Rambo: First Blood Part II [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (7th June 2008).
The Film

The first Rambo film “First Blood” (1982) was a rather impressive action film, it had a political message amid the carnage. The message was not new; the Vietnam War, more specifically the treatment of soldiers after their return. Many of the returned servicemen were shunned for their involvement; public outcry over the war was immense and helped spark an anti-establishment movement in America. Roll on the 1980’s, the decade of excess, synthesized music, Ronald Reagan and the rise of action star Stallone.

In “First Blood” we were introduced to John Rambo, a man that was ‘just passing through’ when he encountered a problem with the local sheriff. The film was instrumental in showcasing Rambo’s training, resolve and temperament. Three attributes that play heavily in the sequels. “First Blood” in many ways was a landmark action film for the 1980’s, it featured some exciting scenes, was generally well directed and most importantly opens debate (albeit in a rather over-the-top and in-your-face manner) about what vets went through during that war and how they were received coming home. The sequel “First Blood Part II” feels like a natural extension from its predecessor, but in many ways it’s a very different film. It’s very much a ‘fantasy’ picture, and depicts a fairy-tale style retribution to the events that went down in Vietnam and the U.S’s subsequent surrender. As John asks in the film “Do we get to win this time?” A sentiment that is strong, bull-headed and cheered for regardless.

This sequel takes part directly after the first film, here we see John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) imprisoned for his actions in the first film. His former commander Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna) offers him a deal that will release him from prison. Intelligence has discovered that some soldiers are still in Vietnam, P.O.W’s that were never released. It’s time to go back and rescue them, but first their location must be confirmed. Rambo is the best there is and knows the jungles well, so he’s sent in. When in Vietnam he is met by freedom fighter Co Bao (Julia Nickson-Soul). Not content with just sending back their location and confirmation of the P.O.W’s existence, Rambo embarks on a killing spree in order to rescue the men and bring them back to America.

The film’s action is taken to a new level here, with Rambo single-handedly taking out around 57 people, there are some exquisite set pieces that see the elite solider hide amongst the mud, shoot of his explosive tipped arrows and let loose with all manner of machine gun madness. It’s very much a macho gun-ho action film that doesn’t apologize for anything and spits in the face of enemies both foreign and even domestic as he encounters the corruption of Marshall Murdock (Charles Napier).

The performances are not as strong as the first film, but Stallone is very much into the character and has developed it into a modern day cinematic icon. If you enjoyed the first film there’s no reason why you wouldn’t like this one, it’s a bit bolder, a bit more ridiculous but still holds up as a solid action film.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 this transfer is in 1080p 24/fps high-definition and has been encoded with VC-1 compression. The film holds up fairly well in HD considering its age and the types of film stocks available during that time. The film does display detail very well and maintains solid colors throughout. There are a few flaws however, the first of which is some dirt including specks that pop up, several shots appear soft, shadow detail is not as consistently good as I would have liked but does hold up and of course there's occasional noise. These flaws may sound overbearing but they are not entirely so, as they are generally spattered among the duration of the film. For the most part the image was much better than previous DVD releases which is a bonus.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included in English DTS-HD master audio 5.1 surround as well as a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD track. I was really looking forward to hearing an impacting and forceful soundtrack but was left a little underwhelmed. The problem is that the soundtrack felt and sounded a bit hollow, The sound effects came off tinny as apposed to aggressive and robust especially when it came to explosions. Directional effects made good use of the surround channels as does the film's score which helps to add some depth to this mix. Dialogue is clear and distortion free as well. Overall it could have been a better sound mix.
Optional subtitles are included in English and Spanish.

Extras

Lionsgate has ported over only a couple of extras from the extensive and varied DVD releases of this film as well as added a single exclusive extra. What we have here is an audio commentary, a featurette, a trivia track plus a single bonus trailer. Below is a close look at these supplements.

First up is a feature-length audio commentary by director George P. Cosmatos. In this track the filmmaker comments on his involvement in the film as he takes us through the production process, provides some information about the locations, shot selection and shooting the action scenes. He talks about his directing style and working with the cast among other things. He does cover a lot of areas but overall the track was rather boring, I wish the director cold have been joined by some other cast or crew.

Next up is "We Get to Win This Time" featurette that runs for 20 minutes 4 seconds, billed as a documentary the disc producers may have been a little overzealous with that title, the clip features the key cast and crew taking a retrospective look at the film, it's story, the progression of the screenplay, assembling the creative team and also looks at the cast, the problems encountered shooting in Mexico, shooting the action scenes and training as well as the special effects and editing among other things as the participants share their memories from the production.

Also featured on the disc is "Out of the Blu" which is a trivia track that features pop-up information as you watch the film, the topics include a vast range of things from production information, story elements, character informations, trivia about the locations, stunts, the film's release and many other tidbits. It's an interesting feature to access while watching the film but it's something you'll only likely do once.

The disc rounds off its extras with a start-up bonus trailer for:

- "Rambo" which runs for 1 minute 1 second.

Overall

The Film: B Video: B+ Audio: B- Extras: B- Overall: B

 


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