First Blood (1982)

Directed by Ted Kotcheff
Written by Michael Kozoll & William Sackheim and Sylvester Stallone

The legend of John Rambo is lasting and proven with multiple sequels to the original, First Blood, the latest of which was released in 2008. I have always seem bits and pieces of the original on television, and I am sure I have seen all the parts but whether or not they were ever at the same time I am unsure. So I decided to sit down with the first in the series at least, as I have not seen any of the subsequent sequels either, and revisit what many people call a great action film. And I believed that statement because while I had seen only fleeting moments throughout the years, they were still memorable.

John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is an ex-Green Beret who was one of two soldiers from his unit to survive Vietnam. Now back in the states, Rambo has traveled as a vagabond to a small northwestern town to find the other survivor, Del Mar. But upon his arrival he learns that he dies last year of Cancer caused by the conditions in ‘Nam. Rambo is the lone survivor. So when the local sheriff (Brian Dennehy) turns aggressive in his attempt to dispel this vagrant from his quaint, idyllic town, Rambo is set off, escaping into the nearby hills. The local police and volunteer National Guard  are called in to bring Rambo in, but Rambo is more dangerous than all of them combined.

The strength of this film is in its simplicity. Rambo enters town, Rambo is forced out of town, Rambo enters town, Rambo is arrested, Rambo escapes, Rambo kicks ass. End of story, end of film. Simple brilliance really. There is no need for any deeper plot twists or character development than what is delivered. The film sets out to be an action film and entertain the audience and that is just what I got from the film. The setting is perfect for the film as well. The motives of both parties is obvious and then they escape into the picturesque forest of the northwest complete with a huge gorge and an abandoned mine. Where else in America would so suit the Vietnam skills of John Rambo?

I’m quite sure than the sequels are probably more of the same, but what makes this a classic action film is the cast. Sly Stallone as Rambo is an iconic character and his performance suits him. Even when the film culminates in a pseudo-emotional breakdown and Stallone crashes and burns, it is still entertaining and fun to watch. That scene is so bad that it is good. Seriously. How can you not just eat it up? But I would like to applaud Brian Dennehy, or better the casting director who cast Brian Dennehy because he fills the role perfectly as well. And of course there is also Richard Crenna as Rambo’s former commanding officer.

This is certainly not a perfect movie, it is certainly not an all time great in film history, but it is a simple 90 minute ction romp with plenty to entertain from start to finish, which is all one can ask for sometimes. I wish I could say there is some deeper undercurrent running beneath the violent and relentless Rambo, and maybe there is if you think about it a little bit more, but there doesn’t need to be. The sheriff overreacts when something strange comes into his boring life and he takes it unto himself to do something about it. For people that don’t at least get some fun out of it, I just don’t quite get it, because there is plenty of entertainment in this film.


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