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George P. Cosmatos
Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Julia Nickson-Soul
Writing Credits:
Sylvester Stallone, James Cameron

Vietnam vet John Rambo's survival skills are tested with a vengeance on a top-secret mission that takes him back to the jungles of Vietnam in search of American POWs.

Box Office:
$44 million.
Opening Weekend
$20,176,217 on 2074 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $22.99
Release Date: 11/13/2018

• Audio Commentary with Director George P. Cosmatos
• “We Get to Win This Time” Documentary
• “Rambo Takes the 80s Part 2” Featurette
• “Action in the Jungle” Featurette
• “The Last American POW” Featurette
• “Fulfilling a Dream” Featurette
• Interview with Sylvester Stallone
• Interview with Richard Crenna
• Behind the Scenes Featurette
• “The Restauration” Featurette
• “How to Become Rambo Part 2” Featurette
• Trailers/TV Spots
• Blu-ray Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Rambo: First Blood Part II [4K UHD] (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 14, 2018)

1982’s First Blood finally broke Sylvester Stallone’s long streak of “non-Rocky” duds. Prior to Blood, if he starred in a movie that didn’t focus on that boxer, it stiffed. While First Blood didn’t break any box office records, it made a nice piece of change and allowed the actor to finally earn some fame as someone other than the Italian Stallion.

However, Stallone wouldn’t become a superstar until the 1985 release of the sequel, Rambo: First Blood Part II. In the past, most sequels made substantially less money than their predecessors, but ala Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Rambo greatly outdid the original.

However, Shagged’s success was a foregone conclusion, as everyone expected that heavily hyped sequel to make a fortune. The same didn’t occur for Rambo, which essentially crept up on everyone. Almost out of nowhere, it became a major hit that earned a solid $150 million in the US, which marked a huge increase over the original film’s $57 million.

So a new cultural icon was born, and a very different one than the character seen in the original film. In that movie, Rambo suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and went over the edge due to flashbacks from his experiences in the Vietnam War. For the sequel, however, it seems that Rambo conquered all his demons and now could become the new John Wayne.

At the start of Rambo, we encounter the title character (Stallone) in a prison chain gang. As Rambo does his time, former commander Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna) comes a-calling to ask for a favor. There’s pressure to find out if any POWs remain in Vietnam, and since the territory in question covers Rambo’s old stomping grounds, he seems to be the best man for the job.

Despite the promise of a potential pardon for a successful mission, Rambo appears wary - he asks if he’ll be allowed to win this time - but he accepts anyway. Rambo and Trautman head to Southeast Asia, where they meet the command team that runs the operation.

Headed by Special Ops commander Marshall Murdock (Charles Napier), this group seems a little seedy and suspicious. They equip Rambo and send him into the jungle to meet his local contact named Co Bao. We follow various adventures and drama along the way.

No one will ever refer to Rambo as a subtle film, though in a weird way, whatever charm it possesses stems from its blunt manner. Lacking the psychic pain evident in the first movie, this Rambo is such a simple and archetypal character that despite the movie’s flaws, he still makes an impact.

But make no mistake: Rambo suffers from many problems. The latter half of the Eighties provided a surfeit of exceptionally violent and mindless action movies, and Rambo created the basic template for those.

Personally, I think this trend reached its nadir with Schwarzenegger’s Commando from 1986. Even as a young adult, I recall how truly bored I became with the flick’s never-ending parade of slaughter.

That area offers one of Rambo’s main concerns. The film features such a thin plot and characterizations that it gives us little more than death on a stick, and its second half really consists of little more than mayhem. In the hands of a talented director, this might have become watchable, but George Cosmatos lacked the skill to make the violence anything other than banal and tiresome.

To the shock of many, James Cameron wrote the film’s original screenplay, though Stallone later rewrote it. I don’t know which man to blame for Rambo’s persistently laughable dialogue. Does it get much worse than Rambo’s assertion that “I’ve always believed that the mind was the most dangerous weapon”?

Unfortunately, the filmmakers also decided to saddle Rambo with some moments of alleged humor. After Rambo barely escapes a parachuting snarl, he explains his tardiness to Co Bao with “I got hung up”.

Not only does this line seem predictable and lame, but also it appears badly out of character for our strong, silent hero. The series would further degenerate during 1988’s Rambo III, which presented a ridiculous degree of comedy, but I still don’t care for this film’s poor attempts at humor.

Rambo mildly benefits from some good actors like Steven Berkoff and the usually interesting Charles Napier. However, none of them can overcome the flat and stereotypical origins and make their roles work.

Rambo featured Julia Nickson’s cinematic debut, and based on her performance, I’m surprised she ever got another job. She gets stuck with some bad pigeon English dialogue and does nothing to bring any life to the part. Her romantic scene with Stallone remains one of the least convincing ever filmed.

I never understood the popularity of Rambo: First Blood Part II back in 1985, and I can’t say I get it any better now. The movie possesses a certain heroic energy usually lost in this sort of effort, but it remains a bland and formulaic action flick.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

Rambo: First Blood Part II appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This wasn’t a showcase image but it largely worked well.

Sharpness usually worked fine. Interiors tended to be somewhat thick, and that reduced accuracy, but overall delineation appeared satisfactory, and daytime exteriors could offer excellent clarity.

I noticed no jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. With a fine layer of grain, I suspected no egregious digital noise reduction, and print flaws stayed minor, with only a couple of tiny blemishes on display.

The palette of Rambo favored greens and tans, and the disc showed these tones well. The hues seemed accurate and distinctive, and they presented no signs of noise, bleeding or other issues. HDR didn’t add much to the presentation, but the colors still looked pretty well-rendered.

Black levels came across as deep and rich but shadows were a bit iffy. As noted, low-light situations tended to be somewhat too dark; I thought day-for-night photography caused a lot of those issues, but still felt the movie could be awfully dense. Even with various drawbacks, I felt this turned into a generally positive presentation.

While fine for its era, I thought the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Rambo offered somewhat inconsistent audio. The soundtrack provided a decent soundfield, as the forward spectrum dominated the proceedings and offered reasonably good spread across the front at times.

However, those elements seemed erratic. During some scenes - like an early one with a jet engine - the front channels showed good breadth and activity.

On other occasions, though, they reverted to almost monaural despite the presence of effects and music that could spread across the front. Surround usage seemed minimal, as the rear speakers contributed little more than general reinforcement of the front spectrum.

Audio quality appeared acceptable but not great. Dialogue seemed a little flat but the lines generally sounded reasonably distinct and they lacked any signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music lacked much range, as the score consistently came across as moderately thin and lifeless.

Effects varied. At times they packed a solid punch, but on other occasions, they seemed wan and failed to deliver much low-end material.

Loud sounds kicked the bass to life, but the rest of the track seemed less vivid. In the end, Rambo: First Blood Part II presented audio that appeared decent for its era, but it lacked consistent force.

How did the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray from 2008? Audio remained identical, as both discs sported the same DTS-HD MA track.

Visuals became a different story, as the 4K offered improvements. It showed superior definition as well as fewer print flaws and a generally more natural feel. The 4K delivered a nice step up in quality over the Blu-ray.

On the 4K UHD itself, one extra appears: an audio commentary from director George P. Cosmatos, who delivers a running, screen-specific piece. Boy, does this track stink! For one, vast amounts of time pass between many of the director’s remarks; the commentary suffers from tons of dead space.

When Cosmatos does provide information, it tends to be rudimentary and technical, as he generally talks about some simple camera techniques and he rarely tells us anything of substance. I doubt that even die-hard Rambo fans will enjoy this boring track.

The included Blu-ray Disc provides a slew of extras, and we begin with a documentary called We Get to Win This Time. It goes for 20 minutes, three seconds and features actors Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Julia Nickson, and Charles Napier, director George P. Cosmatos, First Blood novelist David Morrell, executive producers Andrew Vajna and Mario Kassar, producer Buzz Feitshans, and editors Mark Helfrich and Mark Goldblatt.

My main complaint about “Win” stems from its 20-minute running time, as it seems awfully brief. However, the material itself provides a nice little look at the film.

The program covers the origins of the movie with its James Cameron-authored script and progresses through a variety of production issues. We hear about locations, sets, editing, and a mix of other topics. All of this seems interesting and useful, but it rushes through things to a moderate degree.

Overall, the show is quite good, but it’s too short. And what’s up with the Brando lighting afforded Cosmatos? They hid him in shadows just like Colonel Kurtz!

Next comes Rambo Takes the 80s Part 2, an 11-minute, 37-second reel with Morell, professional bodybuilder Danny Hester, Rambo III director Peter Macdonald, ShortList Magazine editor Joe Mackertich, actor/writer/producer Nick Moran, film critics Anna Smith and Kevin Maher, and digital editor Adam Woodward. We also get circa 1985 comments from actors Richard Crenna and Sylvester Stallone.

“80s” looks at the sequel’s premise and story, character and thematic elements, production specifics, Stallone’s physique, and reflections of the era. Like its predecessor, “Part 2” throws out an occasional nugget but it seems unfocused and scattered, factors that make it a spotty program.

With Action in the Jungle, we find a seven-minute, 40-second featurette. Created in 1985 to promote Rambo, we hear from Stallone, Cosmatos, Nickson, Crenna, helicopter pilot Ross Young, special effects coordinator Tom Fisher and stunt coordinator Diamond Farnsworth.

Inevitably, “Action” mainly exists to sell the movie. Still, it includes some good shots from the set, so it’s worth a look.

Another reel from 1985, The Last American POW brings a two-minute, 15-second clip with Stallone, Crenna and former POW Robert Garwood. “Last” gives us brief thoughts about the film’s premise that POWs remained in Vietnam. It’s too short to tell us much.

Also from 1985, Fulfilling a Dream spans two minutes, 16 seconds and features Stallone. It tells us a First Blood obsessed cancer patient who got to hang out with Stallone. It offers a decent feel-good piece.

Two more 1985 clips follow, as we get interviews with Sylvester Stallone (2:11) and Richard Crenna (1:33). Neither one tells us much of interest, and we’ve already seen much of the content wrapped into prior featurettes.

Behind the Scenes occupies two minutes, 17 seconds and provides raw footage from the set. It seems moderately interesting, but like so many other elements on this disc, it’s too brief.

The Restauration runs one minute, two seconds and shows before/after examples of the movie’s clean-up. Why is it called “restauration” and not “restoration”?

Because it was apparently created for a French Blu-ray. It also reads “avant” and “apres” instead of “before” and “after”. It’s a fairly useless reel.

In addition to a trailer and seven TV spots, we wrap up with How to Become Rambo Part 2. In this 14-minute, 32-second featurette, we hear from bodybuilding coach Dr. Franco Columbu.

We learn about Stallone’s workout regimen for First Blood Part 2. I’m not sure why this got split into multiple parts and why it doesn’t entirely reside on this disc, but I guess it’s painless enough if you want to get some exercise tips.

Rambo: First Blood Part II remains a dominant piece of the 1980s, but that doesn’t actually make it a good movie. Rambo lacks the depth and heart to make it a success, as it mostly just runs up a big body count. The 4K delivers good picture and audio as well as a long but largely superficial collection of supplements. The 4K becomes the strongest version of the film yet released.

To rate this film visit the original review review of RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main