1984. At a Federal Penitentiary John Rambo is serving his sentence for the actions in the previous movie, First Blood. His former commanding officer, Colonel Trautman, has come to offer him a deal: Infiltrate Vietnam to find evidence of the Vietnamese government still holding American Prisoners of War and deliver it to American officials, and he will receive a full pardon.
Upon reaching the makeshift base near the Cambodia-Vietnam border, Rambo meets Marshall Murdock, the Government Official in charge of the investigation. Here, John Rambo receives his equipment and begins his mission. However, his jump from the plane does not go as planned, and he barely survives the para-drop. As Trautman and Murdock wait for word on Rambo, he meets his contact, a Vietnamese woman named Co.
Co and Rambo make their way to the river, where they meet up with a Vietnamese gunboat commander and his band of pirates. Co and Rambo make small talk while Co is also fending off advances from the ship’s crew. They reach their destination and both find a surprise: A living American POW. Moved by a sense of American compassion, Rambo frees the POW and they attempt to get to the extraction point.
Elements of the Vietnamese Army are in hot pursuit and manage to surround Rambo and Co. The US helicopter arrives just in time, neutralizing Vietnamese soldiers. The pilot radios that Rambo has a POW in tow, and Murdock orders the operation aborted – and to leave John Rambo at extraction point. Trautman objects, but is overruled. The helicopter leaves, and Rambo is captured, but not before allowing Co to escape.
As Rambo is strung up and dipped in the mud with the leeches, the real villains – the Russians – show up. Colonel Podovsky and Sergent Yushin interrogate and torture Rambo. They also inform him that he was abandoned by his American commander. Rambo is given a radio to “surrender” to the Russians and send a message to the Americans not to try anything like this again. Rambo, instead, threatens Murdock and attempts to escape.
Co had dressed herself as a prostitute and infiltrated the base. When Rambo began his escape, she provided additional firepower and they managed to escape, but not before the Russians deployed an attack helicopter to pursue them.
Rambo and Co share a moment of levity, but are interrupted by a Vietnamese soldier who ambushes their position. Rambo kills the soldier, but Co had been hit in the crossfire and dies soon afterwards. Rambo descends into killing mode and takes Co’s necklace as a rememberance.
Rambo attacks the Vietnamese base, killing Vietnamese and Russian soldiers with abandon. After killing Captain Vinh, Yushin shows up in a Russian attack helicopter. After surviving the incidniery device explosion, Rambo board the helicopter and battles with Yushin. Upon killing Yushin and the Russian pilot, Rambo takes the helicopter and storms the camp. He rescues the POWs in the camp and begins flying back to Cambodia, but Podovsky pursues Rambo in a Hind gunship.
A fierce battle ensues, with Rambo emerging victorious. Rambo radios the base that he is coming in with American POWs. Murdock leaves for his office, and Trautman takes over. Rambo lands the heavily damaged helicopter and assaults one of the mercenaries who abandoned him. He takes the helicopter’s M-60 machine gun and blasts the computers in the command center. He leaves after threatening Murdock with his life if Murdock doesn’t intervene to rescue the other POWs in Vietnam.
Rambo and Trautman have a final conversation where Rambo says that he just wants his country to love him and the other soldiers as much as they love it (and sacrificed for).
Review and Analysis:
This movie came out during the onslaught of loner action hero movies in this decade, mostly by Stallone, Schwartzenegger, and Chuck Norris. The thing about these kinds of movies is that they spend most of their time in Asian or Latin American-type countries, where the hero mows down hordes of Brown African, Latin, or Yellow Asian people. And Rambo personifies this.
For example, every single Vietnamese man is evil. Every last one of them. The only “good” Vietnamese person is Co, his local guide. And right when it looks like she may have some attraction to our hero Rambo, she gets gunned down by a Vietnamese soldier.
Not helping matters is the fact that the Russians have since set up shop in Vietnam, ostensibly to turn it into a Russian Communist Satellite to begin plotting an attack on American friendly South Korea and Japan…which will never happen.
And this Rambo movie goes one step further by also giving us Marshall Murdock, a military hating US bureaucrat who abandons Rambo when he finds that there are indeed POWs – and Rambo has one in tow.
Speaking of American Bureaucracy Follies:
To find out whether or not American POWs are being held in Vietnam, US Government hires a bureaucrat that hates American soldiers. He then turns around and hires a few mercenary-types that are also reticent about American soldiers who served in Vietnam.
The only American soldier involved in the operation is Colonel Trautman, and he merely acts as the military advisor. John Rambo is the sacrificial lamb.
Rambo’s Final Screed – And Why Makes No Sense:
The first thing that I find odd (and off) about Rambo’s “lament” is “For whom was this screed supposed to be pointed to?”
The Hippies? The men and women who protested the involvement of America in Vietnam? Liberals? The Government Bureaucracy? It was never really clear.
But, there has been a very popular notion that War Protesters, Liberals, and Hippies also hate American soldiers. They also hate American freedom and embrace “Communism” wholeheartedly, and have been shouldering the blame for “losing” the Vietnam war (it couldn’t possibly be the false pretenses for getting involved, the open-ended war that continued to suck away blood and treasure from the US, or the ever changing rationale for staying where our presence was not really wanted…could it?) from so-called Conservatives who were enjoying a renaisannce of sorts in the 1980s.
Liberal Hollywood Strikes Again:
I feel the sorriest for the men and women of Asian ancestry that have been trying to find work in Hollywood productions, only to be cast in roles which consist of nameless soldiers who menace the hero or his love interest. Or as some nameless shopkeeper or immigrant worker. Or as some martial artist for a white hero to beat up at some point – unless they are older, then they get to train the hero.
Yet, the lives of the Asian men and women are unimportant in Hollywood, as Chuck and Arnold and Sylvester kill them with arrows, bullets, missiles, and flame guns.
Jingoistic Patriots would be proud, if they weren’t too busy calling Hollywood “Liberal” for not supporting everything Republicans wants.
The Cartoon Series Starts Here:
Yes, the cartoon series is based off of the second movie.
Rambo and Trautman are obvious, but the other members, not so much:
General Warhawk is based loosely off of the Russian Commander Lt. Col. Podovsky.
Sgt. Havok is based mostly on Sgt. Yushin.
Gripper takes many of his cues (including his inability to hit the hero with a bullet at point blank range) from Vietnamese Captain Vinh. Gripper was made into a pseudo-German in keeping with cartoon villains being assigned non-American voice tropes. However, the voices are European or Austrailian, mostly because cartoons tend not to cast Asians as villains, unless they are Ninjas (see Storm Shadow).
Kat is Co Bao. She is an exotic Woman of undetermined origin. She shares Co’s tracking abilities, as well as her ability to disguise her appearance to fool enemy troops.
Rambo: First Blood Part II is typical Republican-style jingoistic fantasy at its finest. A single American blows away hundreds of Vietnamese and Russian soldiers while only receiving a few superficial scratches. The United States “Government” is once again impugned for “doing nothing” about American POWs, while at the same time indicted for abandoning and interfering with any attempt to “actually” rescue them. Add that an internal uncivil war (which is what the entire fight in Vietnam was about before the Americans “intervened”) is cast as War on Communism, and that the Russians were moving in to Vietnam as a beachhead to the rest of Southeast Asia.
There is no such thing as a Good Vietnamese Man who actually helps the hero in his original mission. The Vietnamese women are all either prostitutes or dead. Co Bao is the only Woman of Color who has any appreciable role in the film, and is swiss-cheesed to provide Rambo the impetus to kill hundreds of Vietnamese and Russian men (Wouldn’t you think that attempting to rescue American POWs would be enough of a reason?).
In other words, much like the reasons for the United States inserting its military into a internal conflict halfway around the world in 1967, the movie is a screed against an enemy it invented, and somehow still misses the point it’s trying to make.