Rambo: First Blood Part II
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there is abundant violence and killings using guns, knives, and arrows, plus grueling scenes of torture. Swearing is milder than in First Blood, but it's there, as are slight details of prostitution. Kids who don't know much about Vietnam War history probably won't be enlightened here; all that's said is "we weren't allowed to win" as Rambo burns down Indo-Chinese villages and troop convoys.
What's the story?
This sequel to First Blood was a bigger, dumber, and more financially successful action-blockbuster that opened on a then-record number of movie screens. It finds the muscleman combat-hardened Vietnam-supercommando from the first movie brought out of prison to earn a possible presidential pardon. Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) has 36 hours to be air-dropped into communist Vietnam and seek evidence that American POWs are still being held captive. But his superiors -- Yuppie white-collar types only interested in a cover-up -- don't expect him to succeed. When Rambo does find an active POW camp, the Americans abandon him to evil Russian and Viet Cong forces, and Rambo has to fight his way free -- shirtless, muscles gleaming like an oiled bodybuilder, amidst giant fireball explosions.
Is it any good?
"I just saw RAMBO; next time I'll know what to do," famously said President Ronald Reagan, conferring a White House blessing on this action smash-hit. John Rambo, a tragic and mostly human-sized character in the first movie, got peddled aggressively as a Tarzan/Davey Crockett/G.I. Joe combo to 1980s kids, soon showing up in a weekly TV cartoon. Rambo: First Blood Part 2 is cartoonish, and in a B-movie way. When the unstoppable Rambo (he just ignores bullets fired his way half the time) kills a whole Soviet patrol one by one, in a different camouflage disguise/gimmick one edit to the next, you remember Bugs Bunny doing stuff like that to Elmer Fudd or Daffy.
Plus tie-ins with Vietnam War reality, and the melancholy legend maintained by conspiracy-thinkers, that U.S. POWs still languished in enemy hands, seem tactless -- if you take it seriously. If you do scratch below the surface, you may find this overly simplistic message: The U.S. military -- in Rambo's case, one warrior -- could have won Vietnam, or any conflict, if "they" (who? Liberals? Jews? Jane Fonda? Freemasons and Illuminati?) hadn't sabotaged the effort.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about why Rambo was so popular in the 1980s, when USSR occupation troops could still be found in Afghanistan, Poland, East Germany, and other Cold-War hotspots. Do you think Rambo helped the image of Vietnam veterans (often portrayed by Hollywood as dysfunctional down-and-outs) or was it just another pernicious stereotype? Some critics called Stallone's action movies "fascist" in their glorification of pumped-up white patriots with big guns/fists putting the smackdown on foreign foes. What do you think now?