Rambo: First Blood Part II (also known as Rambo II or First Blood II) is a 1985 American action film directed by George P. Cosmatos and starring Sylvester Stallone, who reprises his role as Vietnam veteran John Rambo. It is the sequel to the 1982 film First Blood, and the second installment in the Rambo franchise. Picking up where the first film left, the sequel is set in the context of the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue; it sees Rambo released from prison by federal order to document the possible existence of POWs in Vietnam, under the belief that he will find nothing, thus enabling the government to sweep the issue under the rug. In addition to Stallone, Richard Crenna reprises his role as Col. Samuel Trautman, with Charles Napier, Steven Berkoff, Julia Nickson, Martin Kove, George Cheung, and Andy Wood also included in the cast.
Despite negative reviews, First Blood Part II was a major worldwide box office blockbuster, with an estimated 42 million tickets sold in the US. It has become the most recognized and memorable installment in the series, having inspired countless rip-offs, parodies, video games, and imitations.
Entertainment Weekly ranked the movie number 23 on its list of The Best Rock-’em, Sock-’em Movies of the Past 25 Years.
Three years into his sentence, former commando John Rambo is visited by his old commander, Colonel Sam Trautman. With the war in Vietnam over, the public has become increasingly concerned over news that a small group of US POWs have been left in enemy custody. To placate their demands for action, the US government has authorized a solo infiltration mission to confirm the reports. As one of only three men suited for such work, Rambo agrees to undertake the operation in exchange for a pardon. He is taken to meet Marshall Murdock, a bureaucratic government official overseeing the operation. Rambo is temporarily reinstated into the US Army and instructed that he is only to photograph a possible camp and not to rescue any prisoners or engage enemy personnel, as they will be retrieved by a better equipped extraction team upon his return.
During his insertion, Rambo’s parachute becomes tangled and breaks, causing him to lose his guns and most of his equipment, leaving him with only his knives and a bow with specialized arrows. He meets his assigned contact, a young intelligence agent named Co-Bao, who arranges for a local river pirate band to take them upriver. Reaching the camp, Rambo spots one of the prisoners tied to a cross shaped post, left to suffer from exposure, and rescues him against orders. During escape, they are discovered by Vietnamese troops and attacked. When a gunboat manages to catch up, the pirates betray them out of fear. Rambo kills the pirates and destroys the gunboat with a rocket launcher while the POW and Co-Bao swam to safety. When the trio reaches the extraction point, the helicopter is ordered to abort by Murdock, who claims Rambo has violated his orders. When Trautman confronts him, Murdock also reveals that he never intended to save any POWs if any should be found, but to leave them to save Congress the money it would take to buy their freedom and evade any possibility of further war.
Co-Bao escapes, but Rambo and the POW are recaptured and returned to the camp. There, Rambo learns that Soviet troops are arming and training the Vietnamese. He is turned over to the local liaison, Lieutenant Colonel Podovsky, and his right-hand man, Sergeant Yushin, for interrogation. Upon learning of Rambo’s mission from intercepted missives, Podovsky demands that Rambo broadcast a message warning against further rescue missions for POWs under fatal cost. Meanwhile, Co infiltrates the camp disguised as a prostitute and comes to the hut in which Rambo is held captive. Rambo at first refuses to cooperate, but relents when the prisoner he tried to save is threatened. But instead of reading the scripted comments, Rambo directly threatens Murdock, then subdues the Russians with Co’s help and escapes into the jungle. They kiss, and Rambo agrees to take Co back to the United States. However, a small Vietnamese force attacks the pair, and Co is killed. An enraged Rambo kills the soldiers and buries Co’s body in the mud.
With the use of his weapons and guerrilla training, Rambo systematically dispatches the numerous Soviet and Vietnamese soldiers sent after him. After barely surviving a barrel bomb dropped by Yushin’s helicopter, Rambo climbs on board, throws Yushin out of the cabin in a brief but intense fight, and takes control. He lays waste to the prison camp and kills all of the remaining enemy forces before extracting the POWs and heading towards friendly territory in Thailand. Podovsky, pursuing in a helicopter gunship seemingly shoots them down and moves in for the kill. Having faked the crash, Rambo uses a rocket launcher to destroy the aircraft, killing the gunner, the co-pilot, and Podovsky.
Returning to base with the POWs, Rambo, after using the helicopter’s machine gun to destroy Murdock’s office, confronts the terrified man with his knife, demanding that Murdock rescue the remaining POWs. Trautman then confronts Rambo and tries to convince him to return home now that he has been pardoned. An angry Rambo responds that he only wants his country to love its soldiers as much as its soldiers love it. The film credits roll as Rambo walks off into the distance while his mentor watches him.
- Sylvester Stallone as John J. Rambo
- Richard Crenna as Colonel Samuel “Sam” Trautman
- Charles Napier as Marshall Murdock
- Steven Berkoff as Lt. Col. Podovsky
- Julia Nickson as Co-Bao
- Martin Kove as Ericson
- George Cheung as Lt. Tay
- Andy Wood as Banks
- William Ghent as Capt. Vinh (POW camp commander)
- Voyo Goric as Sgt. Yushin
- Dana Lee as Capt. Kinh
- Baoan Coleman as Gunboat captain
Producers considered that Rambo would have a partner in the rescue mission of POWs. The producers allegedly wanted John Travolta to play Rambo’s partner, but Stallone vetoed the idea. Lee Marvin (who was considered to play Colonel Trautman in the first film) was offered the role of Marshall Murdock, but declined, leading to the role being played by Charles Napier.
James Cameron wrote a first draft under the title First Blood II: The Mission. (Cameron had been recommended by David Giler who did some uncredited script work on the first film.) Cameron’s script had the same basic structure of the first film but had a character of Rambo’s sidekick.
Stallone later recalled:-
I think that James Cameron is a brilliant talent, but I thought the politics were important, such as a right-wing stance coming from Trautman and his nemesis, Murdock, contrasted by Rambo’s obvious neutrality, which I believe is explained in Rambo’s final speech. 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. … [Also] in his original draft it took nearly 30-40 pages to have any action initiated and Rambo was partnered with a tech-y sidekick. So it was more than just politics that were put into the script. There was also a simpler story line. If James Cameron says anything more than that, then he realizes he’s now doing the backstroke badly in a pool of lies.
During filming, special effects man Clifford P Wenger, Jr. was accidentally killed by one of the film’s explosions.
The film was shot on location in Mexico, and Thailand.
Rambo: First Blood Part II opened in the US on May 22, 1985, and was the #1 film that weekend, taking in $20,176,217 on 2,074 screens (which made it the first film in the US to be shown on 2,000+ screens). Overall, in the US, the film grossed $150,415,432 and $149,985,000 internationally, giving First Blood Part II a box office total of $300,400,432. The movie broke various international box office records.
The film grossed $78,919,000 in rentals in the US alone. DVDs of each of the first three movies in the series have been released and selling since 1998, but no figures are available for these yet. As the movie took $300,400,432 at the box office and $78,919,000 from US rentals, it is estimated that with European/international DVD sales of Rambo: First Blood Part II, the overall takings for the movie is $400–500 million.
Rambo: First Blood Part II received lukewarm reviews from critics. As of November 2018, the film holds a rating of 33% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 35 reviews.
- A novelization was written by David Morrell, author of the novel First Blood, on which the first Rambo film was based.
- A tie-in video game was produced for ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64 called Rambo. There was also an NES game as well as a Sega Master System game, and MSX and DOS games based on the film. Sega later adapted some of the battle scenes in the film for the 2008 arcade game Rambo.
- Officially licensed knives from the film, based on Jimmy Lile‘s designs were made by both United Cutlery and Master Cutlery. Master Cutlery fabricated both a standard and Limited Edition version. The Master Cutlery versions are push tang construction, have a hollow aluminum cord gripped handle that contains an emergency survival kit, and a precision compass mounted in the pommel. The stainless guards incorporate standard and Phillips head screwdriver points in the design. They are 1/4″ thick 420 J2 stainless blades.