It had been a while since I settled in for any of the Rambo films and thought it would be fun to take a look at the sequels. So I was excited to settle in for Rambo: First Blood Part II, the first of four sequels to 1982’s First Blood.
The second film eschews some of the grittier aspects of the first film, upgrades the level of violence, and becomes a bit of a fantasy fulfillment regarding America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. It’s also a lower-budget production than I remembered.
It’s obvious that there are a lot of cost-cutting measures put into the film, as it appears most of the budget went towards pyrotechnics and helicopters. That doesn’t make it a bad film by any measure, but it’s just something I never noticed before. With the use of certain angles and the way things are framed, you can tell it’s a bit of a lower-budget action film.
But you know what? It still works. There are a couple of reasons, Sylvester Stallone brings the character to life with ease, there’s a fantastic score by Jerry Goldsmith, James Cameron had a hand in writing the script, and there’s a solid supporting cast, including Julia Nickson, Charles Napier, Martin Kove, George Cheung, and Steven Berkhoff.
Stallone returns as Vietnam vet, John Rambo (Stallone). Currently serving out a sentence in federal prison for his actions in the first film, his old friend Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna) comes with the offer of a mission; working with the CIA, enter Napier’s slimy Murdock, Rambo is to return to Vietnam on a photo-taking mission to confirm the existence of American POWs still being held.
But things aren’t going to go as easy as all that, there will be accidents, betrayals, and Rambo is damned sure going to do his best to win the war this time.
He is aided by Co (the lovely Nickson), but is he ready for where the mission will take him?
It’s a fast-moving tale and there aren’t quite as many action sequences as I remembered from my youth, but it’s no surprise that it was as successful as it was. It’s a fairly well-made film, Stallone gets to build on the success of a previous film, and it let the American subconscious deal with their trauma over the Vietnam conflict, something that was really making its way into its media in the late seventies and eighties.
The film walked away with an Oscar nomination for Best Sound Editing (it didn’t win) and went on to help further cement Stallone as a box office superstar. That would of course inevitably mean there would be another film to come in the series, 1988’s Rambo III… but that’s for next time.