johnlink ranks RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985)

After watching the under-appreciated FIRST BLOOD, I went back to the series for the follow-up. This is the Rambo we all know and love and love to laugh at. If FIRST BLOOD is a throwback to a 70s style of paranoia film, then the second RAMBO is all 80s excess and action. The goal is to make everything bigger, louder, and bloodier. But does that make it better?


I watched RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985) on 1.24.13. It was my second viewing of the film, and first in a dozen years.

The pattern of the original film is actually adhered to somewhat closely. Rambo ends up in a situation, meets an authority figure who clearly has it out for him, gets into an action sequence, the film calms down for a bit, get into another bit of an action sequence, and then he blows a bunch of stuff up.

The difference is that Rambo 2 has no subtlety to speak of, and it doesn’t really make an effort to be the suspense flick the first one was. This is balls-to-the-wall action. If you want to see Stallone blow people up for an hour and a half this movie will certainly fill that void. Unfortunately, it is so loosely hung together that it becomes a cartoon. Stallone is hiding in mud one moment for a cool shot of him seeming to come out of a mud hill without being detected. In the next shot, he is perfectly clean as if this never happened. The director, George P Cosmatos isn’t concerned with any sort of continuity, he just wants each shot to blow-up or shock (or whatever else) in its own little world, and then move on.

This is a script which is written, amazingly, by Stallone and James Cameron. Apparently, Cameron had the first pass and then Stallone layered in some bits of political intrigue. Nothing subtle, nothing which wasn’t covered with better effect in the first movie. But, at least, Stallone is trying to build the character and create some consistency there. He is effective in the first act of this film, as he remains stoic in keeping with the first film. He becomes a different person once he gets into the jungle to save some POWs. If that different person was just more fierce, I would understand. But Rambo 2 needs some femininity, so it has our hero falling in love with a female operative in the course of 24 hours.

I don’t think its worthwhile to really pick this movie apart. There really is no reason. It is disappointing in that the first movie is so nuanced and nicely realized, and then the second movie just blows it all up. It’s not BAD, per se, but it certainly wastes an opportunity to be something more.

It’s not all the killing which bugs me, to be sure. I love me a good violent film. It’s the anonymity of it all. There is no really strong villain, and only one of the bad guys speaks any English at all. Where FIRST BLOOD was all about the relationship between cat and mouse, FIRST BLOOD PART II is just a spectacle in which we watch a hero kill dozens of faceless soldiers.

There are some classic Rambo moment in this. The muddy Rambo is clever, if disjointed. There is a nice shot of him jumping off an exploding boat. The last scene is explosion porn (to the point where one little arrow-head somehow creates three clearly separate explosions side-by-side-by-side). There are cool things to look at. They just don’t come together into a cohesive thing.

Would I watch this again? Sure. It’s not less than entertaining. It’s not less effective in what it wants to do than any number of 80s action flicks of the same breed. I just see where this character became less than he could have been and I lament that loss.





~ by johnlink00 on January 25, 2013.

3 Responses to “johnlink ranks RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985)”

  1. I felt the sequel was still a good movie. I read that it was a cathartic film for Vietnam vets; a lot of them began to open up about their experiences in the war after seeing this movie. Sort of gave them a closure to the war that they never really got when they had actually fought. An interesting historical footnote.

  2. I could see where it would be sort of cathartic to the id of a vet. I just don’t think the movie does a great job of honoring them, per se. The romance is just so cheesy (fortunately, at least, they cut out the original idea which was to do a dramatic triple-zoom on Stallone screaming “noooooooooo” when she dies).
    I’m not trying to invalidate the entire experience. It is entertaining enough. I just don’t think it really holds up to the original.
    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. […] RAMBO: FB PART II link here […]

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