The Rambothon – Part 2

First Blood proved itself to still be worth your time and discussion many decades after it’s release and I have no doubt that the sequels will be just as good!

Title: Rambo: First Blood Part 2

Release: May 1985

Director: George P. Cosmatos

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Charles Napier, Steven Berkoff, Julia Nickson, Martin Kove, George Cheung

Plot: Several years into his sentence following the actions in the town of Hope, John Rambo is offered the chance at a pardon if he participates in a recon mission.

Review: If there’s one thing that needs addressing above all other things with this sequel, it’s the title. The clearly designed by committee title of Rambo: First Blood Part 2 is an awful mess, an attempt by marketing to wring every drop of recognition possible from the brand they’ve created. It also suggests a continuation of the original story, the central themes of which focused on the damage done to veterans and the effects of PTSD. In contrast to this, the sequel is a celebration of badassery and guns.

John Rambo (Stallone) is busy breaking rocks when Col. Trautman (Crenna) pays him a visit with the promise of getting out of jail in exchange for a brief return to service. Rambo is to return to Vietnam to confirm the existence of American POW’s still held in custody. At no point does anyone suggest that sending an emotionally traumatised former POW back to his prison may not be a great idea. After reaching the camp and going against orders by freeing a prisoner, Rambo learns that the mission commander Major Murdock (Napier) never intended for the mission to be a success and leaves Rambo to be captured.

Rambo, along with his contact in the field Co-Bao (Nickson) and the POWs, escape from the camp after learning that it’s run by Russians. They fight their way to freedom and Rambo returns the POWs to the US forces before confronting Murdock.

It speaks volumes about the intention of this movie as it starts not with a wondering figure but an explosion. The story flies in the face of logic by taking a character defined by their horrifying past experiences in war and having him return to the battlefield while framed as a great, noble hero. This reflects the ongoing Reagan presidency and it’s cultural attitude towards war and the desire to portray the American military as a powerful international force against the evil Russians.

This ridiculous change in tone comes to a head when John Rambo, about to leave for his mission, pointedly asks if they’re going to “win this time”. Crenna responds “that’s up to you”, suggesting that it’s the noble hero of the army the world needs, not losers with PTSD.

Every aspect of the story has been hollowed out. Trautman is no longer the voice of warning and reason, but a cheerleader for Rambo’s badassery. The moral ambiguity behind a man fighting for survival by maiming law enforcement is replaced with close ups of Stallone’s biceps jiggle while he mows down enemies. Rather than a soldier bringing the war home with him, we have a soldier bringing to war to…war.

Putting dashed hopes for something more substantial aside, this is more than a functional brainless action adventure. It’s a very enjoyable brainless action adventure. James Cameron worked on the script with Stallone and their combined efforts produced some exciting sequences. The ‘reveal’ that the slimy white collar Murdock was a dick the entire time came as no surprise – parody film Hot Shots! Part Deux hid their twist better than the film they were parodying. Also, I had no idea Richard Crenna played the amazing parody of his Rambo character in said Hot Shots! sequel…that’s phenomenal!

Rambo: First Blood Part 2 has clearly had more impact on the action genre than First Blood, and homages to it turn up in movies and games both new and old. The bulk of the modern military action shooter games that were all the rage the past decade certainly owe a lot to this particular story and style of action. The stereotype of the old school man-of-the-land archetype was refined here, reaching a peak when a glistening Stallone machine guns a room of military technology towards the end.

Fun, but one watch was enough.

Rating: SIX out of TEN