Rambo: First Blood Part II Blu-ray review

The first Rambo? Well worth revisiting? The second, with a screeplay co-written by James Cameron? Er...

If the quality and entertainment of First Blood was a revelation, how bad this movie was on repeat viewing didn’t surprise me at all. With the success of the first film, the studios demanded the return of John J. Rambo, and Sylvester Stallone duly complied, with a movie plot so crass it makes an episode of The A Team look like The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.Put in prison for being a psychotically damaged Vietnam veteran, Rambo is released to go win the Vietnam war on his own, and find those misplaced American POWs that Washington would rather stayed lost.

Where the first film made sense and delivered some memorable dialogue and characters, this is pretty much an orgy of destruction from the outset. It’s interesting to note that in the first film only four people die: one falls from a helicopter and three are killed in a car crash. In this one the body count is 67 of which Rambo is personally responsible for 57. But actually the differences run much deeper than that, First Blood has an interesting angle on the legacy of Vietnam in the American psyche, where this is for the most part completely moronic.

Not much in this movie makes any sense. Rambo goes to Vietnam, looking curiously like Southern California, and finds along with the Vietnamese Army a geographically astray division of Russian troops. Why? The Chinese I could have accepted as vaguely plausible, but Russians? If that wasn’t daft enough we have muscle-bound Stallone prancing around the fake jungle with all the stealth of a demented fairground attraction.

All the actors look like they turned up, accepted a cheque and took one for the Gipper. Richard Crenna looks decidedly uncomfortable with his abysmally bad dialogue, While Steven Berkoff as the loony Lt. Col. Podovsky keeps looking wistfully out of shot, hoping presumably he’ll see a new production at the Haymarket he can escape to.

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I’m not even going to get into the twisted revisionist nature of the politics here, but suffice to say that Ronald Reagan loved it apparently.

However it should be pointed out that where First Blood got no award nominations this movie got plenty, but possibly ones it didn’t actually want. In the 1985 Golden Raspberry Awards it won Worst Actor (Sylvester Stallone), Worst Screenplay (by Sylvester Stallone and James Cameron) and Worst ‘Original’ Song (“Peace in Our Life”). That last award is more than justified, and worth reviewing the credits over which it plays just to experience how damn awful it is. Its inclusion can only be rationalised when you realise it was composed, had lyrics written and was performed by Sylvester’s somewhat less successful brother Frank.

In terms of selling the superior technology of Blu-ray, this disc doesn’t. It’s mostly the fault of the source material, which is badly lit, composed and shot. To make it seem like a jungle in some scenes they overprint a mist which doesn’t move with the camera, destroying what dubious effect it had. Blu-ray only amplifies these and other cinematic issues that are prevalent here.

As for extras there is but one, exactly the same lame 8 minute and 39 second interview of Stallone in Paris that is on First Blood disc. That’s it, no commentaries, nothing to see here.

If you must have this movie to stack alongside Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot then knock yourself out, but at the very bottom of the bargain bin is this on DVD for less than a fiver, I’d bet.


1 out of 5

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4 out of 5