Rambo: First Blood Part II: Special Edition
One of the most popular movies of the 1980s, Rambo: First Blood Part II may be little more than a pure and perfect goofball action adventure, but its slight political subtext struck a raw nerve with American moviegoers. Doing time for his violent spree in First Blood, troubled Vietnam Vet John J. Rambo tones his muscles cracking rocks in a prison labor camp when Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna) marches back into his life with a dangerous opportunity for a pardon: undertake a covert reconnaissance mission to the Vietnamese P.O.W. camp that once held him prisoner and bring back photographic proof that American M.I.A.s still live there in captivity. Rambo accepts the mission with one provocative question: "Do we get win this time?" With a soldier like Rambo out there, it's a wonder we didn't win the first time. Rather than take photos, Rambo finds and frees several P.O.W.s, and in the process takes on an entire Vietcong military unit, their Soviet sponsors, and the backstabbing U.S. politicos who sold him out when his results didn't fit their plans. Co-written by Stallone and self-annointed monarch James Cameron, Rambo is swift and terse, delivering economic and awe-inspiring action with an absolute minimum of superfluous melodrama (OK, there is a sliver of romance between Rambo and his petite Vietnamese guide Co, played by the barely-Asian Julia Nickson, who speaks her lines in an odd, unaccented pigeon English, q.v., "I go America?";"Why you fight, Ram-bo?," but she is mercifully shot before it goes too far). Rambo's popularity is often crudely dismissed is a by-product of shallow Reagan-era, gung-ho patriotism, but this is a film that, in its simple way, is deeply critical of the U.S. government for its duplicitous political manipulations, its half-assed execution of the Vietnam war, and its callous lack of dedication to the veterans who fought for it. In this film's emotional final speech, Rambo makes a passionate case for a social reevaluation of the Vietnam Vet who, he feels, have been made prisoners of war in their home country: "I want what we all want: for our country to love us as much as we love it." And with that, he stalks off into the jungles of the Far East, never to be seen again (until Rambo III). Also with the reliably villainous Steven Berkoff. Insipid closing credits song "Peace in Our Life" sung by Frank Stallone, who wrote the lyrics. Artisan's Rambo: First Blood Part II: Special Edition is given a splendid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) on one side of this disc, with a pan-and-scan transfer (1.33:1) on the other. Audio is mixed in DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby 2.0 Surround. Includes a commentary by director Cosmatos and the new documentary We Get to Win This Time, which focuses on this film's fanatic reception, and a trailer.
Gregory P. Dorr
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