Action Month - "First Blood" Review


MRR's Action Movie Month - "First Blood"

-- Rating: R (strong action, brutal, bloody violence, language, and brief nudity)
Length: 93 minutes
Release Date: October 22, 1982
Directed By: Ted Kotcheff
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama

Sylvester Stallone has created several iconic characters throughout his movie career, and the role of John Rambo is one of his most famous. His first appearance as Rambo was in "First Blood," which was released in 1982. The film kicked off a successful movie franchise, but none of the sequels is quite as beloved by action-film fans as this first film.

"First Blood" tells the tale of John Rambo, a former Vietnam veteran who has trouble letting go of the horrors of war. A former United States Special Forces soldier, Rambo has the training to overcome almost any foe.

John Rambo finds himself back in the United States looking for Delmar Berry, a friend from his unit. Unfortunately for John, he learns that his friend has succumbed to cancer caused by Agent Orange. As he walks into town, he is seen by Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy). Teasle is the town's sheriff, and he has an immediate distaste for Rambo. He arrests the Vietnam vet when he does not comply with the order to leave town. The other police officers at the station bully and torture him, which leads to painful flashbacks to Rambo's time as a POW in Vietnam. He snaps and assaults the officers in order to escape from the jail. Once outside, he commandeers a motorcycle and escapes into the mountains of Washington.

A chase ensues, with the deputies pursuing Rambo on foot. When Art Galt (Jack Starrett) spots the escapee from a helicopter, he attempts to kill Rambo by shooting at him. Galt is killed when he falls after Rambo throws a rock at the helicopter. Teasle vows to seek revenge for the death of his friend.

Everyone assumes that Rambo is dead after a rocket is launched at him. Rambo uses all of his skills as a former member of the Special Forces to escape the woods and returns to the police station where everything started. Though his goal is to take Teasle out, he is cut short by his commanding officer from Vietnam, Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna). Trautman recounts tales of horror from Vietnam as he tells Rambo that there is no way out. Rambo surrenders and is arrested as Teasle is hauled away to the hospital.

"First Blood" is not the kind of action film that comes to mind when many people think of Stallone. The movie is more like a psychological thriller with excellent action sequences. It was released at a time when the Vietnam War was still fresh in the minds of most Americans, and audiences sympathized with the troubled man who can't seem to leave war behind him.

The woods of the Pacific Northwest were a surprisingly perfect backdrop for the film. The lush foliage and tall trees made the viewer recall the jungles of Vietnam as John Rambo drifts through, holding a torch and battling large rats. Viewers can see why Rambo is flashing back to the war; for all intents and purposes, he is back in the jungle.

The film is based off of the book by the same name, which was written by David Morell. The part of John Rambo was initially offered to Dustin Hoffman, but he felt that the character was too violent. Clint Eastwood, Nick Nolte, Paul Newman, and Al Pacino were also considered for the part. Today, it is hard to picture anyone other than Stallone in the role.

Unlike many action films, "First Blood" was well received by critics as well as audiences. It was generally agreed that the action, acting, and plot combined to make the movie one of the best released in the early 1980s.

Rambo has appeared in four films, and a fifth is potentially in the works. Sylvester Stallone said in early 2012 that the latest film in the series was on hold while the actor filmed the third "Expendables" film. To date, the Rambo sequels have not been able to match the critical acclaim of the "First Blood," but they all have drawn eager audiences. "Rambo: First Blood Part II" pulled in an impressive $300 million worldwide. With the success of the first four films, there is no doubt that action fans will flock to see the next installment.

"First Blood" is an excellent film because it successfully combines suspense with action. Rambo is an antihero that viewers root for despite not knowing exactly what his motivations are. Unlike in most other action films, there is no happy ending, and there is no real lesson to be learned. In the end, that may be the biggest reason for the film's wild success and its ability to stand the test of time.

Rated: 4 out of 5