Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rambo: First Blood, Part II

Rambo: First Blood, part II begins the slide away from serious exploration of what combat can do to an ordinary man towards implausibly violent revenge fantasies against America’s Cold War enemies. Rambo survives a parachuting accident, jungle hazards, explosions, gruesome torture that ought to have cooked his brain cells to a cinder, and about two million bullets, all while being betrayed yet again by his country.

The plot is the most successful of the myriad rescue American POW left behind in Vietnam movies prevalent I the ’80’s. the movie racked up box office of over $ 300 million worldwide, making it the most successful film in the franchise. It was een cited by Ronald Reagan as an example of American heroics defying the evil Soviet empire.

That, by the way, is a ridiculous notion. Rambo is apolitical. A man completely jaded by politics of all stripes. But I cannot deny the blind jingoism of the film. The Soviets and Vietnamese characters a completely one-dimensional, pure evil stereotypes. Only one, Col. Padovsky, even has any lines in English at all. Rambo: First Blood, Part Ii is a pure fantasy in which Rambo single handedly wins the unfinished Vietnam War whether the American government wants him to or not.

They do not, by the way. Or at least the CIA does not. The entire operation to find POW is a public relations stunt to appease those who believe American prisoners are still alive in Vietnam. Rambo supposed to go in, take pictures of what is supposed to bean empty camp, and prove there are no Americans left. Rambo’s status as a decorated war veteran and former POW himself is supposed to lend credibility to the discovery the camps have long since been abandoned.

I guess we are supposed to just ignore Rambo got out of prison early after shooting up an entire town, killing cops in the process. Surely that would have no effect on his credibility, right?

Rambo finds the camp full of prisoners and rescues one who has been literally hug out to dry. His contacts abandon him when they discover what he has done and the battle is on. This is the point at which Rambo becomes an invincible super warrior, surviving torture and everything else the entire Vietnamese and half the Soviet army throw sat him as he liberates the camp and makes it back to safety in Thailand.

There is a minor, completely implausible love story brewing between Rambo and his Vietnamese contact, Co. She exist solely to rescue him from Padovsky, then conveniently get killed in order to make sure rambo ends up aloe at the end. Rocky and Adrian, this ain’t.

At least the speech at the end in which Rambo expresses his anger America does not care about the soldiers who sacrificed for them in a losing war is far easier to understand than the one that ended First Blood. Trautman isstill pretty much a jerk about it all, even though he is still impressed Rambo can survive anything. Thanks exclusively to his training, of course.

The movie racks up a total onscreen body count of 67, 57 of which are killed by Rambo directly. I thought the violence was way too gratuitous to be really enjoyable, but I do not have revenge fantasies about Vietnam considering my young age. I am willing to concede the whole “we get to win this time” may resonate with those old enough to remember the sting of “losing” Vietnam.

Or maybe not. I cannot fathom how the movie can seriously salve anyone’s wounds. It is so far fetched and really quite cruel to families who still have missing loved ones from the war. Of all the Rambo film, this is the one I am least likely to willingly sit through again.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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