Eye For Film >> Movies >> Rambo - First Blood - Part II (1985) Film Review
First Blood was a fable written in the days of old by none other than William Shakespeare. It was a tale of a simple man overcoming adversity and finding peace within himself.
Well, maybe I'm lying. The simple man was true though. How simple must a man be to use the logic, "If it moves, I kill it." Last time we saw John Rambo he was hauled off to prison for laying waste to a redneck town. And in prison he remains. For the first five minutes, anyway.
Colonel Trautman shows up to offer Rambo an Escape From New York-style ultimatum. If he goes back to 'Nam and takes photos of American P.O.Ws, he'll receive a full pardon for his crimes against the hillbillies.
"Do we get to win this time?", he asks.
"This time, it's up to you!" Trautman says, which basically gives him licence to massacre as many gooks as possible. And massacre he does.
The first movie had a body count of one. Just a single death in the whole film. And it was accidental, caused by the character's own stupidity. Whatever reality First Blood had is well and truly gone now.
The biggest strength of this sequel is its rousing score by Jerry Goldsmith. The original theme is expanded and exploited, with brilliant new ones kicking in at moments of high action. It's exciting stuff and you can only imagine how poor the film would be without it.
George Pan Cosmatos is widely regarded as a hack. There is nothing here to prove otherwise, but his direction is adequate, rather than exceptional. The scene where Rambo emerges from a pile of mud is one of the few moments of directorial spark. By today's standards, it's pretty simple stuff, but back in '85, when the actor Ronald Reagan was still in The White House and the Cold War took it's last few breathes, it became a massive hit.
It's no secret that America lost in Vietnam. And 10 years on the country still felt cheated by the government. It needed a way to get back at them and show who the boss REALLY is. So Rambo returns to kick ass.
Originally written by James Cameron as a script called First Blood II: The Mission, the film was never going to be anything other than pure fantasy. And it is here that the one-man-against-the-world sub-genre started. The villains are cardboard. Steven Berkoff plays the role of a stereotypical Ruskie bad guy with no grace, or charm. His character serves no purpose other than for Rambo to kill him last. No huts, or shacks, exist for any other reason than for Rambo to blow them up. No Viet Cong shows his face and lives.
It's this touch-and-go attitude that prevents the film from becoming truly engaging, or worthy. The standard three act structure is apparent and you can tell that the producers just wanted to churn out a money maker rather than anything serious.
Ted Kotcheff made First Blood about an emotionally scarred man, who wanted no more than what he deserved. Shakespeare it was not, but it was a good movie, even if it didn't set the box office on fire - just everything else. Now George Pan Cosmatos takes the same character and turns him into a disturbed schizophrenic mass murderer. No human emotion, just mindless violence. Although there is room for Rambo's big speech at the end, it's not as clever, nor as moving, as is it was first time around. It sounds so very "American" and disgustingly patriotic.
Still the movie takes millions and Rambo has become an historical icon. Everything about the Reagan era is is this movie. It's superficial, narrow-minded and VERY un-PC. But hey...it was the Eighties.Reviewed on: 08 Sep 2002
If you like this, try:First Blood