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Film / Rambo: First Blood Part II

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"Sir, do we get to win this time?"
"What if some burn-out POW shows up on the six o-clock news? What do you want to do... start the war all over again? You wanna bomb Hanoi? You want everybody screaming for armed invasion? Do you honestly think somebody's gonna get up on the floor of the United States Senate, and ask for billions of dollars for a couple of forgotten ghosts?"
Major Marshall Murdock

Rambo: First Blood Part II is the second film in the Rambo franchise, released in 1985.

A year has passed since the events of First Blood, and John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is doing time for the mayhem he unleashed back then. The ex-Green Beret is working in a prison quarry when his old commander, Col. Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna), shows up with a mission. Long after the end of the Vietnam War, rumors have surfaced that American prisoners of war remain in Vietnamese custody. As one of only three men qualified for the job, Rambo is to sneak into a prison camp to record evidence of POWs. If he succeeds, he may receive a Presidential pardon. Rambo reluctantly accepts and is flown to Thailand to meet mission commander Marshall Murdock (Charles Napier), who warns Rambo not to engage the Vietnamese Army. Outfitted with the latest in technology, Rambo is flown to Vietnam to perform a parachute jump into enemy territory.

Unfortunately, an accident during the jump forces Rambo to discard all of his high-tech equipment to save himself. When he finally touches down, he is left with nothing but his survival knife, his collapsible bow and a collection of customizable arrows. Rambo soon finds his Vietnamese contact, Co-Bao (Julia Nickson), who is able to ferry him through a river to the prison camp. Without the camera he was given to record evidence, Rambo decides to do the next best thing: infiltrate the camp to find and rescue a POW himself. Little does he know that Murdock sent him in expecting him to find nothing, thus allowing the POW issue to be buried and freeing the United States from having to pay reparations to Vietnam. When the truth hits him, Rambo will be set on avenging his betrayal—and now that he's back on the battlefield, only God knows what he'll do to save his countrymen.

Rambo: First Blood Part II is not only the most famous of the Rambo movies, but also the purest definition of an Actionized Sequel. The previous film's anti-war message is discarded in favor of the action-packed story of a hardened soldier returning to save those left behind, with gunfights and explosions aplenty when he's not putting his survival skills to well-worn use. Savaged by critics upon release, it nevertheless became the second highest-grossing film of 1985 and by far the most successful film in the series. It has inspired countless imitators, including films and video games (such as Contra and Ikari Warriors). The film itself was adapted into a number of arcade and console games, including an NES action-adventure game. It would be followed up three years later by Rambo III, which would cement Rambo's status as a One-Man Army.

Rambo: First Blood Part II contains examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The whole sub-plot between Rambo and Co is this. Of interest is the scene where Rambo refers to himself as "expendable" and explains the term to Co, and she answers that he is not.
  • Actionized Sequel: One of the most extreme examples. First Blood was a grim thriller about a war veteran victimized by the nation he once served. Rambo: First Blood Part II discards that and sends Rambo back to Vietnam to kill commies by the dozen.
  • An Aesop: Rambo more or less speaks directly to the audience at the end of the film to sum up the film's lesson, which is that America should acknowledge and love its vets, much like they love/loved their country. He explains his reasoning for including it with this excerpt taken from an interview:
    Stallone: I realize his speech at the end may have caused millions of viewers to burst veins in their eyeballs by rolling them excessively, but the sentiment stated was conveyed to me by many veterans.
  • Artistic License History: The series, along with the Missing in Action series, popularized the myth that American prisoners of war were deliberately left behind in Vietnam , but covered up by both the American and Vietnamese government.
  • Artistic License Military:
    • Apparently, the entirety of Vietnam's military is comprised of POW camp guards plus an attached unit of Soviet airborne troops. It's the only way to explain why Rambo wasn't transferred to a higher security facility like intelligence HQ, or why there was no nation-wide emergency when he started his rampage.
    • While Soviet airborne troops actually had camouflaged fatigues, it wasn't in the commercial "duck hunter" pattern shown in the film. Moreover, insignias on a field uniform would be subdued, so as to not stand out and break camouflage. And they would wear their iconic blue berets and telnyashka striped shirts, not the black berets and turtlenecks. It should be noted, that in the original script by James Cameron, Soviet troops were described as marines from Cam Ranh naval base who do, in fact, wear black berets.
    • Trautman is supposed to lead a plausibly-deniable covert operation, but even in the field he's wearing a uniform with rank badge, name tag and unit insignia.
    • Lt. Tay wears NCO rank insignia. Captain Vihn, for his part, got shoulder boards of the Lieutenant.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: Sort of. Co's broken English has no consistency whatsoever and sounds ridiculous and unrealistic.
  • Badass Boast: Rambo gets two good ones: "Murdock... I'm coming to get you." As well as "Find them... or I'll find you."
  • Betrayal by Inaction: Rambo runs to the extraction point with the POW he rescued, only for the helicopter to leave without him on Murdock's orders. The look on Rambo's face as the chopper flies away speaks volumes of the level of betrayal he felt.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Rambo succeeds in rescuing the POWs and earns his pardon, but was betrayed by Murdock in the process, and Co-Bao is still dead. After getting his revenge on Murdock, Rambo tells Trautman what he wants is for his country to love its soldiers as much as they love it, and he walks away alone somberly once more, disillusioned as ever with the world, his place in it and his country.
  • Bottomless Magazines: The Huey Rambo steals is an extreme example; it's shown to be armed with 7-tube 70mm rocket launchers, yet Rambo goes on to fire at least 20 salvos from them. He also never runs out of arrows; particularly, he's shown to be packing four explosive arrowheads, and ends up launching five of them.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Murdock, as confirmed in the novelization, when confronted by a triumphant Rambo at the end.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Murdock specifically mentions that Rambo was trained as helicopter pilot. That comes in handy, when he gets the chance to hijack a Huey.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The captive Rambo is dipped into a leech-infested lake by the Soviets. Soon, he is then subjected to Electric Torture (see below).
  • Colonel Badass: We don't see it in this film, but it's plain to see that Trautman isn't a Special Forces colonel for nothing. He's A Father to His Men who would've rescued the stranded Rambo if not for Murdock's intervention.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Colonel Podovsky arrives to the camp as a passenger in (apparently Vietnamese) Huey helicopter. However, when Rambo escapes and hijack said helicopter, it just happens that Podovsky also had his personal Hind stored somewhere nearby.
  • Cool Guns: Rambo was issued with an MP5 submachine gun fitted with a 3x scope, but lost it during his botched airdrop. He later acquires his now-signature M60
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: Lt. Tay, the Vietnamese officer who killed Co, as Rambo shoots him with an explosive-tipped arrow.
  • Defiant to the End: Surprisingly, Lt. Tay. Even when he saw Rambo has him dead to rights, he choose to stay and try to shoot him.
  • Dirty Harriet: Co poses as a prostitute to get inside the prison camp where Rambo is held.
  • Dive Under the Explosion: Rambo dives into a lake in the Vietnam jungle, to avoid a massive explosion brought on by a bomb-like object dropped by a helicopter.
  • Electric Torture: Effectively shows just how badass Rambo is by having him endure hours of an entire camp's electricity and still have enough energy to take on half the Viet Cong when he escapes.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: In the riverboat scene, Rambo leaps off just as the two boats have a head-on collision and explode. This makes even less sense than for a car—both because of the relatively slow speed, and because boats have their engines and fuel tanks in the rear.
  • Evil Counterpart: Murdock for Trautman.
  • Every Helicopter Is a Huey: Besides the iconic Faux Hind appearance, two Hueys makes an appearance. While nothing is wrong about the CIA extraction helicopter, the second (and more significant) one is very dubious. First, while the Vietnam People's Air Force actually had former South Vietnam UH-1s in their inventory, this one is a twin-engined Bell 212, that Vietnam never got. Second, it bears the wrong national insignia. Third, it was operated by Soviets (one would think that they would use an Mi-8 for liaison duty). In the original script, the helicopter was specifically described as a VPAF UH-1D, captured from the ARVN in 1975.
  • A Father to His Men: Trautman to Rambo. He arranges his release from prison for the initial mission, then has to be locked away to prevent him from saving him.
  • Feet-First Introduction: The first we see of Colonel Podovsky, disembarking from helicopter, is his combat boots.
  • Guns Do Not Work That Way: Rambo somehow is able to fire a door-mounted minigun from the co-pilot station. Quite a feat, considering that door mounts lack any sort of remote control and would not be aligned with a heads-up gunsight.
  • Hellish Copter: Averted with a commandeered helicopter that is landed at its destination successfully, but played straight with the helicopter piloted by Podovsky.
  • High-Speed Hijack: Rambo steals a helicopter when the pilot is looking for Rambo in a pond and hovers too close to the surface.
  • Honor Before Reason: Rambo only planned to rescue one POW to use as evidence that American POWs remain in Vietnam, before he was betrayed by Murdock and captured by the Soviets. Following his escape and Co's death, Rambo decides to rescue all of them—a daunting task for a special forces team, let alone a single Green Beret—so they all have a chance to return home. Being a One-Man Army, of course, Rambo succeeds.
  • Improvised Weapon: Rambo KOs a Soviet with the radio transmitter with which he was supposed to disavow the POWs—right after, for bonus points, using it to threaten Murdock for betraying him instead.
  • Just Plane Wrong:
    • Vietnam never had twin-engined Hueys, and the VPAF roundel isn't a simple yellow star.
    • The "Mi-24 Hind" seen in the film is in reality an Aérospatiale Puma originally modified for Red Dawn (1984). However, the fake cockpit was removed for safety reasons (since having it on there during the filming of Red Dawn made it a real bitch to fly), drastically reducing similarities to early (or really any) Hinds.
    • A business jet is the worst pick for an airdrop. Paratroopers use aircraft with top-mounted wings and doors behind the engines to prevent being struck by the wings and/or sucked in to engines.
  • Karma Houdini: Out of the two CIA mercenaries, it was Lifer, who was actively enforcing Murdock's order (being ready to shoot Trautman), while Ericson was ready to discuss said order with Trautman and reluctantly steered the helicopter away, when Lifer showed his true colors. However, it was Ericson who got himself beaten up by Rambo. Meanwhile, Lifer was cowardly hiding among rescue personnel and got no comeuppance.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Murdock apparently didn't feel like he was rubbing enough salt into Rambo and Trautman's wounds, because when Trautman continues to insist on finding those lost POWs after Rambo escapes the prison camp, he quickly finds himself under arrest on Murdock's orders and confined to the base.
    • The Russian who chooses to shoot not the heavily armed Rambo, but an unarmed POW in the back during the final escape from the camp.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Rambo prepping up to kick PAVN ass is the definitive version of this trope in action.
  • Market-Based Title: Some markets (such as Latin America) retitled it to Rambo II: The Mission.
  • Meaningful Name: Rambo's female contact is the Vietnamese woman named Co Bao. In English, Bao means protection, and in the movie she rescues Rambo once and saves his life on the river boat, too.
  • Missing Backblast: Rambo shoots down the Soviet Mi-24 Hind helicopter with a rocket launcher by shooting it through the windshield of his own damaged helicopter in a Wounded Gazelle Gambit. In reality, doing this would have not only finished the job of wrecking his aircraft, it would have also killed all of the POWs in the passenger bay.
  • Mook Horror Show: When dispatching Vietnamese and Soviet soldiers in the jungle (sometimes gruesomely), Rambo is as much a One-Man Army as he's an unstoppable predator dealing with hapless prey. It also adds a little to the first movie, revealing just how much Rambo was holding back.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Considering that the whole mission was to record evidence (or lack thereof) of POWs , Murdock should have just tried to supply Co Bao with a camera. He'd get his pictures, the POWs would stay in the camp, and Rambo would serve his term.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: The point of the film, focusing on the plight of American POWs left in Vietnam a full decade after the war ended.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Podovsky is a major offender; he sounds more like a stereotypical Nazi interrogator, complete viz ze inability to pronounce a "th" sound.
  • Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: Rambo: First Blood Part II, rather than Rambo II or First Blood Part II.
  • One-Man Army: After a whole film of Rambo trying to fend off the local police without killing anyone, we see how deadly Rambo truly is when he's put back on the battlefield and no longer has to hold back. The result: Rambo fights tons of PAVN and Soviet troops by himself and wins, singlehandedly inspiring many action heroes like him.
  • The Only One: Only Rambo is tough enough to save the POWs. He himself even mentions the wisdom behind going in alone when you're outnumbered.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Col. Trautman, A Father to His Men, flies off without him, Rambo knows who's really responsible and is set on giving Murdock hell when he comes back.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Trautman is this in spades. Compare him to Well-Intentioned Extremist Murdock.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The premise is based on the then hot-button issue of whether American POWs remained in Vietnam after the war.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Rambo uses a bow to defeat Lt. Tay, who is armed with an automatic rifle and a pistol.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Murdock sends Rambo on the mission not expecting him to find evidence of POWs so the United States government can sweep the whole issue under the rug. Rambo does, however, so Murdock strands him in Vietnam to prevent the truth from getting out, going as far as to put Trautman under arrest to prevent a rescue.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Lots of it, whether due to missiles, a bomb dropped from a helicopter, or Rambo's explosive arrows. It even has a character blow up thanks to the latter.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Rambo was ready to leave the POWs behind and take Co with him to America. Then she gets shot.
  • There Are No Global Consequences: Rambo proved that Vietnam still held American POWs in captivity, despite that hostilities ended a decade prior. This would probably cause huge backlash and destroy the reputation of Vietnam... but no. On the other hand, Rambo also illegally crossed the Vietnam border, destroyed a military compound, killed dozens of soldiers (including a Soviet military liaison) and... apparently everyone is just fine with that.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Averted spectacularly on the battlefield, but played straight when Rambo deals with Murdock. Barely hiding his displeasure with how Murdock handled the whole mission, Rambo drives the point home with a knife attack that barely and intentionally misses his head and warns him to take the POW situation more seriously in the future.
  • Too Dumb to Live: When Podovsky sees Rambo's apparently-downed helicopter, his immediate action is not finishing it from safe distance, but closing in to investigate.
  • Trading Bars for Stripes: Rambo.
  • Trash the Set: The prison camp is destroyed spectacularly.
    • There's also a minor example when Rambo destroys all of Murdock's high-tech equipment with his M60 in retaliation for stranding him in Vietnam.
  • Trick Arrow: Rambo's survival gear includes arrows which can be customized with detachable arrowheads to be either regular arrows or explosive arrows. The latter are put to good use in the last third of the film. Somehow, said arrowheads yield the power of an artillery shell.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Murdock tries to bury evidence of American POWs in Vietnam for fear it might spark an international incident.
  • Wham Line: When one of the POWs asks Rambo what year it is, he answers, "1985." The look on the POW's face says it all.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Done with helicopters!

Col. Trautman: How will you live, John?
Rambo: Day by day.