If there’s a fundamental difference between First Blood and the sequel made three years later, Rambo: First Blood Part II, it’s that Rambo’s psychological scars seemed to have finally healed. He is no longer the tormented vet wandering the woods of America in search of vestiges of some unknown he could vaguely call “home.” Instead, as the film opens, we find him in prison, breaking rocks under the hot sun. “In here, at least I know where I stand,” he tells Col. Trautman, who has come to arrange his release in order to send him on a mission to locate missing POWs still believed to be in Vietnam. As Rambo stares through the chain-link fence at his former commander, his gaze is cool yet heated. Distrust and disappointment, that unrequited rage, still boils beneath the surface, yet he knows that he has lost the two wars that meant the most to him: the one in Vietnam where he was reborn as a soldier, and the war back at home to make his nation understand what he and his fellow soldiers went through. It’s not that he’s defeated, but that he’s given up the good fight. Rambo knows now that the world won’t listen, won’t change.
Cullen Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based writer, musician, and curator whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Life Sentence, Moving Image Source, Bright Lights Film Journal, Beat to a Pulp, NoirCon, Crimefactory, Film Comment, The L Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Fandor, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Hammer to Nail, Spinetingler, Between Lavas, Reverse Shot, and Guitar Review. He records instrumental music as Modern Silent Cinema and plays in the hardcore band Night Squad.