First Blood Reviews
Sylvester Stallone is wonderful. He shows off his action skills, and he's great as expected, but where things really shine is with the character and the acting. The action is a main part of who he is, but he's still a flawed and rounded character. Stallone really has to act here at times too, delivering what's still the most dramatic monologue of his career that actually sees him breakdown in tears. It's not often you see something like this, much less have it actually be really powerful and moving. Bravo. For supporters, we get a young David Caruso that's kinda fun to watch, but the main support that really holds the film up is with Brian Dennehy as the determined narrow minded sheriff and Richard Crenna as Rambo's mentor- perhaps the only one capable of bringing the senseless conflict to an end. Both are great, and this is some of their best work. You sort of sympathize with the sheriff a bit, but probably not as much as you should. The film really paints it as Rambo good, everyone else bad, and that's a shame that they didn't go for a bit more complexity or moral ambiguity in that area. Things fare better with Crenna's character, but he too could have been a tad more developed.
That's really my only major issue here: the film is a bit too one sided, and towards the end, things just kinda start crumbling. I get how Rambo said that if they kept pushing he'd really ramp it up, but when this all happens it just took me out of it all somewhat, and seemed a bit inconsistent. Fortunately things don't crap out too much, and the film does conclude pretty satisfactorily. It's just the lead up to the climax where it has its stumble.
The film is well shot, the locations are great, there's pretty strong direction, neat ideas, and, probably most effective next to the acting, we get Jerry Goldsmith's absolutely thrilling and brilliant score. I still get chills every time I hear the opening notes to the main theme. EVERY time.
Definitely check this one out.
John Rambo, played very well by Sylvester Stallone, has come to the ironically named town of Hope to deliver something to a friend of his who he served alongside in Vietnam. He learns that his friend died. With nowhere to go, no friends to see, Rambo wanders the town until he's picked up by the town sheriff and driven to the city limits. The sheriff doesn't want him there, saying that his kind are not welcome in the town. Rambo shows some resistance, and is arrested unjustly. The abuse that the rest of the officers show him set him off on a violent rampage and soon, the entire force is after him. Rambo survives only by doing what he was trained to do for war.
The film isn't afraid to look at this issue from both sides. The ignorance of the police represent the ignorance of anyone who assumes they know what Vietnam was about even though they never were there. But war changes man for the worst, and because of that, Rambo can never just blend in with these ignorant folk. The film's climax reveals the film as a tragedy.
The sequels celebrate Rambo's ability to kill people in graphic and vicious ways. This film, the original Rambo movie, mourns the man who could be forever lost to this ability.
John Rambo is not a Charles Starkweather-style psychopath on a shooting spree. He is a man with one friend left on Earth, the only other surviving member of his unit in Vietnam and after travelling (hitch-hiking, it seems) across America to visit him in Oregon Rambo learns that his friend has died of Agent Orange-related cancer.
Rambo becomes the new American drifter and he's up against a new America. The figure of the hobo is long established in American folk legend, literature and film (think Mark Twain and Jack London), but somewhere around the 1970s, that figure came to be mistrusted. No one picks up hitch-hikers, no one gives a new guy in a small town a job, etc.
Thousands of young American men were drafted in a time when "free love" reigned supreme, at the height of the sexual revolution, when you could (it's a cliche, I know) throw four people in VW bus and drive clear across the country, working a little here and there to ensure you had something to eat, somewhere to stay (and, probably, something to get high on, but I digress). These soldiers came home to an entirely different nation.
Robert de Niro has of course played two of these figures, one in The Deer Hunter and the other being Travis Bickle in Scorsese's Taxi Driver. John Rambo isn't exactly Travis Bickle, but they share some commonalities. Bickle's time in Vietnam is very subtly worked into Taxi Driver, and while it's a key to that character's isolation, loneliness and eventual psychosis, in Rambo, the formative experience, the trauma in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is put right in the forefront.
And Kotcheff (not to mention the novel's author) had to spell it out, for this is pulp fiction, this is Hollywood. And yet, it makes almost as good of a point to see Rambo wear his war decoration on his sleeve, to come home a hero (albeit a muted one) and to recognize that America is not the America he remembers, and maybe not even the one he killed for. In this so-called land of opportunity, there's nothing left for Rambo.
Where Rambo shines is in the same aspect as Stallone's other title character - Rocky - shone, and that in the portrayal of a vulnerable action hero. Action heroes were barely even established by this point in movie history (1982), but going forward, this might one of the seminal performances: he's not just shooting a bunch of people in a war on a mission from God or because he can, but rather, he has a "why", and it's a good one. Rambo is in many ways the classic Western hero, a good man who has to do bad things to be able to maintain a respectable way of life.
But I haven't really talked about the movie beyond its protagonist and its purported point yet. The end theme by Dan Hill is God-awful, but then again it was 1982. The opening sequence is striking - set in Oregon, but filmed in beautiful British Columbia - even if now we could safely term this long take "cliché-a-minute". The acting is pretty solid, surprisingly, and so too is the dialogue: not intellectual (duh) but not the usual grunts and roars we expect from the genre. And, Rambo's final speech is where the circle closes and we see the depth in this character who has all along been thought (by the society around him) to be little more than a psychotic killing machine.
American cinema has given us great villains like Buffalo Bill (and Hannibal Lechter), and the first instinct of the viewer (and the cop) is to lump Rambo into this class: a deranged man on a shooting spree. But Starkweather aside, the age of the killing spree comes much later in American history. In Rambo, the true villain is Small Town, USA, as headed up by the obnoxious, abusive Will Teasle and his police department.
A very good film, though not a great one, that puts the disenchantment of the returning Vietnam vet front and centre and entertains while doing it. A good story, fairly well told, visualy appealing and comes in around the 90-minute mark. The Deer Hunter, Taxi Driver and writers like Tim O'Brien have told this story to the eggheads before, but for the rest of the reading public (i.e. movie watching, as one medium has effectively replaced the other), we have Rambo, and thank goodness, because it can never be wrong to take this issue and make it plain as day. Rambo is an honest film, seminal in the evolution of a genre, and love it or hate it this is essential viewing in the study of American cinema. I can't believe it took me so long to see it... I saw Commando like 20 times when I was a kid, and now I know why: comparatively, First Blood's a little heavy.
Not only is Rambo a classic for it's time but Sylvester Stallone is a great actor. I enjoyed how it touched on the subjects of how the civilians treated the war vetrans that returned from Vietnam as if those who were drafted in a war they may or may not have agreed with; had the power to change our Governments mind. Today it applies as a real reminder to respect our troops no matter what your political views on the war are.
I enjoyed that it went as far as to point that out and side with the confused and mentally disturbed war veteran. For a movie with very small dialogue and a lot of action, it was actually fun and entertaining, and kept me watching. It was the perfect amount of time for a flick and was not to long or short for what it was presenting.
The best part was I loved the ending. **spoiler if you have not seen this** Rambo get's thrown in jail and that is how the movie comes to a conclusion, a very good and unpredictable ending for a movie of the 1980s. It stirred away from the typical films of the time and avoided the happy ending that we seen in most 80 flicks.
Overall: The film was well done and only the lack of dialogue and character developement as far as those who he is competing with, makes it not a typical five star. All else is well done and it's a great classic film to add to that collection of action packed movies.
Who knew that Sly Stalone had this kind of a performance in him? Maybe his breakdown scene could have been done a little better, but for the rest of the movie he does a great job of portraying Rambo well, as neither a hero or a villian. He's a man who has scene a lot of terrible things, done some himself, and seen his friends die in front of him.
First Blood was the very best kind of surprise; a good one. I really want to see the other Rambo movies to see if they continued to be as good as the first.
Trautman: God didn't make Rambo. I made him!
A finely made 80s action film. It has a good premise and Stallone does a great job in the lead both physically and as an actor.
Stallone stars as John Rambo, a highly decorated, but mentally unstable Vietnam vet who has wandered into a small town only to become a problem for the local police. Rambo is immediately spotted by the sheriff, played by Brian Dennehy, who tries to run him out of town, only to have Rambo walk back in. Rambo is then placed under arrest for vagrancy, only to freak out and escape the police station, heading out of town into the woods. Now, with all the police trying to hunt Rambo down, he will now wage a one man war to keep himself together.
Rambo: I could have killed 'em all, I could kill you. In town you're the law, out here it's me. Don't push it. Don't push it or I'll give you a war you won't believe. Let it go. Let it go.
The story is simple and doesn't take much time to get going. Both Stallone and Dennehy, and Richard Crenna as Rambo's old Colonel are all good in this movie. Stallone in particular has to go through a number of physically challenging scenes and has an emotional breakdown towards the end, which I thought was quite good.
Unlike the sequels, this isn't a movie about massive body counts, even if it has a confused reputation for being so. Its just more of a hyper real version of a vet facing unlawful treatment for serving in that war.
Teasle: He was just another drifter who broke the law!
Trautman: Vagrancy wasn't it? That's gonna look real good on his grave stone in Arlington: Here lies John Rambo, winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, survivor of countless incursions behind enemy lines. Killed for vagrancy in Jerkwater, USA.
Teasle: Now don't give me any of that crap Trautman. Do you think Rambo was the only guy who had a tough time in Vietnam? He killed a police officer for Christ's sake!
Trautman: You're goddamn lucky he didn't kill all of you.
Such an escalation of events for something that begins so trivial, yet a thoroughly entertaining film, even all these years later. Very typical of the 80?s Action genre, but one to be reflected on with enjoyment, I?m not and never have been a huge fan of Stallone and yet this film somehow works.