Rambo: First Blood Part II DVD Review

The "popcorn movie" is a tradition in Hollywood. These are the movies that lack any sort of logic, plot, or believable acting, but are so much fun, you find yourself enjoying them in the anyway. It could be argued that "Rambo II: First Blood" is the original. You'll never see another movie with such a low level of logic produced again anytime soon. But, who cares? It's fun.

John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is serving a rather short prison sentence for his crimes in the first film. Recruited by Colonel Samuel Trautman (Richard Crenna reprising his role), the man who trained him, Rambo is sent back in to Vietnam to see if any P.O.W.s remain. Though told only to photograph, Rambo takes things into his own hands along with Co Bao (Julia Nickson-Soul), learning the truth behind the camp in the process.

"Hot Shots: Part Deux" parodies the two Rambo sequels, but mostly just focuses on this one. What's amazing about that film is that hardly any of it is changed from what is actually in "First Blood II." It simply recreates most of the action with different actors. Even Weird Al Yankovic took a stab at this one in his only feature film, "UHF." The truth doesn't need to be stretched.

There are so many moments in this movie where your jaw will drop; you couldn't possibly believe what you're seeing. Where the original had some substance and merit, this one throws all of that away to create the quintessential dumb action movie. Countless scenes feature Rambo against five or more enemies who fire a ridiculous amount of ammunition at the hero only to be wiped out with one sweep of Rambo's weaponry. For trained soldiers, these guys need some help. The final helicopter fight is even better (worse?).

Richard Crenna does a better job here than he did in the original film, but Julia Nickson is just flat out terrible. Her broken English act (she is supposedly a Vietnamese) is so forced and obvious, not a single line she speaks can be taken seriously. The romance between her and Rambo, which is supposed to develop throughout the film, just comes off as yet another cheesy element to a film that seems like it was made for a child.

What makes no sense is that by the time the film is over, you will figure out that you have been cheering for the guy and having a great time all the way through. The documentary included on the DVD talks about the first screening in which no one was sitting down by the time the film was over. You just have to believe that. The adrenaline rush this film provides is just awesome and no matter how hard you may be laughing, you have to admit you're having a great time. (*** out of *****)

A major step up from the transfer "First Blood" received, this film looks better than anyone probably thought it ever would. Opposite sides of the disc contain a 2.35:1 widescreen transfer and pan & scan for those who haven't quite figured out that "black bar" stuff yet. The cinematography from the legendary Jack Clark is beautiful. The location shooting in Mexico really paid off and it all comes through on this disc.

The light layer of film grain over almost every scene is a minor problem that doesn't detract from some of the brightest and colorful explosions on the format. The daytime sequences are masterful, though a few of the darker scenes have a few problems with compression. Stray scratches on the print are also a minor problem, but they are limited and acceptable considering the age of the movie. (****)

Oddly, even though the film is a little more recent, "Rambo II" doesn't sound as good as the original film. Like all three movies in this series, Artisan has taken the time to remix everything into 5.1 and DTS. Bass levels are set perfect, really capturing the feeling of something blowing up and it never seems overdone. What makes no sense is the lack of sound from the rear speakers. Besides the final helicopter fight, there isn't another scene worth mentioning. With so much stuff blowing up, this should really be better than it is. (***)

Again, each film in the series features a documentary around 25-minutes long, with interviews with major cast and crew. These are well produced, but just don't seem long enough to cover everything in detail. A personal pet peeve is when someone in a feature (or in a commentary) mentions deleted scenes, but then they are not included on the disc. This happens here. The commentary from director George Cosmatos also provides some insight, but he can be hard to understand with his deep accent. The usual round of trailers, production notes, and cast/crew info is also available. (***)

As if Stallone wasn't up against enough competition in the "Rocky" films, he creates "Rambo" and does even more. Oddly, this is the most popular film in the series (at least according to box office) even though the original is a stronger film overall. It's also rare when the sequel draws in more money, yet another way John Rambo managed to beat the odds.

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