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Movie Review: Rambo: First Blood Part II

Rambo: First Blood Part II
Directed by George P. Cosmatos
Written by Sylvester Stallone and James Cameron based on a story by Kevin Jarre 
TriStar, 1985

After 1982 proved to be a successful Rocky/Rambo year for Sylvester Stallone, he turned 1985 into another one, becoming the most feared Russian/Commie enemy perhaps in movie history.  Rocky IV, of course, was all about knocking out Ivan Drago, the Russian literally on steroids, and his latest Rambo adventure was delivering death to Russians funding a post-Vietnam prison camp.  Rambo was second, Rocky was third, in the box office year of Back to the Future.

Stallone would team up with his future Cobra director George P. Cosmatos, who would later re-team with Andrew Vajna on Tombstone.  Also, co-writer James Cameron worked with Vajna and Kassar on The Terminator and its 1991 sequel.

In the original First Blood, Rambo (Stallone), went ballistic on a small-town police force, and, quite frankly, looked more like the bad guy than the good guy.  Here, as he spends time in jail for what he did in the first film, he gets an early exit as Colonel Samuel Troutman (Richard Crenna) has a job for him.  Actually, a bureaucrat who claims to have served in Vietnam, Marshall Murdock (Charles Napier), has a job for him: find evidence that the Vietnamese are still holding American POW’s after 10 years, and bring pictures.

Oh yeah, and don’t start killing people.  Yeah right.

You see, Rambo isn’t a photographer for National Geographic, he’s a guy that carries around a big serrated knife and is a little touched from his first experience with Vietnam.  He’s not expected to find anything, but of course he does.  With help from his handler Co Bao (a woman!  Of course, not just any woman.  This is Hollywood and the handler must be The Most Beautiful Woman in the World, played by Julia Nickson), he rescues one of the POWs and then has to gun, knife, and run his way towards an extraction point.

But of course, any bureaucrat like Murdock who would have a guy like Ericson, played by The Karate Kid’s de facto villain Martin Kove, isn’t any good.  At the extraction point, Ericson gets orders to abort the mission and leave Rambo with his POW, surrounded by Vietnamese.  Murdock, “just doing his job,” didn’t expect any POWs and news of them would mean more American lives lost in Vietnam looking for them.  Nightmare.  Plus, if Rambo gets killed, no one would know anyway.  He’s expendable.  Win-win.

But Rambo is not one to just give up.  And his extended stay in Vietnam brings to light that the Russians are behind these camps.  The main villain becomes Lieutenant Colonel Podovsky (go-to Russian villain Steven Berkoff, previously of Octopussy and later Beverly Hills Cop), who tortures Rambo a bunch before the inevitable occurs and Rambo starts killing the entire cast.

This is one of those movies where it was probably just satisfying to see a bunch of Communists getting blown up for an hour or so.  There’s nothing particularly well-staged here, but it’s serviceable, especially when scores of guys are getting blown away all at once.  There’s something kind of cathartic about that.  1985 was the last great height of the Cold War before its demise a few years later, so it’s no surprise that Us-vs.-Them pictures like this one, Rocky IV and 8th-place comedy Spies Like Us were so popular.

Follows: First Blood

Next: Rambo III

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