By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy, Richard Crenna, David Caruso, Bill McKinney
Sylvester Stallone. When the name is first uttered, one character should come to mind immediately. That would be one punch drunk lovable lug of a boxer named Rocky Balboa. However, taking a look at his over 35 year resume, how many other characters can you take away as being memorable? In the years following Rocky and Rocky II, Stallone had made such duds as Paradise Alley and Nighthawks (the latter of which I believe to be criminally underrated). It wasn’t until 1982, when another character whose name begins with an R, came around to, arguably, save Stallone’s career and make the second franchise that he is noted for. The character’s journey towards the franchise tag started with First Blood, a film that is actually, when given a much closer look, is a pretty darn good action/thriller.
Based on a book by David Morell, Rambo is a Vietnam vet who comes to a small hick town to look for the other soldier from his platoon that he believes is still alive. When given the bad news that the soldier died of cancer, Rambo is encountered by Sheriff Teasle (Dennehy), who takes this long haired guy coming to his town and dirtying his streets as a bit of a personal insult. Before Rambo knows it, he is being battered with nightsticks and given humiliating fire hose showers, making him flash back to ‘nam when people were keeping him in cages and slinging mud at him. Not able to take being pushed around anymore, Rambo escapes by motorcycle to the mountains, where he uses his war trained skills to survive, eventually leading up to a finale in the night streets. Anyone turning this movie on and looking for an ounce of the Rocky charm need only watch the first six minutes…and then turn it off. To Stallone’s credit, this is the only time that character even comes to mind, as he asks a female local with his boyish charm where he could find his fallen friend. From that point on, he is pushed to the point of waging war on this small town police department, and all you have to do is look in his piercing eyes and see a man who has been punished by war and not punches in the ring.
The film definitely has less action than its even more testosterone-filled sequels. But, director Ted Kotcheff (Weekend at Bernie’s) makes the scenes count. A motorcycle chase in the mountains, along with a very interesting action scene involving Rambo hanging off a cliff and a helicopter make this a very enjoyable film. We are also introduced to Rambo’s knife in this movie. A knife I used to have a plastic version of as a kid and was about the size of a samurai sword in the future sequels. Here, it is just the right size, and comes in handy when Rambo has to suture up his arm. I don’t think I am going to have much disagreement when I say that Rambo is Stallone’s second most likable character he has ever portrayed. And, all in all, he isn’t too bad in the role, making it clear that he does not want to hurt anyone. Of course, the famous Rambo monologue in the final minutes make it clear that, even though he is good at acting at times, the less Stallone speaks, the better. But, this film gets just the right combination of drama and action for my taste. Also, good thing they didn’t kill Rambo at the end of this movie like Morrell did in the book. However, could they at least have killed that horrible song that was played during the final credits?
4 out of 5