This is where the Rambo persona and brand was fully set in stone. Or rather the block of stone that was First Blood was chiseled into the form of Stallone’s beefcake physique, had a bandana slapped on its head and promoted the character’s name to the title. This is where Rambo is re-configured from an avatar for all PTSD-suffering vets abandoned by their country into representing all the brouhaha war boys beating their chests for some payback. An 80s action icon is born.
Arriving slap-bang in the middle of the decade, it’s pretty wild at how many 80s action tropes are present and accounted for in Rambo: First Blood Part II. Not only is it a total dry-run for Predator among others, but it contains a gamut of formative images; Rambo tooling up, firing big guns, taking on armies, flexing his muscles. There might be forebearers to individual elements, but I can’t think of an action movie which predates this that holds so many tropes in one place, though Commando was hot on its heels. Regardless, this was definitely a template-setter for testosterone-fuelled filmmaking moving forward.
There’s also a murderer’s row of craftsmen behind the scenes. James Cameron on screenplay duties is one thing (while heavily re-written, this is clearly from the mind that would dream up Aliens a few years later) but Jack Cardiff in charge of cinematography? Add to that Jerry Goldsmith’s awesome score, brilliantly embodying all of the film’s warfare physicality and primal mentality. That’s what I call a tasty burger.
Admittedly, I’ve never been a big fan of the Rambo franchise but I always had a soft spot for First Blood. Unfortunately, the sequel makes literal what that film hinted at or subverted, and it carries over none of its covert pathos. Still, it does have a dude being shot with an explosive arrow. One of those undeniable movies that just blows shit up real good.
Watched on blu-ray