First Blood Part II stars Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, and Charles Napier and was directed by George P Cosmatos. It continues the story of John Rambo, played by Sylvester Stallone, as he’s sent on a mission back to Vietnam in order to look for POWs. Things don’t exactly go as planned and Rambo must utilize his training, as well as the help of a local, to make it out of the jungle alive.
Now this is the Rambo that everybody thinks of. The perpetually sweaty, shirtless, bandana-ed soldier running around the jungle toting a machine gun. All of the preconceived notions and stereotypical images conjured by the mere mention of the name Rambo are thanks to this movie.
Whereas First Blood was a dark character study with plenty of action, First Blood Part II is pretty much a straight-up 80s action movie. From that action standpoint, this sequel is a fairly fun movie. If explosions and helicopter chases sound like a good time to you, then you’re probably gonna enjoy this film. Compared to its predecessor, some of the action here does take a turn towards unbelievability, but if you can accept the movie for what it is, it can be a pretty entertaining watch. It’s got some incredibly iconic Rambo imagery. The shot of him from behind tying his bandana on? Check.
The muddy camouflage kill? Check. The shot of him jumping out from underneath the water with his bow? Check. And of course iconic Rambo action wouldn’t be complete without plenty of incendiary-tipped arrows. As entertaining as the action here is, it trades in the gritty realism of First Blood for the over-the-top quality of your typical 80s action movie. Now I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing; it’s just got a very different feel than the first movie.
That lack of grit kinda makes the film feel a bit inconsequential, so even when big plot points occur, you kinda just go with the flow and don’t worry cause it’s Rambo and he’s gonna do the Rambo thing. If the movie had taken a shlocky straight-action route with its story, then that would’ve been okay, but unfortunately it attempts a more self-serious storyline and can’t quite pull it off. First Blood had something to say; about PTSD, life-after-war, and profiling. First Blood Part II tries to double down on some of those themes and messages, but ends up presenting them in a fairly muddled fashion.
It takes a more patriotic approach to the issue of the Vietnam War and the treatment of veterans after the war, which doesn’t feel quite in-line with the character of Rambo. And then we’ve got the plot twist (which I’m not gonna give away), that feels really shoehorned into the otherwise generic story. First Blood Part II is an unusual movie cause its purpose, what it attempts to do, and what it actually achieves don’t line up. It’s understandable that there was a desire for a sequel to the first movie. Inevitably, the thing people liked the most about that first movie was the action, so it’s no surprise that that was ramped up here.
It’s just too bad that they couldn’t recapture that balance of meaning and entertainment from the first film. Alright, let’s talk about the pros and cons. The biggest pro of this film is definitely its iconic action. Even though it feels different than the action in First Blood, that doesn’t detract from the entertainment value of it. This movie puts Rambo in his element and sets him loose. He’s in the jungles of Vietnam with the odds stacked against him, and a mission he needs to complete.
We got a taste of what he was capable of in the first movie, but now the gloves are off and he doesn’t hold back. His trap-setting “hunting” sequence is easily my favorite part of the movie, but the whole thing is full of action that immediately makes Rambo come to mind. As far as cons go, my biggest issue is the generic story. It’s not bad, but the plot doesn’t offer us much to sink our teeth into and instead really just serves as an excuse to throw Rambo into the jungle with a bunch of weapons. Again, that’s extremely entertaining, but feels a bit shallow after the first film.
That ties directly into my second con which is the lack of a meaningful message. That’s not to say every action movie out there has to have some deep, thought-provoking themes, but since this film attempts to really tie into the previous movie, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want a solid continuation or expansion of the themes and messages of that movie. There are some really vague attempts at pro-veteran themes here and there, but it doesn’t get at the core message or provide any further development of Rambo as a character.
I’m gonna give Rambo: First Blood Part II 2.5 out of 5 paws. It’s got some enjoyable, iconic action, but unfortunately the story is really generic and shallow, making this movie a pretty big step down from the first. I would recommend Rambo: First Blood Part II to fans of 80s action movies and, unsurprisingly, of Rambo. This movie is quite a bit different from First Blood, so don’t expect more that dark character development, but if you enjoy the action that John Rambo’s capable of, you’ll enjoy big chunks of this movie.
It’s definitely an action first, story second kinda movie. If you liked Rambo: First Blood Part II, more Rambo recommendations are obvious, but fitting. The original First Blood would make the most sense for setting up the character of Rambo and providing some context to the story. If you liked the jungle setting, definitely check out the fourth Rambo film, creatively named Rambo. It’s got a lot more jungle fighting and takes a far more visceral approach to its action.
I would also recommend The Expendables. Not only is there a fun name-connection to a line from this film, but it’s a big Stallone-led ensemble movie that pays homage to the action movies of the 80s. Alright, a couple questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen Rambo: First Blood Part II? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: What’s your favorite Vietnam War movie? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going.