Dir: Ted Kotcheff, 1982
Is Rambo the glorification of violence or evidence of the atrocities of war?
Ex-Green Beret and Vietnam war veteran, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), is a loner and a drifter, coasting through towns minding his own business.
Rambo goes to see an old friend but is informed that he died.
Continuing his journey, he stumbles into the town of Hope, a little town with a small community.
The town’s Sheriff, Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy), spots Rambo and drives him in his police car out of town after refusing to allow Rambo to eat in of the town’s cafes.
Dropping him off, he informs the veteran that he isn’t welcome in the town and not to come back. Rambo ignores him and does so.
Angry, Teasle threatens Rambo with arrest if he doesn’t turn around. Still ignoring him, Teasle arrests the soldier for vagrancy and carrying a hidden knife.
Arriving at the police station, Rambo is uncooperative and beaten by the officers.
What the officers are unaware of is that Rambo has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and, after being forced shaved, trigger flashbacks of torture by the Vietnamese.
Mentally unstable at the best of times, this act makes Rambo crack and he escapes from the station into the forest where a gigantic manhunt takes place in search of him.
Made before Schwarzenegger’s Commando, Rambo is the original one man army. But, unlike his counterpart, he has flaws and is meant to be a serious study of psychology.
Arnie’s John Matrix is a comic book character; an adult version of G.I. Joe (or Action Force as it was known in the UK).
Sly’s Rambo is part comic book and part truth. There’s a real element of seriousness to the character and a statement about the treatment of war veterans.
The other part is the indefatigable, one man stronghold who can withstand huge amounts of pain and, according to his army superior Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna), can “eat things that would make a billy goat puke”.
Based on the book by David Morell, First Blood is riddled with implausibilities.
Rambo has a sturdy knife that never seems to get blunt and can do anything he wants with it. It can cut metal, he can set it on fire and use it as a torch, it’s a knife and fork. I mean, it’s the dog’s bollocks!
The ex-soldier is so tough, that his former commanding officer has to come down to save the police force from him and advise them that they get a large supply of body bags. Yeah, he’s an absolute bad ass. Someone we can cheer for.
But Rambo is, ultimately, likeable. He’s just been so damaged by the war, society, the government and the people that he’s lost all sense of love and humanity.
He no longer possesses any emotions except anger and hate and knows only death and destruction.
A criticism that is often held is the loose ending. There’s no satisfactory resolve. What happened to Sheriff Teasle? Was he made to answer for his actions?
Rambo is the (anti?) hero of the film but is the one that’s punished.
It’s an action film with a character we’re supposed to root for. Ideally, he would get away but, with its sense of realism, he has to be apprehended and made to pay for his crimes.
At least the sequel rights that wrong.
First Blood is a thoroughly entertaining action film which introduced to the world the ultimate archetypal image of the action man.