400,000, emblematic of the resurgence of manufactured patriotism that marked the Ronald McReagan 80s. *
Short at 96 minutes, it’s fast, furious and stupid, but looks good at any rate, thanks to Jack Cardiff being the cameraman. Jerry Goldsmith knocked off score. Oscar-nominated for Sound Effects Editing. With Charles Napier, Steven Berkoff, Julia Nickson, Martin Kove and George Cheung.
* Not that it’s saying much, but at least this is better (or better-made) than the Chuck Norris P.O.W. travesty Missing In Action. Stallone is but one of a squad of gung-ho right-wing flame-throwers who somehow managed to miss their chance to join a real firefight. Bu-buh-but if “only we’d been allowed to win“: yeah, merely killing 3.5 million people and reducing three agrarian countries to blasted, poisoned ruins wasn’t sufficient enough “noble effort” for the “show resolve” crowd. Soapbox aside, the original First Blood is a tough action customer and the fourth, plain old Rambo, mowing down legions of bad guys in Burma, is good high-octane trash. It’s this offensive second installment, and the moronic Afghanistan caper of Rambo 3 that are more than logic-inert dumb: they’re politically idiotic, thematically repugnant and morally vacuous. Oh, and just to play fair & balanced, a note to kneejerk ‘Merica bashers: it wasn’t just homeboy yahoos who cheered through their beer— people lap up this shite all over the world. Your humble reviewer has witnessed it on long bus rides through countries Rambo could have done some actual good in.