A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Rambo: First Blood Part II is a classic 1985 Vietnam War movie sequel in which Rambo must find a way to rescue POWs imprisoned and tortured by the Vietnamese army. Unsurprisingly, the movie has abundant violence and graphic killings using guns, rocket launchers, knives, and arrows, plus grueling scenes of torture. While the profanity is generally infrequent, Rambo does say "f--k you" during a climactic moment. Vietnamese pirates are shown drinking alcohol and drunk, and there's cigarette and cigar smoking. 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. If anything, kids are much more likely to learn about the 1980s Cold War mindset of the United States.
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What's the story?
RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II finds Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), the muscleman combat-hardened Vietnam-supercommando from First Blood, brought out of prison to earn a possible presidential pardon. He 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?
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. Rambo: First Blood Part II 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.
"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.
Talk to your kids 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 hot spots. Do you think Rambo helped the image of Vietnam veterans (who were often portrayed by Hollywood as dysfunctional down-and-outs)? Why or why not?
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?
Families can also talk about whether the amount of violence in Rambo is fitting, given its subject matter. Are there times when violence needs to be graphic to get a filmmaker's point across? Why or why not?
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