Such a frustrating disappointment
So much average
As Good As It Gets
Let me be very fair here, this is not the best movie in my opinion. But, this movie is fun, it has purpose and is very enjoyable to watch.
Plot; Imprisoned Special Forces vet John J. Rambo is offered a mission to gather evidence of American POW's still being held in Vietnam, but not everyone wants him to succeed. In 1985, Stallone's two most iconic characters each returned to the big screen. In both instances, critics claimed that the franchises had strayed far away from their roots. Rocky Balboa had gone from a simple underdog plying the only trade he had in a methodically crafted drama to a more erudite fighting machine in a slick, fast-paced story--more montage than movie--that is at once a revenge tale and a Cold War parable. It's immensely entertaining, and a tad more clever regarding the latter than I think it's given credit for, but its connection to the original Rocky is tenuous at best. Rambo II is similarly seen as departure from the original, and in some ways that's certainly true. Like Rocky IV, Rambo II is far slicker than the original. But the idea that it's a "jingoistic" flag-waver isn't exactly true IMO. The original First Blood wasn't by any means the first film to tackle the aftermath of the Vietnam War and its returning veterans, but it may be its most effective. Married w/raw, white knuckle action, it puts a laser-like focus on PTSD and the struggle of those who returned home w/o the tickertape parades. Though it's been parodied over the years, Stallone's emotional collapse at the end of that film is some of the most powerful and brutally honest acting I've ever seen.Rambo II sees the character recruited for a mission that's ultimately a scam, leaving him for dead to save the butt's of the bureaucrats. At the end, when asked what he wants, he says that he (and his fellow vets) only want to be loved by their country as much as they love it. This isn't Rah! Rah! USA! USA! stuff. Sure, the Russians show up and Rambo blasts, slices and dices his way through them, but this is far, far less black and white than Rocky IV. Is it any good? Yeah. Well, maybe not "good", but is it entertaining? Yeah. Yeah it is. It's a taught, 90 minute actioner than probably has less than 20 lines of dialog in its final half hour, but that's to its advantage. Helmed by red-meat director George P. Cosmatos, it's a technically more proficient actioner than many of its contemporaries. Stallone's Rambo character lacks that raw, exposed nerve edge he had in First Blood, becoming more of the monosyllabic killing machine we think of these days, but as always he remains a compelling on-screen presence. Richard Crenna returns as Rambo's former C.O. in a thankless role that sees him only pop up to occasionally remind us how big Rambo's wang is. Charles Napier and Martin Kove do yeoman's work as the de facto villains.Rambo II is a solid 80s actioner, but it's mostly noteworthy because it's not the Right Wing flag waver it's purported to be. As a Right Wing flag waver myself, I know 'em when I see 'em. That would be Stallone's other film from 1985, Rocky IV.
This is one of those films that was quite popular back in the 80s, but seems to have fallen by the wayside of late. Then again I suspect this it has become somewhat dated and certainly didn't attain the cult like status that some movies did. In a way, like the previous film, the main purpose of Rambo was to try and come to terms with the failures of Vietnam, and dress it up in some form of action film where the all American action hero storms in and saves the day (though it is interesting that we do learn about Rambo's heritage here).The film begins with Rambo in prison however he is approached by his former commander who offers him a way out – return to Vietnam and attempt to rescue some forgotten prisoners of war. However, things pretty quickly go pair-shaped when it becomes clear that the person pulling the strings actually has a different agenda in mind, and once again Rambo simply discovers himself a tool of some faceless, and heartless, Washington bureaucrats.Where as the first movie focused mainly on those who had returned, this movie brings out the concept of those who were left behind. Apparently an agreement was made in 1972 where the American government would pay war reparations in return for the release of their prisoners of war, and not surprisingly the Americans reneged on this agreement, and the prisoners were left to rot. However, this had the potential to explode into a public relations disaster sooner or later (and sort of went against the idea of leave no man behind). Well, this is where Rambo and his mission comes in – not to rescue the prisoners but actually prove that there aren't any there.Mind you, such a movie wouldn't have worked with simply having the Vietnamese as the enemies, so they upped the ante by bringing in the Russians. However, the one thing where this film does end up falling down is the fact that it pretty much degenerates into one massive slug fest. This is probably why I wasn't as impressed with this film as the previous one. In a way it really seemed to fall into some angry rant against the Vietnamese for not only torturing their prisoners, but not letting them go (needless to mention the fact that the Americans were trying to sweep this under the table as well).In a way this film seemed to be capitalising on the renewed interest in the Vietnam War, but really did little to address the issues. Ironically, one of the characters looked a lot like a skinny version of Churck Norris, who also made a couple of Missing in Action films which were actually of a somewhat higher calibre. Sure, this film does have its intrigue, and its untrustworthy bureaucrats, but it does really finish off all that well. In a sense it just seems to reach a point where the screen writers really couldn't work out where to take the film and simply gave Sly a gun (and a helicopter) and had him pretty much run around blowing everything up. Talking about the chopper, that last scene, where he is destroying the camp, is equally ridiculous in that he basically managed to blow up an entire POW camp without injuring a single American (as well as flying a damaged Chopper all the way across Laos only to have it fall apart when it landed at the base in Thailand).
To this day, I only know of two franchises where the first installment is so different in tone and film making quality to the rest of the series: Rambo and Godzilla. While with Godzilla, there still managed to be a few good movies in the series before it all went to hell (see Mothra vs. Godzilla as an example), with this movie, whatever good came from First Blood (first in the Rambo series) goes to hell almost immediately. The plot is that Sylvester Stallone's Rambo II (which I will be calling him from now on because he is almost nothing like the character from the first film) is visited in prison by his former Special Forces commander, Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna), who offers him freedom in exchange for going back to Vietnam to rescue American P.O.W.s from the same prison camp he escaped from in 1971. Leading the mission is government bureaucrat Murdock (Charles Napier), who then orders Rambo II only to take photographs of the place so the government can move into the camp later. Rambo II realizes too late that this was all just a ruse by Murdock so that the camp would still be declared empty and the government would forget about the issue (there's quite a bit of politics in this film). This film commits two major crimes as a sequel: the first is that it is not true to the original film; the commentary on how war veterans should be treated on the home front is placed on the back side in favor of some wild and unrealistic action, as entertaining as it may be. The second crime is that it changes the character to fit the film. In the first film, Rambo was a wrongly-treated veteran who was angry and frustrated at his country for persecuting him and fought back in retaliation. Now, Rambo II seems to think that his country placed him in prison for a good reason (he was arrested at the end of the first film) and he seems perfectly calm, with any signs that he is a traumatized war veteran being all but invisible. Perhaps if my standards for cinema weren't high, I'd be more forgiving, but as it stands, these two crimes prevent me from being as such. The villains are also one-dimensional, with Viet Cong soldiers who think that they are being more threatening by hitting their prisoners every few seconds. The two big baddies though, are this Soviet Lieutenant Colonel and his strong, silent type assistant who suffers from the same problem as the Viet Cong. If I was Rambo II, I'd say, "You know, manhandling me every five seconds isn't gonna make you more threatening. In fact, it looks rather silly, doesn't it?" Despite these problems, the film does have some good things about it. For instance, the cinematography is so appealing to watch and really makes the jungle look more attractive (despite the fact that this was filmed in Mexico and not Vietnam), and the action is entertaining on a primitive level. There are also a few decent performances by Napier, Crenna, and Stallone, although the P.O.W.s do act pretty cheesy, and newcomer Julia Nicholson could have made more of an effort as Rambo's romantic interest, Co. All in all, if this wasn't a sequel to First Blood, I'd give it a better rating (maybe a 7), but since it is, its two major crimes really do tear it down quite a notch. This film works best as an outdated artifact from the 1980s, due to its style of action film making, or as a piece of propaganda (same simple politics as Rocky IV: Communists = bad, Americans = good).
The second instalment in the Rambo film franchise, Rambo: First Blood Part II may lack the intricate themes of the original that turned it into an instant classic right away but certainly goes big with its action set pieces by packing in more explosions & body counts and takes the "one man army" approach a tad too far.First Blood Part II continues the story of John Rambo and picks up from where it signed off in the previous chapter. The plot finds Rambo released from prison for a top-secret mission that requires him to return to Vietnam in order to document the possible existence of POWs but he soon finds out the real motive behind this covert operation.Directed by George P. Cosmatos, First Blood Part II is so much intent on presenting Rambo as an unstoppable & invincible force that it completely discards the human complexities of his and only focuses on his action figure persona. Sure the movie is more action-packed in content but the story definitely doesn't cut as deep as it did the first time.The technical aspects are finely executed, the action is bigger in scale, and it's surprisingly engaging to an extent but it's also very predictable & generic and the only thing that makes it worth sitting through is Sylvester Stallone's impressive input. All the action segments are clearly captured by its camera, its 96 mins of runtime is steadily paced & Jerry Goldsmith's score nicely compliments the unfolding events.On an overall scale, Rambo: First Blood Part II is inferior to its predecessor in almost every filmmaking department yet it finishes as an enjoyable, entertaining & action-packed sequel that further solidifies Stallone's star power and also contributes in elevating the character of Rambo into a cultural icon. A Hollywood attempt to abstract little American glory from the war it lost, First Blood Part II deserves a watch or two for its old-school action alone.