First Blood (1982)

Sylvester Stallone has two big time iconic roles. One is Rocky Balboa from the Rocky franchise and the other is the original Starhawk from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2….

What? Starhawk is not iconic?

Fine, fine, I was joking. I know the other role is John Rambo. However, I have actually not seen any film in the Rambo series so Starhawk is much more iconic to me.

Now, though, I guess I have to readjust my thought process since I watched First Blood today as part of the DailyView here at EYG, and this movie was so much better than I thought it was.

Vietnam vet John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) was wandering around the pacific northwest town of Hope, Washington. At first, he was coming to see his friend and fellow unit member who lived in the area only to discover that he had died from cancer a year ago. Rambo was walking into town, hoping to find some food, when the town’s cruel sheriff William Teasel (Brian Dennehy) started harassing him.

Sheriff Teasel tried to escort Rambo out of town, but his insult and disrespect angered Rambo. He turned back toward town which led to him being arrested for vagrancy. When he was taken to the police station, the other officers both verbally and physically abused John, causing him to flashback to his days of torture in ‘Nam.

Rambo used his skills as a former Green Beret to escape the police station and he wound up hiding in the mountains, a location that gave him a distinct tactical advantage.

As events continued to escalate, Rambo’s former commanding officer, Colonel Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) came to the town with the hope of deescalating the situation before more people got killed. Trautman warned Teasel to back off because John Rambo was a killing machine and would kill everyone to escape.

There was much more depth to this movie than I expected there to be. I had heard talk that the First Blood movie was more than the later Rambo movies, which just became shoot-’em-up flicks with a near superhuman Rambo. That was not what I saw here. Rambo was a complex character with deep seeded issues stemming from his days in Vietnam and from the response to his return from the war by the people he was fighting for.

Watching Rambo think his way through his problems with the police was fascinating and not what I thought the character would be like. Stallone does a tremendous job of showing John Rambo as a creature of instinct at times, moving and reacting as a trained killer, while also being a man deeply troubled by his past.

I was not sure why Brian Dennehy was such a jerk and I would have liked to see some more of the other police officers pushing back against the abuse of Rambo. There was a little bit of that in the film, but I just found the cops to be terrible people. I would have liked some kind of a back story on why Dennehy reacted to Rambo as he did immediately.

Stallone’s monologue in the third act was quite powerful and, again, was not what I expected. It was a nice surprise.

First Blood was a great movie that grabbed my attention and kept me glued to the screen the entire time. It was not over long and it was easy to root for Rambo despite the fact that he was a multiple killer.

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