Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
By: Devon B. on August 25, 2013 | Comments
Optimum | Region A, B | 2.35:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 96 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: George P. Cosmatos
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Charles Napier, Steven Berkoff, Julia Nickson
Screenplay: Sylvester Stallone, James Cameron
Country: USA
External Links
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When I bought a Blu-ray player I started revisiting action cinema that I had neglected for over a decade. I found some movies were much funnier than I remembered, like Commando, and some that I don't think were meant to be funny but were all the funnier for it, like Steven Seagal's entire catalogue. I've learned to laugh at right-wing leanings, preachy morals and might makes right mentalities, but there is one film where I still struggle to try to work out if I like it. I think because it's a sequel to a movie that I love unconditionally, a movie that is an action film that isn't just about blowing shit up, I expect more from it, but Rambo: First Blood Part II lets its prequel down by succumbing to the mentality so prevalent in the era of Reagan.

The film opens with Rambo in jail for his crimes in the first movie. Rambo gets recruited by Trautman for a mission in Vietnam, so like Chuck Norris before him, Rambo heads to Nam in search of some MIA veterans. Rambo's just meant to take pics to prove the POW's are there, but Rambo's not much of a photographer, so he has to find a different way to get the proof. Like singlehandedly win a second war in Vietnam and rescue the POWs himself.

Look, I love Rambo: First Blood Part II for nostalgic reasons, but I still can't come to terms with the fact that it undermines the brilliant first film. Rambo is still damaged this time 'round, but he's also been put in an environment where he's unequivocally cool and a hero, as opposed to a guy who's reached snapping point but that the viewer still sympathises with anyway. As a child I remember liking First Blood, but I think it was with Rambo: First Blood Part II that the foundation of the character got muddied. There was a cartoon spinoff, and Rambo was no longer an isolated tragic but an awesome guy with a rocket launcher. Rambo wasn't displaced anymore, he was someone to be admired and envied. I get that people wanted to cash in on the Rambo character's youth appeal, but this all just smacks of poor judgement, and it's insulting to David Morrell's original concept.

Morrell must've made his peace with it, though, since he wrote the novelisation. For a while I thought reading novelisations was a good idea, and I read this one. All I can remember is that the name of the girl Rambo meets translates to "virgin," there's more detailed explanation of how tracking works and there's a lengthy bit about how Rambo manages to cut someone's head off with his knife. Also this novelisation introduced me to the idea of premature ejaculation, so I'm sure Morrell would be pleased with himself.

Morrell's book is based on the movie's screenplay, and what a screenplay it is. Like the first film, Rambo: First Blood Part II is an action classic in its own right, and may be even more iconic than the original movie. I've certainly seen its finale parodied more than anything in the first movie. The film is a product of the Reagan era, and is essentially built around the idea that Americans wanted to see a win in Vietnam, even if was in a fictional film. I heard that Reagan himself liked the movie, and while Stallone may have reigned the jingoism in for future instalments, he wasn't able to ignore the thematic non-sequitur that the sequel caused. Unfortunately this lessens the impact of the Rambo character, but if one is able to put the politics and previous movie aside Rambo: First Blood Part II is a great stupid actioner. There're plenty of 80s action clichés like Russian villains, a forced love interest and a tooling up for battle scene, and the movie builds to a hilariously overblown climax.

The cast is again solid, with Charles Napier and Martin Kove joining the team. I guess some people might not consider Napier and Kove as "solid" casting, but I like 'em so those people can get stuffed. Trautman is back to talk up Rambo's insane skills, and Rambo himself is given more opportunity to display his guerrilla tactics, my favourite being his mud disguise.

I was so young when I first saw this movie that I thought Rambo was able to run faster because of the way he held his hands, so tried to mimic his hand position whenever I ran. It didn't seem to work for me. Another thing that didn't work was the maddeningly awful NES videogame adaption, which made me want to punch the screen frequently, and I only played it for a few hours in total.

While I don't approve of the watering down of the Rambo character, I still really enjoy this movie, making it one of my few guilty pleasures. I'd like to say I'm laughing at it, but I'm not – I'm still enticed by the exploding arrow heads.
The Disc
A big improvement on the first film's transfer, this print is much easier on the eye. Colours can be uneven at times, but the print is clean and clear with good detail, with only the occasional spot and a little edge enhance. For the most part it looks real good.

The track is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 one, and just like last time this is a front heavy mix. There are only a few directional touches, and the track may actually be close to the 6-track audio that the film had for 70mm screenings, so it may be close to how the film sounded at those showings. Those that like surround sound will be disappointed because there's even a scene with rain where the rain is front heavy, and that should've been a fairly easy tweak to utilise the rear channels for. The track is clear, and there's some nice depth in some of the explosions. Different subtitles are available depending on which region is selected on start up, but choosing Australia means there're no subs available. The cover says the release has subtitles in the previously unknown language of "Mexican."

The only extra is a 2008 interview with Stallone in …wait a minute, this is the extra that was on the last disc. I guess Optimum thought it was so good they better share it some more?
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
It lacks the heart and conviction of the first film, but delivers way more action than its predecessor, so viewers just wanting to see 'splosions may like it more than the first. This Blu-ray presentation is also an improvement over the first film's Blu, and it's not too expensive, but there are better options available for those wanting more extras.
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