Rambo: First Blood Part II (4K Ultra HD)
Check out our review of the Rambo: First Blood Part II 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack!
Former Green Beret John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is called upon to return to Vietnam, on a mission to find American POWs still held prisoner after the war. Also stars Richard Crenna and Charles Napier. Directed by George P. Cosmatos.
Before the credits even roll in Rambo: First Blood Part II, actor Sylvester Stallone delivers the line “Do we get to win this time?” Actor Richard Crenna responds with “This time, it’s up to you.”
As a kid sitting in a theater on Rambo’s opening weekend in 1985, I distinctly remember the audience roaring in approval. It was the perfect way to open the film, and it set a tone for the cinematic greatness to come.
Rambo mostly dismisses all of the subtext of the first film dealing with veteran trauma, what we now know as PTSD. Instead, Part II is more of a cathartic experience and a “righting of the boat,” so to speak, for America’s experiences in Vietnam. It involves Rambo, now incarcerated for his crimes, being sprung from prison to go on a secret mission to Vietnam, in search of American POWs. Rambo gets his shot at redemption and closure, and he takes full advantage, to the delight of millions of moviegoers.
The movie was a monster hit that year, and the character of Rambo became ingrained in American culture as an icon of the patriotism that defined the Reagan era. I admit I still own a knockoff Rambo survival knife I bought back in 1985, complete with a hollow handle with survival tools inside and a compass on the end. Rambo WAS the 1980s for me.
The film itself is an absolute roller coaster ride, with several well-choreographed (and beautifully shot) action set pieces. There’s no mindless mayhem and CGI destruction that dominates today’s blockbusters. The action is smart and deliberate, and connects with the viewer on an emotionally primal level.
Sure, there’s not much character development, and all involved have to pay their roles a bit too broadly. At least the Russians and Viet Cong (and CIA operatives, for that matter) make it easy to hate them and root for Rambo. And it’s all incredibly entertaining.
Despite the relentless action, there is a moral center, delivered mostly in a monologue by Stallone at the end of the film. His speech, about the mistreatment of Vietnam veterans, would have been delivered with too heavy a hand by just about any other action star, but Stallone has the earnestness to make it work.
A riveting score by Jerry Goldsmith is, arguably, even better than his work on First Blood, and director George P. Cosmatos brings an epic scope to the film. Rambo: First Blood Part II is a star-spangled shoot-em-up that stands head and shoulders above other 80s action films. And that is really saying something.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The video transfer is excellent, as the 4K disc delivers deep, rich colors and much sharper detail than the film has seen before. Previous home video releases always seemed to have a soft image, a problem that appears to have been largely corrected with this new transfer. A handful of scenes do appear to lack detail, which is likely due to the condition of the source print, but considering the age of the film, this is a nice improvement in image quality.
The audio, a 5.1 DTS-HDMA soundtrack, is a mixed bag. Some of the dialogue sounds “canned,” but the explosions and music sound very good. A Spanish DTS-HDMA track is included as well.
The Rambo: First Blood Part II 4K includes one new bonus feature created just for the release, and a nice selection of extras from previous home video releases. The extras are included on the enclosed Blu-ray disc; the 4K disc contains the movie and audio commentary only.
The bonus features on the Blu-ray include:
“Rambo Takes the 80s Part 2” featurette. Members of the cast and crew, as well as contemporary critics, discuss the effect of Rambo on American culture. Running Time: 11:37
“We Get to Win This Time” documentary. This “making of” documentary features plenty of “behind the scenes” footage and interviews with the cast and crew. Running Time: 20:03
“Action in the Jungle” featurette. This 1985 featurette includes interviews and behind-the-scenes clips. Running Time: 7:40
“The Last American POW” featurette. In this historical featurette, the last American POW held by Vietnam is discussed. Running Time: 2:15
“Sean Baker - Fulfilling the Dream” featurette. This 1985 featurette tells the story of a terminally ill young man who visited the Rambo set to meet his film idol. Unfortunately, we are not told what happened to the young man in subsequent years. Running Time: 2:16
“Interview with Sylvester Stallone” featurette. This vintage interview with Stallone was recorded on the set and includes his insight into the inspiration of the film’s plot. Running Time: 2:11
“Interview with Richard Crenna” featurette. Col. Trautman himself discusses the film in this vintage interview from the set. Running Time: 1:33
“Behind the Scenes” featurette. Clips of B-roll footage provide a look at the filming of several scenes. Running Time: 2:17
“The Restoration” featurette. This series of “before and after” comparison shots show how the removal of dirt, scratches, and debris from the print improved the overall image. Titles are in French. Running Time: 1:02
“How to Become Rambo, Part 2” featurette. Dr. Franco Columbu, Stallone’s body training coach, shows some of the routines he used to get the actor into shape for the film. It’s actually an interesting watch. Running Time: 14:32
Theatrical Trailer. The infamous trailer for the film, which featured a mix of movie footage and staged shots of Stallone in costume, is included. Running Time: 2:46
TV Spots. Seven television commercials, which are a nice slice of 80s nostalgia, are included. Running Time: 2:44
Audio Commentary. Director George P. Cosmatos provides a rather monotone commentary. While it is understandable that English is not his original language, he spends most of the film narrating what is happening on screen. He occasionally provides some insight into his approach, and has a handful of great stories. Cosmatos mentions he is recording the commentary 12 years after doing the film, which would place it around 1997. He died in 2005 from lung cancer.
Digital Copy. A code for a digital copy of the film, redeemable through services including VUDU and FandangoNow, is included. At the time of this review, only FandangoNow is redeeming the code in 4K UHD; the others only redeem in HD. We recommend waiting to redeem your code until Lionsgate confirms a UHD digital copy is available through your preferred service.
RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II 4K SPECS
Release Date: November 13, 2018
Running Time: 95 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Audio Commentary: With director George P. Cosmatos