Ted Kotcheff’s “First Blood” (1982) begins with a simple, perfect image.
We see a long shot of John Rambo, played by Sylvester Stallone, walking down a dirt road. With his shaggy hair, heavy backpack, and rumpled clothes, it looked like Rambo had walked and may have been away from home for a while.
In this introductory scene, Rambo visits a farm in search of a friend who served him in Vietnam. The woman who lived there informed him that Rambo’s friend had died.
We see life drain from Rambo’s eyes, and what seems like a small start is actually a big moment for the character; we are seeing Rambo’s last glimmer of hope and humanity and his soul crushed upon learning his friend “died last summer”.
No matter how many trips he passed or how long he lost on the road, it was not enough. Stallone has more dialogue in this scene than perhaps the three Rambo sequels. The opening is sad and upsetting – Rambo has no one left, and nothing left to live for.
We then follow Rambo to the town of Hope, where he is immediately spotted by Sheriff Teasle (Brian Dennehy). Teasle sees only a weariness that makes it difficult to move and makes no effort to show even a little compassion.
It was the worst mistake he ever made.
Teasle picked Rambo into the car and drove him to the edge of town, instructing him on how to get lost. Stallone blurted out the crucial line, “Why are you pushing me?”
That’s how it started.
The give and take between Stallone and Dennehy in the first act is very important, and both are excellent. Rambo had done nothing wrong but, possibly due to the overwhelming grief he was carrying with him, made his head feel hot. Teasle, after all, only does his job by pushing Rambo out of his town, but Teasle is a villain worthy of everything that comes next.
Teasle captured Rambo just minutes after letting him go, as Rambo had the choice to leave Hope or, at Teasle’s request, continue walking. Rambo defies Hope and Teasle cuffs him and takes him to the station – you wonder if its Teasle or Rambo’s inability to just let it go and destroy them.
Either way, once Rambo is viciously harassed by Teasle’s lawyers at the station (one of whom is played by the very young David Caruso), it’s the beginning of the end. . The more the police beat him up and humiliate him, the more we see Rambo forcing himself to rein in his respectable fighting abilities. It was only when the police started torturing Rambo that things went viral.
Why am I so focused on the opening scenes of “First Blood”? Because when Rambo ran out of the police station (I might add with considerable ease), we would leave and run with him. After “First Blood” kicked off, it became one of the standout action movies of its decade.
Remarkably, even humorously, the way Stallone disregards the film’s first cut and only believes it after three hours is reportedly a 90-minute ride. As we witness Rambo flee into the wilderness, pursued by Teasle’s armed militarists, we realize that, the more he immerses himself in the wilderness, the more ruthless he becomes. like nature itself.
Once his warrior instincts kick in, no one stands in his way.
The first act ends with another remarkable scene, where a helicopter stalks Rambo as he tries to balance on a steep cliff.
“First Blood” plays like a Jack London novel, but with cheerful humans activated while looking for wolves, or an extension of the final scene of “Easy Rider” (1969) but with outsiders. Wear a weatherproof jacket with an upper arm.
Eventually, Hope’s law enforcers learned that John Rambo was a Green Beret, Congressional Medal of Honor winner, a Vietnam veteran, and a war hero. The movie, like The 1972 novel by David Morrell based on it, never shying away from its protagonist’s PTSD-hindered mentality.
At one point, Rambo stares down at one of his dead victims – we hear the nauseating sound effects and feel the frenzy within. Neither Stallone nor the film itself ever shy away from this. While we’ve always supported Rambo, he’s a seriously disturbed protagonist, in fact it’s easy to see how the movie could have easily been re-edited to make Rambo the villain. and Teasle became a hero.
“First Blood” isn’t perfect, as some footage shows inconsistent weather affecting continuity. There’s also a bit of dialogue, usually as skinny and soft as you’d expect, like when Rambo surprises Teasle by holding a knife to his neck in the woods and warns him, “I’ll give you a call war you won’t believe.. Let it go.”
On the other hand, Colonel Trautman, played by Richard Crenna, enters the second act as Rambo’s only remaining ally who has trained him and the man Teasle hopes can bring Rambo to out of the forest.
Crenna’s intro is “God didn’t make Rambo… I did.” It’s pretty on the nose, as Stallone states, “All I wanted was something to eat. They took the blood first…not me.”
The more the film covers the adventures of the survivors, the more uplifting it becomes. The less pope characters the better.
The power of “First Blood” and the reason why it’s better than any of the wildly popular sequels, is that it respects and doesn’t fear Rambo’s tendency to chaos instead of his withering humanity . The more he broke the law, the more Rambo became a machine.
Rambo is like a cross between Tarzan and the shark from “Jaw. Because of the character pain that comes into play in Stallone’s performance, the film has an awkwardness to match its haunting character.
Like the “Lethal Weapon” series, also about a traumatized, self-destructive Vietnam veteran (Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs, turned cop), Rambo, similarly, takes sees his troubled protagonist come down, more secure, and ready for each sequel.
By the time we saw “Rambo III” (1988), let alone “Rambo: Last Blood” (2019), we were clearly on the character’s side, but with “First Blood,” it wasn’t easy to cheer. for Rambo, who killed dozens of men and destroyed entire towns.
One more thing that I love about “First Blood”: it runs for 24 hours!
What does “First Blood” say about America? It depicts a broken system, in the guise of the American Dream and law and order, where the wounded veteran is wounded inside, literally amnesia, and hunted like a dog.
The corrupt fools who hunted him were the so-called “good guys” who wore badges. Colonel Trautman exists somewhere in between this, as he can play political roles as well as the rigor of combat duty.
“First Blood” is rarely mentioned alongside good movies about veterans struggling to find themselves after surviving in Vietnam – perhaps placing “First Blood” alongside “Coming Home” ( 1978), “Jacknife” or “In Country” (both 1989).
Bruce Willis, Emily Lloyd and Peggy Rea in In Country (1989) pic.twitter.com/zHyySQpgg5
– Frame found (@framefound) May 29, 2022
However, while “First Blood”‘s brute force and indulgence makes it an action movie above all else, it’s well worth being part of the discussion about movies that depict Vietnam.
The most amazing thing, if not absurd, about Rambo is that, after the huge success of “Rambo: First Blood Part II” (1985), the character has become an equal movie hero. with Indiana Jones and James Link.
While Stallone will likely always be connected to his adorable blue-collar avatar, Rocky Balboa, Rambo has actually gone even further in the tropics. Check out the Saturday morning animated show “Rambo and the Force of Freedom” (!), which aired a single season in 1986.
Not impressed? That single season consisted of 65 episodes, which is why it was as ubiquitous in my 80s childhood as “Transformers” and “GI Joe.”
There are also comic book spin-offs, video games, dozens of spinoffs (my favorite is Martin Kove’s 1987 “Steele Justice”) and countless parodies; “Weird” Al Yankovic impersonated the character in the hit classic “UHF” (1989) but so did Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show.”
President Ronald Reagan placed the figure in a special place, having quoted Rambo several times in speeches: the most notable was arguably when, in relation to the Beirut hostage crisis of 1985, Reagan said, “Boy, after watching ‘Rambo: First Blood Part II’ last night, I know what to do when this happens next.”
In another example, Reagan then said, “I’m thinking about a very popular, recent movie… and in the spirit of Rambo, let me tell you, we’re going to win this time.”
Whether Reagan was joking, made a broad gesture to connect with young voters, or actually saw Rambo as a symbol of American power, it gave the character a connection to politics. treat. The character is, as far as we know, not a member of any political party, although it could be argued that Colonel Trautman is a much more political figure, if only because, unlike Rambo, who One can imagine Trautman running for president.
While Rambo’s actions in the second, third, and fourth installments suggest a one-man solution to an all-out American military campaign (although in the absolute realm of male fantasy fulfilling his wishes), official), the main character in “First” and “Last” in this series is fighting for himself and no one else.
Furthermore, Rambo’s anguish in “First Blood”, in which the character battles his tortured psyche while using every skill and killer instinct, is a depiction of a real American. , is thrust into a real American nightmare.
Rambo is both the problem and the solution of “First Blood,” an example of a man who is somehow right when he strikes back but still completely wrong when he retaliates against those who can never contain him. … though they should know better than trying.
That’s why “First Blood” remains the best of these movies. The drawn blood leaves an ugly stain and Rambo, perhaps a good man in the depths of his tarnished soul, terrorizes the town of Hope in every way that makes him a soldier. excellent.
“First Blood” messes with and questions the very nature of heroism and justice, which is exactly right.