By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Charles Napier, Steven Berkoff, Julia Nickson, and Martin Kove
With that very first explosion in the very first frame of the movie, which takes place outside the prison of where John Rambo is being held, we are told that this is going to be a very different film than the last one. And, in most respects, a superior one. After First Blood was a hit in 1982, it was inevitable that a sequel was going to be made. The question was, there was only one book, and how many police forces could Rambo take out before he is taken to a psychiatric ward only to never be heard from again? Star and co-writer Sylvester Stallone turned to one man to help him in this mission, and that was James Cameron. Cameron, waiting for the green light on both Terminator and Aliens, wrote a first draft of the script while Stallone did a major polish on it. How much of a polish you may ask? According to Cameron, he wrote all of the action scenes that are in the movie, while Stallone took care of the politics.
Well, that is about a 70/30 ratio, as Stallone and Cameron have loaded the film with way more action than the last one. In fact, this may have been the best all out action film of Stallone’s career. As already stated, the film opens at the prison where Rambo is being held since the events from the first film. This is where Col. Trautman comes with plans for the US government to pardon him if he goes back to where he dreads most: Vietnam. This conversation is actually very good, as the chain linked fence tells wonders about where both Trautman and Rambo are mentally and physically, which is separated from one another. It is also where the birth of the most quoted line from this movie, which is uttered by Rambo himself. The very telling “do we win this time?” He is then given orders by Murdock (Napier) to go to Vietnam and not engage the enemy. Instead, he is to take pictures, and “let technology do all the work” for him. Well, we know this isn’t going to happen. Sure enough, once his cohort and girl he promises to take to America gets killed, it becomes almost a revenge flick, with backstabbing politics at the forefront.
Rambo is one of those characters you either like or don’t. There is no in between with him. And, most of the opinions generated about him are due to this movie. I must say: while cheesy as can be, I still love the strap ‘em up, get ready for battle scene. And, his fire arrows are pretty cool, making an awesome sound effect as they leave his bow and head towards the enemy. There’s a reason Spielberg and company would use this aesthetic in the sequel to Gremlins five years later. There’s also plenty of running from bombs and one liners (Trautman: How you living John? Rambo: Day by day) that may induce groans in most, but I went with it. Scenes of him hiding in mud Predator-style were also fun to see. Sure, there are plenty of Stallone yells and the sound effects used for the helicopters during battle sound like they were left over from The Last Starfighter. But, as you can see, I had a good time with it. Until, of course, yet another final Stallone monologue.
While the first one thrived on thrills, this one was really all about the action of Rambo taking out these armies virtually by himself. I really don’t know how much of Cameron’s script is still in this film. But, I do not think it is a coincidence that this is the best overall in the series. Cameron knows action. And, Stallone had quite a 1985 with this film and Rocky IV. Being in the best shape of his life, his take no prisoners attitude was fun to watch. I would recommend this for anyone looking for an exciting 80s action flick. The first one is not required viewing in order to have fun with this one. Oh, and Stallone’s one punch knockout of a Mr. Martin Kove (The Karate Kid) put icing on a not so great win/loss year for him. Good times.
4.5 out of 5