Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Rambo Week!!! Review #2: Rambo: First Blood II

Rambo: First Blood II

Directed by George P. Cosmatos

Written by Sly Stallone and James Cameron

Tagline: What most people call home, he calls hell.

Well, John J. Rambo is back as the film opens with what seems like a Cool Hand Luke deleted scene. Rambo is hammering rock when Crenna comes back to him with a proposition. Rambo takes the deal and is pardoned from prison in order to save some POW's that were left behind during the war. And we're off and running in one of the worst (yet most popular, more on that later) action films of the 80's.

Of course we come to find out that the bureaucrats that have assigned Rambo to the mission are in it for something else and everyone is expendable. But Rambo has other plans and this time he wants to know if they "get to win." But of course he does...but Richard Crenna reminds him that "it's up to him." Oh good...all we need is an unstable vigilante fighting our international battles.

Yes, Rambo: First Blood II takes all of the good will the first film built (it really did try to be legit) and flushes it right down the pooper. It's amazing how awful this movie really is, how ugly and violent, and hilariously awful it is. I loved every minute.

It's a little slower than I remember (my roommates and I used to watch this every week in college) and the crazy violence doesn't really kick in until about an hour into the film. However, it's all preceded by some wonderful low key (seriously he is trying so hard to look like he is not not acting...sad) moments where we get to know the man, Rambo, not just as a killing machine, but where he grew up. Ooooh great character development. Maybe if James Cameron wasn't spending so much time writing Aliens (his good movie) than Stallone wouldn't have had to pick up the slack.

Oh sorry...the plot (I got distracted): Rambo must save POW's left behind in Eastern Asia, and with the help of his plucky Taiwanese sidekick (that of course he falls in love with in a hilarious scene shot in soft focus...get it, his soft side, so soft focus...yeah) and big ass gatling gun. Which reminds me, when I looked up the film on the key words were: Torture, Python, Shot in the Head, Gatling Gun, Shot in the Back. Sadly, his new found love is the one that gets shot in the back. So much for the softer, more gentle Rambo --- he proceeds to grieve for about two seconds and then grabs her necklace (her good luck charm), puts it on, and becomes an unstoppable killing machine. And then we get this scene:

Awesome huh. Well...things don't work out so well for Rambo as he has another meltdown much like in the first film. And we get our obligatory lesson about people STILL don't respect veterans. Okay, that's enough about the plot.

Rambo: First Blood II is astonishing in its badness, yet the film is loved by many. In a recent Entertainment Weekly poll of the greatest action movies ever made, it ranked in the top 40! Yikes. It had a budget of 44 million and grossed over 300 million worldwide. There was even a Sega Genesis game to boot!

The movie is nothing more than an excuse to blow stuff up real good. And it's funny how no matter where Rambo is in the movie, fire is always around him. He plays chicken with a helicopter, takes on not one, but two armies (East Asia and Russia or South Africa, I couldn't tell the accents were that bad), and has to fight the suit and tie bureaucrats who push pencils and take orders rather than kill people. After all as Charles Nappier (the main bad guy ---he wears a tie, that's how you know) says "it's your war, not mine." Not the right way to kick things off with John J Rambo.

By the end Rambo takes his aggression out on the machine by dropping of the wounded POW's and then walking into a hangar filled with machinery and files and begins to shoot them with his big gatling gun. Screaming at the top of his lungs...this shot consists of him shooting the computers, shooting the files, cut to his bicep, cut to shells hitting the floor, cut to him screaming, cut to his pecs, cut to his biceps, cut back to his screaming. Yup, we get the metaphor...Stallone ever the minimalist eh?

The director is the hack-tastic George P. Cosmatos, who made Cobra with Stallone after this, Leviathan, Shadow Conspiracy with Charlie Sheen and Linda Hamilton (a rip off of No Way Out), and somehow got lucky and made Tombstone (although now that I think about it, that film was horribly directed, it just had great performances). He's a horrible director who believes every shot should either be a low angle, birds eye, or be seen through an obstructed POV. It's maddening watching the shots in this movie.

The speech at the end of the film definitely trumps the ending of First Blood. Here, Rambo gives a speech ala Steven Segal's infamous "oil speech" in On Deadly Ground, as he stares into the camera after Crenna has reminded him that "I know the war was wrong, but don't blame it on your country." HUH??? Yes, let's blame it on...the enemy? Certainly with Rambo taking out a whole fortress of East Asians (which is funny, if the war is over, why so heavily guarded? Oh, so things could blow up and catch on fire...gotcha.) they must be to blame. Or is it the stiffs who sit behind a desk and play war from their offices, using people like Rambo as pawns in their game? Yeah...too deep for a movie like this, although once again (like the first film) the film strives to be something bigger and deeper than it really is or is capable of being.

When is asked what he wants, he replies: "I want our country to love us."


Didn't we just go through this Rambo?

Oh well...because at the end of the film we get the Frank Stallone masterpiece "Peace in Our Life" which I went ahead and found for you on youtube.

Watch all the way through as they show that final scene with Stallone's awful delivery and clips of the film (and oddly the first film...David Caruso though!) which completely contrast with the song. It's a soft piece of crap pop song that pleads for the listener to understand the struggles of our Vietnam vets...yet all of the clips are of Rambo kicking the crap out of people and blowing them up...hmmmm. God Bless America!

Up next, Rambo takes on Afghanistan. Yeah, it's too good to be true.


  1. That video is AMAZING. Yes, the pride of our country is blowing shit up (and running in slow motion).

    Another shot that seems to be cliche in these movies is the one of the helicopter silhouetted against the setting/rising sun. I suppose that signifies the movie is set in Asia...weak.

    You do the exploitive nature of the movie justice with this review. It is kind of sad that it became sooo popular, but it was the 80's and Stallone was the man. Just look at the 50 or so Stallone/Arnold/Norris movies that came out after this and you can see that this is what people wanted at the time. I guess it remains to be seen (this weekend) if the same holds true for the new Rambo movie (with free Iraq and/or 9/11 parallels!).

    All in all, they just don't make them like Rambo II anymore.

  2. "The movie is nothing more than an excuse to blow stuff up real good"=definition of a GREAT action movie.

    Examples: in Live Free or Die Hard when Bruce jumps out of the speeding car that hits a concrete divider and takes out the bad guys’ helicopter...or how about when Ice Cube jumps the fence on a motorcycle in XXX while the buildings around and behind him are exploding...and I vaguely remember an older movie starring one Mr. Bronson where he shoots a car with a ridiculously big pistol and we are treated to a bit explosion as it drives down the road!!!

    See what I mean? Some of the GREATest action of all time, not because of a intriguing plot or character development, but simply because they blew stuff up real good.