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George P. Cosmatos
Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Charles Napier, Steven Berkoff, Julia Nickson-Soul, Martin Kove, George Cheung, Andy Wood
Writing Credits:
Kevin Jarre (story), Sylvester Stallone, James Cameron, David Morrell (characters)

What most people call hell, he calls home.

Although the Vietnam War is officially over, Rambo remains the perfect fighting machine. But his 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. For when Rambo is double-crossed, this "expendable" hero, armed with just his bow, arrows and knife, must defeat savage enemies equipped with deadly firepower.

Box Office:
$44 million.
Opening Weekend
$25.520 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$150.415 million.

Rated R

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

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 5/7/2008

• Audio Commentary with Director George P. Cosmatos
• “Out of the Blu” Trivia Track
• “We Get to Win This Time” Documentary
• Preview


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Rambo: First Blood Part II [Blu-Ray] (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 1, 2015)

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 or so.

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; 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 actually wrote the film’s original screenplay; 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 insanely 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; 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 really 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 Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus C

Rambo: First Blood Part II appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was an up and down image.

Actually, the presentation could be strong at times, but it also came with problems. Sharpness became one of the erratic components. While a lot of the movie showed positive clarity and definition, definite instances of softness materialized.

Most of these came during interiors, where the image could take on a rather hazy appearance. Still, general definition was nice, and I noticed no jaggies or shimmering. Source flaws were minor and limited to a few streaks, though the transfer could wobble a bit.

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.

Black levels came across as deep and rich but shadows were a bit iffy. 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. All of this made Rambo an often attractive but inconsistent presentation.

While fine for its era, I thought the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Rambo offered the weakest audio of the first three movies. The soundtrack provided a decent soundfield. 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 the force of the other two movies in the series.

Three extras appear here. Taken from an earlier DVD, a documentary called We Get to Win This Time: The Rambo Phenomenon goes for 22 minutes, 32 seconds. We hear from 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 22-minute running time; 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!)

Another old component, we get 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; 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.

For something new, we find Out of the Blu, a running trivia track. This uses the pop-up format to give us a mix of production notes. These don’t appear as frequently as I’d like, but they offer some useful information. They’re certainly infinitely more valuable than Cosmatos’ awful commentary.

The disc opens with an ad for the 2008 Rambo film. No other trailers appear here.

Rambo: First Blood Part II stands as one of those time capsule movies; when asked to define pop culture in the Eighties, it must come up in any discussions. However, 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 Blu-ray delivers erratic but generally good picture and audio as well as two interesting bonus features and a terrible audio commentary. Though not a great Blu-ray, this marks the strongest home video representation of the film.

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

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