Rambo: First Blood Part II

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Rambo: First Blood Part II
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge P. Cosmatos
Screenplay bySylvester Stallone
James Cameron
Story byKevin Jarre
Based onJohn Rambo
by David Morrell
Produced byBuzz Feitshans
Starring
CinematographyJack Cardiff
Edited by
Music byJerry Goldsmith
Production
companies
Distributed byTri-Star Pictures[2]
Release date
  • May 22, 1985 (1985-05-22) (United States)
Running time
96 minutes[3]
CountryUnited States[4]
LanguageEnglish
Budget$25.5 million[5]
Box office$300.4 million[6]

Rambo: First Blood Part II is a 1985 American action film directed by George P. Cosmatos and co-written by Sylvester Stallone, who also reprises his role as Vietnam War veteran John Rambo. A sequel to First Blood (1982), it is the second installment in the Rambo franchise, followed by Rambo III. It co-stars Richard Crenna, who reprises his role as Colonel Sam Trautman, along with Charles Napier, Julia Nickson, and Steven Berkoff.

The film's plot is inspired by the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue. In the movie, Rambo gets released from prison in a deal with the United States government to document the possible existence of missing POWs in Vietnam, but is given strict orders not to rescue any. When Rambo defies his orders, he is abandoned and forced once again to rely on his own brutal combat skills to save the POWs.

Despite mixed reviews, Rambo: First Blood Part II was a major global blockbuster, with an estimated $150 million sold in the United States, becoming the second highest grossing film at the domestic box office and the third highest grossing film worldwide in 1985. It has become one of the most recognized installments in the series, having inspired countless rip-offs, parodies, video games and imitations. In 2009, Entertainment Weekly ranked the movie number 23 on its list of "The Best Rock-'em, Sock-'em Movies of the Past 25 Years".[7]

Plot[edit]

Three years after the events in Hope, Washington, former U.S. Army Green Beret John Rambo, imprisoned at a penal labor facility, is met by former commanding officer Colonel Sam Trautman. Trautman informs Rambo that with the Vietnam War over, the public is increasingly concerned that American POWs have been left in enemy custody in Vietnam; to placate their demands for action, the government has authorized a solo infiltration mission to confirm the reports, in which Rambo would be temporarily reinstated into the Army. Rambo agrees to do it in exchange for a pardon.

Rambo is brought to Thailand, where he meets mercenary helicopter pilot Ericson, his partner, Lifer, and Marshall Murdock, the bureaucrat overseeing the operation. He is instructed only to take pictures of a suspected POW camp, but not to rescue them or engage enemy personnel; the POWs will be rescued by an extraction team upon Rambo's return. He notices that Murdock makes a false claim about serving in Vietnam and confides in Trautman that the Colonel is the only one Rambo trusts.

During his aerial insertion, Rambo's parachute gets caught in the airplane door, forcing him to cut himself free and jettison most of his equipment, leaving him with only his knives, bow, and arrows. His assigned contact, Vietnamese intelligence agent Co Bao, arranges for local river pirates to take them upriver. Rambo reaches the camp and confirms the presence of POWs. After finding a POW named Banks tied to a cross-shaped post, Rambo frees him against orders.

Rambo, Co, and Banks attempt to withdraw, but the river pirates betray them as a Vietnamese gunboat closes in. Rambo kills the pirates and destroys the gunboat with an RPG. Shortly before reaching the extraction point, Rambo asks Co to stay behind. When the approaching rescue helicopter, carrying Trautman, radios back to base that Rambo found a POW, Murdock orders Ericson to abort the rescue. Trautman, held at gunpoint by Lifer, cannot interfere, and the mercenaries abandon Rambo and Banks, who are captured by the Vietnamese.

Trautman confronts Murdock, who reveals he never intended to save any POWs, as Congress expected Rambo to find nothing, and won't pay $4.5 billion promised reparations to Vietnam. If he did, Murdock would dispose of any photographic evidence or even leave Rambo to die. He removes Trautman from the mission to keep him from helping Rambo.

Rambo finds the Soviets are assisting the Vietnamese. Local Soviet liaison, Lieutenant Colonel Podovsky, and his right-hand man, Sergeant Yushin, interrogate him. Podovsky demands that Rambo broadcast a message to Murdock warning against further rescue missions. Rambo refuses, and as Co infiltrates the camp dressed as a prostitute, he is tortured with electric shocks. Rambo finally relents when Banks is brought in and threatened with eye-gouging. Rambo dials in his secret radio code frequency to contact his base, but uses the opportunity to threaten Murdock. He then overpowers his captors and escapes the camp with Co's help. Rambo agrees to take Co to the United States, and they kiss; however, as they start moving, Vietnamese soldiers attack them and Lt. Tay kills Co. An enraged Rambo guns down the soldiers, while Lt. Tay escapes, and then buries Co in the mud, cutting a red headband from her dress, donning her necklace, and promising not to forget her.

Using his knife and bow, Rambo dispatches the Soviet and Vietnamese soldiers sent after him, and kills Lt. Tay, with an explosive arrow. After surviving a barrel bomb dropped by Yushin's helicopter gunship, Rambo clambers aboard, throws Yushin out to his death, and hijacks the gunship, using its weaponry to destroy the POW camp and freeing Banks and the other POWs. Rambo and the POWs attempt to fly to Thailand, but are pursued by Podovsky in a Mil Mi-24 gunship. Rambo fakes a crash to trick Podovsky and shoots down his helicopter with a rocket launcher, killing him instantly.

Rambo and the POWs return to base. As the POWs are secured, Rambo takes an M60 machine gun, knocks out Ericson, for abandoning him, and shoots up the mission control room before threatening Murdock with his knife, demanding the rest of the POWs be rescued. As Rambo leaves, Trautman tries to convince him to return home a free man. Rambo turns the offer down, explaining he only wants his country to love its soldiers as much as its soldiers love it, before walking off.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Development and writing[edit]

Development of a sequel to First Blood began when Carolco Pictures sold foreign distribution rights to distributors in Europe and Japan in 1983, initially scheduling the film for a December 1984 release. It was later rescheduled for August 1, 1985.[8]

Then up-and-coming screenwriter Kevin Jarre had written a story treatment that was liked by both the producers and Stallone. Jarre later recalled in an interview in the documentary Tinsel – The Lost Movie About Hollywood:

I wrote the first draft of Rambo. And I just did it, I was living on dog food at the time and I, you know, I needed a gig and I wanted to finish a spec script I was writing. And you know, they called, Stallone called me in and they had this idea about what they should do in the sequel to First Blood and I said, "Well, how about if maybe he searches for POWs in Southeast Asia and back in Vietnam?" He said, "Great, let’s do it."

James Cameron was then hired to pen a first draft of the screenplay, which he was concurrently writing along with The Terminator and Aliens, both of which he would go on to direct. Cameron had been recommended by David Giler, who did some uncredited script work on the first film. Cameron's first draft was titled First Blood II: The Mission.[9] According to Cameron, his script had the same basic structure of the first film, but was more violent than its predecessor. Cameron was quoted in an October 1986 issue of Monsterland magazine: "It was quite a different film from First Blood, apart from the continuation of the Rambo character. The first one was set in a small town, it had a different social consciousness from the second one, which was a very broad, stylized adventure. It was a little more violent in its execution than I had in mind in the writing."

Following Cameron’s initial draft, Stallone took over scriptwriting duties, creating a final draft. Jarre received sole story credit, while Stallone and Cameron were credited for the screenplay.

Stallone later recalled:

I think that James Cameron is a brilliant talent, but I thought the politics were important, such as a right-wing stance coming from Trautman and his nemesis, Murdock, contrasted by Rambo's obvious neutrality, which I believe is explained in Rambo's final speech. I realize his speech at the end may have caused millions of viewers to burst veins in their eyeballs by rolling them excessively, but the sentiment stated was conveyed to me by many veterans. ... [Also] in his original draft it took nearly 30–40 pages to have any action initiated and Rambo was partnered with a tech-y sidekick. So it was more than just politics that were put into the script. There was also a simpler story line. If James Cameron says anything more than that, then he realizes he's now doing the backstroke badly in a pool of lies.[10]

Producers wanted Rambo to have a partner for the POW rescue mission. They wanted John Travolta to play Rambo's sidekick, but Stallone vetoed the idea.[11] Lee Marvin (who had been considered for the role of Colonel Trautman in the first film) was offered the role of Marshall Murdock, but declined, and the role was given to Charles Napier.

Before filming started, Stallone went through torturous trainings to build the perfect musculature. Writer David J. Moore said in the 2019 documentary film In Search of the Last Action Heroes: "Here's a guy who went against the grain in everything that he ever did. Here's a guy who transformed himself, literally; he chiseled his own body into this statuesque, muscular specimen."[12]: 42:00 

Filming[edit]

The film was shot between June and August 1984 on location in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, and Thailand. While vacationing in Acapulco, Ron South was hired on as assistant editor and his film career began. During filming, special effects man Clifford P. Wenger, Jr. was accidentally killed during one of the film's waterfall explosions, when he lost his footing and fell to his death.

Music[edit]

Rambo: First Blood Part II (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Film score by
Released1985
ProducerJerry Goldsmith
Jerry Goldsmith chronology
Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
(1985)
Rambo: First Blood Part II (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
(1985)
Explorers: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
(1985)

The musical score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, conducting the British National Philharmonic Orchestra, although Goldsmith also made heavy use of electronic synthesized elements. The main song is sung by Stallone's brother, singer-songwriter Frank Stallone. Record label Varèse Sarabande issued the original soundtrack album.

  1. Main Title (2:12)
  2. Preparations (1:16)
  3. The Jump (3:18)
  4. The Snake (1:48)
  5. Stories (3:26)
  6. The Cage (3:55)
  7. Betrayed (4:22)
  8. Escape from Torture (3:39)
  9. Ambush (2:45)
  10. Revenge (6:14)
  11. Bowed Down (1:04)
  12. Pilot Over (1:52)
  13. Home Flight (3:01)
  14. Day by Day (2:06)
  15. Peace in Our Life – music by Frank Stallone, Peter Schless, and Jerry Goldsmith; lyrics by Frank Stallone; performed by Frank Stallone (3:18)

As released in the United Kingdom by That's Entertainment Records (the British licensee for Varèse Sarabande at the time), the UK version placed "Peace in Our Life" between "Betrayed" and "Escape from Torture", thus making "Day by Day" the final track.

In 1999, Silva America released an expanded edition with the cues in film order.

  1. Main Title (2:14)
  2. The Map (1:09)
  3. Preparations (1:18)
  4. The Jump (3:19)
  5. The Snake (1:49)
  6. The Pirates (1:29)
  7. Stories (3:27)
  8. The Camp/Forced Entry (2:24)
  9. The Cage (3:57)
  10. River Crash/The Gunboat (3:37)
  11. Betrayed (4:24)
  12. Bring Him Up/The Eyes (2:06)
  13. Escape from Torture (3:41)
  14. Ambush (2:47)
  15. Revenge (6:16)
  16. Bowed Down (1:06)
  17. Pilot Over (1:54)
  18. Village Raid/Helicopter Flight (4:55)
  19. Home Flight (3:02)
  20. Day By Day (2:08)
  21. Peace in Our Life (3:19) – Frank Stallone

Release[edit]

Marketing[edit]

Unusually for the time, a teaser trailer for Rambo: First Blood Part II—then titled First Blood Part II: The Mission—was released in 3,000 theaters in the summer of 1984, over a year before the scheduled release date of August 1, 1985, and several months before any footage for the film was completed. Producer Mario Kassar arranged this to capitalize on the popularity of the first film.[13][8] The film was also marketed through merchandising, with posters of Rambo selling rapidly. Although the film was rated R and directed at adults, tie-in toys were created for it.[8]

Home media[edit]

The video sold 425,000 units, a record for a tape with a retail price of $79.95.[14][15]

Rambo: First Blood Part II was released on DVD on November 23, 2004. A Blu-ray release followed on May 23, 2008.[16] Rambo: First Blood Part II was released on 4K UHD Blu-ray on November 13, 2018.[17]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Rambo: First Blood Part II opened in the United States on May 22, 1985, in a then-record 2,074 theaters, becoming the first film to be released to over 2,000 theaters in the United States, and was the number one film that weekend, grossing $20.2 million. Overall, the film grossed $150.4 million in the US and Canada, and $150 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $300.4 million.[6] The film broke various international box office records.[18] It set an opening weekend record in the United Kingdom with a gross of £1.1 million from 322 screens, surpassing the record set by E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982).[19] In France, the film had a record opening day with 269,564 admissions and a record week with 2,075,238 admissions.[20][21]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 33% based on 45 reviews. The site's consensus is "First Blood Part II offers enough mayhem to satisfy genre fans, but remains a regressive sequel that turns its once-compelling protagonist into just another muscled action berserker."[22] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 47 out of 100 based on reviews from 15 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[23]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film "almost as opportunistic as the Congressman it pretends to abhor. In spite of everything it says, it's much less interested in the M.I.A. question than it is in finding a topical frame for the kind of action-adventure film in which Mr. Stallone — his torso and his vacant stare — can do what his fans like best. That is, fight, outwit and kill, usually all by himself, dozens of far-better armed but lesser mortals."[24] Variety wrote, "The charade on the screen, which is not pulled off, is to accept that the underdog Rambo character, albeit with the machine-gun wielding help of an attractive Vietnamese girl, can waste hordes of Viet Cong and Red Army contingents en route to hauling POWs to a Thai air base in a smoking Russian chopper with only a facial scar (from a branding iron-knifepoint) marring his tough figure. You never even see him eating in this fantasy, as if his body feeds on itself."[25] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three stars out of four and called it "very good at what it does, but what it does isn't always that good", referring to the depiction of the enemy as going "back to the image of the Yellow Peril, to the notion that white is right and other colors are wrong."[26] Michael Wilmington of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "If a character can seemingly do anything, it's hard to feel tension or concern about his fate. (At least Superman had kryptonite.) We are left with nothing but detached aesthetic appreciation: watching Rambo race through several million dollars worth of explosions and aerial attacks, coruscant fireballs billowing everywhere and bodies flying hither and yon. Except for anyone irretrievably into violent power fantasies, this will probably soon pall."[27] Pauline Kael commented in The New Yorker, "The director, George P. Costmatos, gives this near-psychotic material—a mixture of Catholic iconography and Soldier of Fortune pulp—a veneer of professionalism, but the looniness is always there."[28] Paul Attanasio of The Washington Post wrote, "At best, Rambo: First Blood Part II is a crudely effective right-wing rabble-rouser, the artistic equivalent of carpet bombing—you don't know whether to cheer or run for cover. At worst, it's a tribute to Sylvester Stallone, by Sylvester Stallone, starring Sylvester Stallone."[29]

The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.[30]

Accolades[edit]

Award Category Subject Result
Academy Award Best Sound Editing Frederick Brown Nominated
Razzie Award Worst Picture Buzz Feitshans Won
Worst Actor Sylvester Stallone Won
Worst Screenplay Won
James Cameron Won
Worst Original Song Frank Stallone ("Peace in Our Life") Won
Worst Supporting Actress Julia Nickson Nominated
Worst New Star Nominated
Worst Director George Cosmatos Nominated


The film is referenced in the 1985 The Golden Girls episode "On Golden Girls". Female characters seem to be aroused by John Rambo's muscular physique, and Sophia Petrillo says: "I sat through it twice. You'll love it! He sweats like a pig and he doesn't put his shirt on!"[31][32]

In 2005, the film was nominated for American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Cheers list of most inspiring movies.[33]

Other media[edit]

Sequel[edit]

A sequel titled Rambo III was released in 1988.

Novelization[edit]

David Morrell, author of First Blood, the novel the first Rambo film is based on, wrote a novelization called Rambo: First Blood Part II.

Video games[edit]

A tie-in video game called Rambo was produced for ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64. There was also Rambo for NES, as well as Rambo: First Blood Part II for Master System. MSX and DOS games were based on the film. Sega adapted some of the battle scenes in the film for the 2008 arcade game Rambo. In 2014 Rambo: The Video Game, based on the first three Rambo films, was released.

The 1986 arcade run and gun video game Ikari Warriors was intended by its developer SNK to be an official licensed adaptation of Rambo. However, they were initially unable to acquire the rights to the film. This resulted in the game's title being changed to Ikari, referencing part of the film's Japanese title, Rambo: Ikari no Dasshutsu ("Rambo: The Furious Escape"). After the game made its North American debut at an arcade game expo, they managed to get in touch with Sylvester Stallone about acquiring the rights to the film. However, it was too late by that point, as the game had already become popularly known by its Japanese Ikari title among arcade players in Japan and North America, which led to the game's official release as Ikari Warriors in North America. Stallone was friends with SNK's president at the time, and owned an Ikari Warriors arcade cabinet.[34]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Strike Commando, an Italian film described as an imitation of Rambo: First Blood Part II[35]
  • Hot Shots! Part Deux, an American parody film of Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III with the colonel role reprised by Richard Crenna[36]
  • Second Blood, a Kuwaiti action film inspired by Rambo: First Blood Part II[37][38][39]
  • In UHF, a 1989 comedy-parody film, low-budget television station manager George Newman has a fantasy in which he envisions himself as a Rambo-type soldier on mission to rescue Stanley Spadowski from a rival station owner's goons. The fantasy sequence is a parody of action sequences in Rambo: First Blood Part II. Stallone had initially agreed to make a cameo appearance in the sequence, but ultimately declined to do so.[40]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Los estudios Churubusco, un sendero con historia". Excelsior. September 14, 2015. Retrieved September 14, 2015.
  2. ^ "Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  3. ^ "RAMBO – FIRST BLOOD PART II (15)". British Board of Film Classification. May 28, 1985. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  4. ^ "Film #14948: Rambo: First Blood Part II". Lumiere. Retrieved March 21, 2021.
  5. ^ ALJEAN HARMETZ (December 7, 1989). "It's Fade-Out for the Cheap Film As Hollywood's Budgets Soar: It's Fade-Out for Films Once Made on the Cheap". The New York Times. p. C19.
  6. ^ a b Box Office Information for Rambo: First Blood Part II Box Office Mojo via Internet Archive. Retrieved February 8, 2023.
  7. ^ "The Action 25 Films: The Best Rock-'em, Sock-'em Movies of the Past 25 Years". Entertainment Weekly at Wayback Machine. January 30, 2009. Archived from the original on February 3, 2009. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
  8. ^ a b c "Rambo: First Blood Part II". catalog.afi.com. Retrieved June 11, 2021.
  9. ^ BROESKE, P. H. (October 27, 1985). "THE CURIOUS EVOLUTION OF JOHN RAMBO". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 154252710.
  10. ^ headgeek (December 16, 2006). "Stallone answers December 9th & 10th Questions in a double round – plus Harry's Seen ROCKY BALBOA ..." Aint It Cool News.
  11. ^ We Get to Win This Time, 2002, Artisan Entertainment
  12. ^ In Search of the Last Action Heroes. Gravitas Ventures. 2019.
  13. ^ "US News: BRIEFLY – 'First Blood II' Trailers Filmed." Screen International, no. 451, June 23, 1984, pp. 6.
  14. ^ Bierbaum, Tom (May 21, 1986). "'Future' Cassettes Fail To Approach 500,000-Unit Goal". Variety. p. 1.
  15. ^ Schnurmacher, Thomas (March 29, 1986). "Students put their heads together for new driving service". Montreal Gazette. p. 35. Retrieved February 26, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  16. ^ "Rambo: First Blood Part II DVD Release Date". DVDs Release Dates. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  17. ^ "Rambo: First Blood Part II – 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Ultra HD Review | High Def Digest". ultrahd.highdefdigest.com. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  18. ^ Tasker, Yvonne (October 2, 2012). Spectacular Bodies: Gender, Genre and the Action Cinema. Routledge. ISBN 9781134873005.
  19. ^ "No shellshock as Rambo III bursts in at the top". Screen International. September 3, 1988. p. 24.
  20. ^ Groves, Don (November 1, 1993). "French B.O. warms up to 'Jurassic'". Variety. p. 14.
  21. ^ Groves, Don (October 28, 1993). "'Jurassic' passes $450 mil o'seas". Daily Variety. p. 30.
  22. ^ "Rambo: First Blood Part II". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 24, 2022.
  23. ^ "Rambo: First Blood Part II". Metacritic. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  24. ^ Canby, Vincent (May 26, 1985). "'Rambo' Delivers A Revenge Fantasy". The New York Times. H11.
  25. ^ "Film Reviews: Rambo: First Blood Part II". Variety. May 22, 1985. 14.
  26. ^ Siskel, Gene (May 22, 1985). "'Rambo': Cinematic soldiering whitewashes Vietnam". Chicago Tribune. Section 5, p. 1, 3.
  27. ^ Wilmington, Michael (May 22, 1985). "Why a 'Rambo II'? For Muddiest of Reasons". Los Angeles Times. Part VI, p. 1, 6.
  28. ^ Kael, Pauline (June 17, 1985). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. 117.
  29. ^ Attansasio, Paul (May 22, 1985). "'Rambo': New Blood, Old Moves". The Washington Post. F1.
  30. ^ Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0.
  31. ^ "The Golden Girls quotes". Quotes.net. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  32. ^ "On Golden Girls S1E6". Oh Shut Up Rose!. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  33. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on April 2, 2019. Retrieved August 14, 2016.
  34. ^ "「怒」を作った男" [The Man Who Made "Ikari"]. Continue. March 2001.
  35. ^ Lor. (1991). Variety's Film Reviews 1987–1988. Vol. 20. R. R. Bowker. There are no page numbers in this book. This entry is found under the header "November 25, 1987". ISBN 0-8352-2667-0.
  36. ^ Ebert, Roger (May 21, 1993). "Hot Shots, Part Deux". Rogerebert.com. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
  37. ^ "Kuvajtský profesionál Abdulhadi Al-Khayat: fotografování v posilovně"
  38. ^ "Kuwejcki film inspirowany serią 'Rambo' zyskuje datę premiery"
  39. ^ "Ten actors that almost portrayed John Rambo on screen". Prime Movies. July 28, 2022. Retrieved July 29, 2022.
  40. ^ Cotter, Padraig (February 19, 2022). "Why Stallone Backed Out Of A Cameo In UHF's Rambo Parody Sequence". Screen Rant. Archived from the original on February 19, 2022. Retrieved March 26, 2022.

External links[edit]