Sunday, December 27, 2015
RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD-PART II
(May 1985, U.S.)
Read this very carefully, people...
Now I must tell you that the story of John Rambo, for me, begins and ends with FIRST BLOOD. Back in 1985, I admittedly got swept up by "Rambo-mania" just like the rest of the world. I went to see RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD-PART II on screen twice. I had the movie poster on my college dorm wall, and I couldn't wait to own a copy of the film when it became available on VHS. But as I got older and my film tastes became a little more sophisticated, I discovered that the flaws of the second film greatly outweighed any of the American "gung-ho" excitement that had me going all those years in the late 1980s. Bottom line is that RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD-PART II is a film with bad dialogue and bad acting, and that's enough of a reason to put me off of any film, no matter how popular it is.
These are the words that I wrote when I concluded my blog post for FIRST BLOOD back in December 2011. So here I am four years later and I'm about to do something rather unprecedented in the history of my blogging posts...I'm about to print a retraction! Yes, as sad and as hard as it may be to believe, I've reconsidered my thoughts and feelings towards RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD-PART II and am ready to give it some due consideration for the purposes of writing a completely fair blog post (Geez, I'm either getting senile or it was something I ate last night!).
So what is it exactly that I'm trying to say now? Is it that RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD-PART II is a great film? Hardly. It's not exactly an Oscar-winning story and the acting is, at best, mediocre. So what's changed? Perhaps it just a simple matter of history and pop culture mania that has managed to stick around in my brain and in my memory for the past thirty years! In 1985, the Cold War, at its own level, still existed and it seemed that Americans were still getting off on any measure of victory towards the Soviet Union. Yes, the heart of RAMBO's story and message is the patriotic rescue of American P.O.W.s still being held prisoner in Vietnam even ten years after the war was officially ended; a rescue message that, I suppose, still had its valid context even in the 1980s. However, the hostility between the Soviets and the United States still exists in the form of cruel and vicious Russian soldiers present in Vietnam. The fact that it's Sylvester Stallone playing the character of a Vietnam veteran whom we'd come to have great empathy for in the last film three years prior only made the experience more exciting. John Rambo, through all of his personal demons, is a man still hell-bent on winning a war that he wasn't permitted to win by a failed government back when he was a soldier. To rescue P.O.W.s not only completes the obvious mission at hand, but also serves to cleanse Rambo's tormented soul. Despite the film's valid message of heroism and patriotism, it's still the bloody, violent action of Sylvester Stallone, which in my opinion, is not exactly the crust of cinematic intelligence. One is forced to remind themselves through all of the mindless action and wooden dialogue that the reason we watch Rambo in this film is to not only satisfy our sense of American justice for our American soldiers, but to also excite our minds and our senses by watching the enemy get their asses kicked and blown away! And as if the enemies of Vietnam and Russia aren't enough, Rambo must also deal with the betrayal of his own American government (again!) as he's sent on this mission with the soul purpose of having him fail in order to satisfy their own corrupt, bureaucratic bullshit! Still, as the movie poster indicates, they forget they're dealing with Rambo, which means endless blood, guts and glory for everyone involved, including the audience who just love every minute of it! In the end, the forgotten American soldiers are rescued, Rambo's soul is redeemed and we, as American movie audiences, feel just a little better about ourselves as children of the kick-ass, don't fuck with America, Ronald Reagan administration! Damn, sometimes I really miss those years when nobody would mess with us!
RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD-PART II will never be a great film. I wasn't received as one by critics, but it made a shit load of money and became a strong part of our American pop culture and strength for several years to come. Perhaps it's merely those years of feeling invincible as Americans against all global enemies, even if it was through the eyes, heart and guns of just one man. This, like it or not, is the concept of the hero and how we perceive his actions and his message on the big screen. Whatever the reasoning may be behind it, it seems clear that my feelings toward this film have changed over the years and I'm willing to stick to them - be it for reasons of history, social and political message, or maybe just the fact that like most human beings, I possess an undeniable streak of barbarism within me that needs to be satisfied every once in a while by watching an American hero like Sylvester Stallone wreak death and destruction to those that deserve it...and in the process, come to possibly understand what makes a character like John Rambo tick.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Col. Trautman: "The war, the whole conflict may have been wrong, but damn it, don't hate your country for it."
John Rambo: "Hate? I'd die for it!"
Trautman: "Then what is it you want?"
Rambo: "I want, what they want, and every other guy who came over here and spilled his guts and gave everything he had, wants! For our country to love us...as much as we...love it! That's what I want!"
Trautman: "How will you live, John?"
Rambo: "Day by day."
That one heartfelt statement alone just may be worth the time and heart it takes to appreciate a man like John Rambo. Maybe that's what makes him tick!