Rambo: First Blood Part II Review

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Pulled out of jail by his former commanding officer, John Rambo, is sent on a mission to go back in Vietnam and survey where American POWs are still being held captive. But incensed with their treatment Rambo teams up with a female freedom fighter to rescue them first hand.


While First Blood, this film’s predecessor, can still be held up as a sharp thriller of dislocated souls in the heart of America, its sequel is a comic-book aberration whose pounding lack of political judgment has lent it a hilariously un-PC quality, and a fond place in people’s heart it surely doesn’t deserve. This is a film co-written by Sylvestor Stallone and James Cameron, and is accordingly dementedly macho, a right-wing wetdream of righteous American annihilation, as this walking walnut with a noble heart, played with Stallone’s particular stroke-victim clarity, returns to win the Vietnam war single-handedly. On that level it’s a fascinating piece, an inflamed representation of how so many American’s cannot face up to their great historical failure.

As a film it’s too easily mocked for its unironic transformation of the battered soul of John Rambo (Stallone’s second righteous thicko after Rocky) into an indestructible superhero, who crudely burbles the film’s cranky hypothesis: “Do we get to win this time?” The action is equally crude and sado-masochistic — while there’s plenty of scenes of Rambo mowing down cannon-fodder gooks, he also partakes in a gruelling torture scene. When the Russians turn up, led by indefatigable Soviet-for-hire Steven Berkoff, things have so slipped into some netherworld of hideous small-mindedness, the only response is gales of appropriate laughter.

Rambo asks a lot of us, it’s a real test. Here is a film fully xenophobic, abhorrent film, touting guileless version of military honour, but with Jack Cardiff’s furtive camerawork and some excellent editing, it sucks you in to its disturbing heroic sweep. But that doesn’t count as a recommendation. Reappraisal is not due.

A favourite of those adolescent enough in the eighties to enjoy its macho, right-wing cliches with no qualms...