Total Recall

Total Recall: Journey to the Center of Rambo

See how RT's resident chick flick expert tears through the first three Rambo movies.

by | January 23, 2008 | Comments

This week, Sly
revives one of his most iconic characters. In
, John Rambo
is back, after a short twenty year break. Living a solitary life as a
river guide in Thailand, he discovers recent clients have been captured in Burma
and decides to take matters into his own hands and straps the bandana back on.
The Rambo films are now a staple in 80s pop culture, so RT decided to
take a trip back to the 80s, and watch the original three Rambo films for
this week’s Total Recall.

I’ll be the first
to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of violent movies; in fact, I’ve somehow
managed to make it this far in life without seeing any of the approximately
4,000 Terminator,
, or
films. The only
Schwarzenegger or Stallone action I’ve seen has been of the
Stop! or My Mom
Will Shoot
or Junior variety, and rather than seeing

last weekend, you would have caught me at the
27 Dresses

screening. So some of the editors here
at Rotten Tomatoes thought it would be a hoot to give me a Rambo-centric
assignment. This is how, in my mid-twenties, I finally swallowed a time capsule
of the 1980s action phenomenon, and watched all three Rambo films in one
blood-drenched, guerilla warfare-filled weekend.

I began my Rambo-thon
with the first film to feature John Rambo,
First Blood
(82 percent on the
Tomatometer). Unlike the plotless bloodbath I was expecting, First Blood
is the tale of a Vietnam War hero who clashes with a small-town cop (played by
Brian Dennehy). The cop — who clearly has a problem with Vietnam veterans —
spots a drifter (Stallone, natch) walking through his peaceful Oregon town, and
decides to bust him on a bogus charge. Bad move, Dennehy! While being
interrogated and treated like livestock at the station, Rambo has flashbacks of
being abused as a POW in Vietnam, and all hell breaks loose. The remainder of
the film is an exhilarating chase through the primal wildlife of the Pacific
Northwest. Sly has some decent acting chops in the film, with the exception of
his final monologue — which I needed to watch with subtitles to fully

Besides being a
great "on-the-run" action flick, First Blood dramatizes many issues
Vietnam veterans faced upon their return to America. But while actual Vietnam
veterans had to fight their own personal wars after returning home, all Rambo
needs to take on an entire police force is a ragged tarp and a novelty-sized
hunting knife. Critics still hail First Blood today: Phil Villarreal of
the Arizona Daily Star says, "Stallone’s dogged tale of survival seems so
fresh you’d swear it was made last week…except for the sad truth that they don’t
make ’em like that anymore."

First Blood trailer.

After my surprise
positive reaction to First Blood, I was looking forward to watching
First Blood Part II
(26 percent). The movie starts interestingly enough —
Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna), who trained Rambo, asks him to go to Vietnam
to photograph American POWs — but after arriving in Vietnam, Rambo realizes that
he’s been set up, and vows to rescue the prisoners. Sounds good, right? I
thought so too, until Rambo strangled a rattlesnake in the jungle within the
first 10 minutes of the film. Throughout the jungle scenes, Rambo brutally kills
a lot of animals, shrubbery, and people — including pirates — with his eerily
veiny bare hands.   I definitely knew the movie was trouble when I noticed Sly’s
suspicious muscle gain — he looks like he devoured a few cases of human growth
hormones before the cameras rolled — and after a few minutes of dialogue and a
few lame attempts at political discussion, the filmmakers decide to ditch the
ideas and just blow stuff up instead.’s Jeremiah Kipp agrees."
one will ever confuse this for a quality film, that’s for sure. It’s a macho
fantasy created to convince Americans that we could have won

if only we’d trusted John Rambo." Rambo can do anything in this sequel. It
doesn’t matter if hundreds of people are after him; all he needs is his machine
gun. Rambo
was killing so many people at once that it reminded me of Hot Shots. The
problem with the second Rambo is that it takes itself too seriously; if
it had just embraced its cheesiness, it’d have been much more entertaining.

Rambo – First Blood Part II trailer.

After the trash
that was Rambo II, I wasn’t looking forward to devoting further hours to

Rambo III
(35 percent), but surprisingly, the third installment is a great combination of First Blood‘s good qualities and the tongue-in-cheek factor that Part II was missing. In Rambo III, we find Stallone living in a monastery,
helping out the monks with his carpentry skills and income from stick-fighting
matches (mmm…cheese). The colonel manages to track Rambo down in Thailand and —
surprise! — asks him to join his team on a mission in Afghanistan. (It seems that an evil Russian commander is brutalizing a small Afghan village.) Rambo politely declines, since he’s busy working on himself, but
quickly changes his mind after learning that Trautman went in and has been
captured. The scenes with Rambo interacting with the Afghan rebels show a softer
side of the action hero, and teach a bit of history about the various Afghan

However, once
Rambo decides to go in and save Trautman on a solo mission, the film I was
expecting all along finally appears. With his bandana tied tight, Rambo shoots
hundreds of Russians, defeats helicopters and tanks with a single gun, and
manages to get in some great dialogue about being the Soviet commander’s "worst
nightmare." I especially enjoyed Rambo running through a giant explosion in a
cave — when Colonel Trautman asks how he feels, a burnt Rambo replies, "Well
done." Despite some negative reviews — and the ridiculous plot — I had a lot
of fun watching Rambo III. "Stallone has by now made Rambo parody-proof,
since the character is every bit as laughable as he is grandiose; that’s part of
the fun," wrote Janet Maslin of the New York Times

Rambo III trailer.

The Rambo films were all entertaining in their own ways, and the violence
was fairly predictable, so it was easy for me to close my eyes whenever Rambo
was performing self-surgery or slicing someone open. I’m even not- so-secretly
excited to see the new
. Here’s hoping it combines the political
undercurrent of First Blood with the cheesy puns and overall badassness
of Rambo III.

Tag Cloud

MSNBC ID cartoon slashers ABC period drama Netflix AMC Plus Drama remakes lord of the rings Holiday Fall TV Syfy what to watch Nominations Image Comics james bond Superheroes LGBTQ First Look zombies debate crime werewolf Grammys venice Endgame rotten mob Paramount First Reviews unscripted prank 20th Century Fox comic book movies The Walking Dead Animation comic Brie Larson streaming movies know your critic 93rd Oscars Comic-Con@Home 2021 hispanic TCA Winter 2020 History dc Paramount Network wonder woman serial killer Sony Video Games breaking bad Star Wars Celebration Superheroe WGN FXX suspense target Discovery Channel Box Office spider-verse Spring TV disaster Action natural history NYCC video Pop DirecTV APB nbcuniversal Horror OneApp docudrama 007 superman based on movie zombie Exclusive Video cinemax Apple TV+ Esquire Broadway monster movies Avengers Spike Heroines Pet Sematary obituary ABC Signature Neflix Marvel Comedy Central Character Guide emmy awards dragons 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards BBC America Turner Classic Movies 2021 45 Disney Christmas royal family Disney Plus Stephen King IMDb TV adventure spider-man mutant A24 4/20 Film award winner adaptation Quiz boxoffice deadpool sequel science fiction HFPA animated vampires Classic Film kong new star wars movies Showtime chucky Nickelodeon Instagram Live miniseries USA king arthur Film Festival pirates of the caribbean DGA die hard Native TCA CBS All Access TIFF CBS slasher Black History Month Comics on TV green book spy thriller kids technology The Arrangement spanish Vudu ViacomCBS book TCA Awards Schedule scary movies Best Actor concert anthology kaiju Thanksgiving Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Tumblr cars dexter game show toy story Focus Features Women's History Month italian Holidays Podcast french Best and Worst tv talk FX on Hulu Star Trek SXSW Biopics FOX a nightmare on elm street Warner Bros. true crime theme song spain Amazon Studios Photos critics spinoff Mary Poppins Returns Universal Pictures blockbuster Travel Channel dceu IFC Films ratings crime drama Apple TV Plus USA Network stand-up comedy HBO Max rt labs critics edition NBC supernatural transformers Sundance comic book movie romance Britbox Columbia Pictures The Witch sag awards Oscar elevated horror Trailer Captain marvel MGM sports Awards Disney Channel Pirates Interview leaderboard 24 frames comics The Walt Disney Company PBS Sony Pictures indiana jones Television Academy Writers Guild of America President strong female leads anime Kids & Family Netflix Christmas movies Amazon Prime Video Logo Rocky travel Legendary universal monsters Reality YouTube Premium SDCC Trophy Talk Emmys Paramount Pictures foreign reviews free movies screenings independent marvel comics 2018 DC streaming service TCA 2017 casting CW Seed Martial Arts Hear Us Out south america El Rey war HBO Mindy Kaling video on demand VICE criterion cancelled TV series Sundance TV Pop TV black Pacific Islander scene in color series Elton John teaser BBC One Fox News scary heist movie Election rotten movies we love international basketball hist Rocketman television streaming TruTV Universal Ovation Teen GIFs E3 japanese The CW movie Baby Yoda news MCU superhero Shudder See It Skip It Tarantino sopranos streamig Geeked Week Best Picture binge Tubi HBO Go Best Director series SundanceTV live event parents BBC dogs biopic Mystery Anna Paquin Marathons Mudbound medical drama composers joker Valentine's Day New York Comic Con DC Comics Cosplay FX Set visit sequels RT History TV Land toronto festivals 72 Emmy Awards asian-american telelvision comedies Extras films Turner Freeform posters biography American Society of Cinematographers Ghostbusters AMC historical drama batman finale japan target scene in color WarnerMedia olympics new york stop motion Disney+ Disney Plus popular BAFTA cancelled TV shows TV One Mary Tyler Moore summer TV Chernobyl Sneak Peek Prime Video Red Carpet interviews ITV hollywood Amazon Certified Fresh action-comedy Funimation TBS Peacock mission: impossible aapi Crunchyroll talk show art house Ellie Kemper vs. Hollywood Foreign Press Association richard e. Grant renewed TV shows boxing summer preview Amazon Prime Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Infographic The Academy BET Awards Hulu documentary Summer dreamworks halloween tv obi wan Polls and Games Song of Ice and Fire social media golden globe awards Binge Guide 99% king kong 94th Oscars Spectrum Originals Cannes 90s adenture Star Wars australia franchise Nat Geo stoner sitcom child's play Acorn TV South by Southwest Film Festival 21st Century Fox black comedy dark X-Men politics Tags: Comedy singing competition Watching Series Family diversity Fox Searchlight festival YouTube Red justice league ghosts jamie lee curtis satire Fargo political drama laika Countdown Lionsgate 2015 mockumentary game of thrones Hallmark Christmas movies cooking canceled TV shows blockbusters Pixar scene in color Country Western SXSW 2022 The Purge DC Universe Lucasfilm blaxploitation twilight feel good Comedy Toys movies children's TV Tomatazos TV renewals GLAAD YouTube cops 79th Golden Globes Awards scene in color film series Reality Competition high school young adult Cartoon Network Sundance Now comic books 73rd Emmy Awards National Geographic TNT harry potter fresh dramedy Indigenous genre zero dark thirty thriller Opinion Winners Winter TV Calendar aliens Musicals Walt Disney Pictures crossover TLC godzilla trailers women Dark Horse Comics classics cancelled OWN Musical ABC Family CMT Trivia Adult Swim rt archives NBA 1990s LGBT golden globes VOD screen actors guild legend psycho broadcast archives CNN Mary poppins facebook romantic comedy marvel cinematic universe saw Masterpiece IFC worst movies Marvel Studios Arrowverse Television Critics Association book adaptation 2020 mcc VH1 space 71st Emmy Awards Rom-Com nature critic resources doctor who TV discovery Wes Anderson revenge halloween Best Actress GoT hispanic heritage month Hallmark Creative Arts Emmys Premiere Dates fast and furious trophy Paramount Plus RT21 2016 witnail Lifetime Christmas movies cats Alien Awards Tour Oscars hidden camera name the review new zealand directors Pride Month Crackle canceled documentaries Epix indie Marvel Television latino crime thriller 2019 San Diego Comic-Con Emmy Nominations Super Bowl BET summer TV preview E! PlayStation PaleyFest cults nfl rt labs Music razzies versus Food Network Rock Fantasy Black Mirror Year in Review Lifetime gangster Comic Book A&E 2017 ESPN police drama Sci-Fi worst Academy Awards TV movies robots psychological thriller jurassic park football Shondaland Tokyo Olympics Starz rom-coms spanish language comiccon quibi Bravo TCM live action Apple scorecard all-time best docuseries MTV Disney streaming service reboot cancelled television YA christmas movies