Rambo‘s pretty awful. It’s not terrible–not too terrible to watch anyway (at least once, though New York Times critic A.O. Scott should probably be fired for supporting it to any degree). The main technical fault lies with George P. Cosmatos, who somehow managed to stock the crew with capable people (editor Mark Goldblatt is no slouch and Jack Cardiff–you know, the Archer’s cinematographer–shot it), but can’t shoot an action scene, establishing shot, anything. The second unit stuff of the helicopters is the best composition in the movie. The next big problem, then, lies with the script. And not even Stallone’s political commentary, which I’ll save for its own paragraph. No, the problem with the script is the movie’s mostly action after fifty minutes. Forty or so minutes of chase scenes and shooting and explosions. None of these things, of course, look good. Cosmatos is awful at shooting them.
Next problem, the cast. Richard Crenna’s terrible, Charles Napier’s terrible, Martin Kove’s terrible, Julia Nickson-Soul is terrible. Steven Berkoff’s poorly directed but he at least appears to be having fun. Stallone’s okay for some of it… not when he’s talking, not when he’s romancing Nickson-Soul. But when he’s running around, he’s okay. Not when he’s got the big gun either. It just looks too absurd.
As for the film’s politics, they’re incredibly confused (if strangely well-meaning). So confused–and the movie is such an absurd vehicle for political commentary–it’s hard to take them seriously. Stallone pushes and pulls in every direction. Each one of Rambo’s painful moments of political insight is invalidated by the next and it’s somewhat offensive–given the whole movie is about POWs still in Vietnam–Stallone takes the spotlight for himself at the end, instead of acknowledging–in the movie’s reality–there are a dozen or so men about to go home after twenty years in a prison camp.
Luckily, Rambo’s final speech is so dumb and brother Frank Stallone’s song is so awful, it’s impossible to dwell much on Rambo: First Blood Part II… thinking too hard about it, trying to unravel Stallone’s contradictory ideas, trying to understand why Rambo falls in love with Nickson-Soul in four and a half seconds… it hurts the brain.
Directed by George P. Cosmatos; screenplay by Sylvester Stallone and James Cameron, based on a story by Kevin Jarre and on characters created by David Morrell; director of photography, Jack Cardiff; edited by Mark Goldblatt and Mark Helfrich; music by Jerry Goldsmith; production designer, Bill Kenney; produced by Buzz Feitshans; released by Tri-Star Pictures.
Starring Sylvester Stallone (John J. Rambo), Richard Crenna (Col. Samuel Trautman), Charles Napier (Marshall Murdock), Steven Berkoff (Lt. Col. Podovsky), Julia Nickson-Soul (Co Bao), Martin Kove (Ericson), George Cheung (Tay), Andy Wood (Banks), William Ghent (Capt. Vinh) and Voyo Goric (Sgt. Yushin).