A deeply cynical and pro-isolationist screed dollied up as a balls-to-the-wall action flick, Rambo: First Blood Part 2 suggests that there was a reason, maybe even some honor, in sticking it out in Vietnam. Sprung from a prison work detail in a rock quarry (his punishment for the troubles he caused in First Blood), John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is sent on a highly dangerous mission by old friend Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna) to bring home proof that there are POWs still being held in a small Vietnamese prison camp.
It’s a blatant tease, of course. Following the first film, Rambo immediately became a false idol of a distinctly American militarized righteousness, and the thought that he would take a trip back to ‘Nam to get his Dick Avedon on is nonsense. So, when he rescues a POW, with the help of sidekick Co (Julia Nickson), as proof that there are still men on the ground, the bullet-spraying, arrow-shooting and grenade-tossing isn’t exactly surprising.
The original First Blood convincingly dealt with the troubles of readjustment in military men coming home from Vietnam. Part 2 is a lot more blunt, and its main villains are outsiders. As violent a reaction as he gets from the Vietnamese, they steep Rambo in a bath of pig excrement and urine and our hero’s biggest enemy turns out to be Stallone’s most prominent nemeses at the time, the Russians, led by Beverly Hills Cop villain Steven Berkoff. Not unlike Rocky IV, which was released the same year, Rambo: First Blood Part 2 wears its political biases on its sleeve and practices a particularly risible brand of backhanded humanism. To survive a war, you have to become war, muses Rambo, suggesting that war is inevitable and, more than that, immune to non-violent diplomacy. George Pan Cosmatos may have directed the movie, but it was co-written by Stallone himself (with a pre-Terminator James Cameron), and as such, Rambo is nothing if not a prime slab of cinema de Stallone.