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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 26.09%
Average: 8.7%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 5.8%

3 reviews, 51 user ratings

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First Blood
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Slyder

"Stallone’s other truly good movie"
5 stars

Nowadays, the character of John Rambo more remembered as an action icon and a punch line than what it originally stood for. Of course, whoever mentions Rambo, they immediately think about the muscles, the head-band, the arrows, and the testosterone, and the urge of blowing shit up and killing people by the hundreds be it with machine guns or his ridiculously effective (and explosive) arrows. So cartoonish and over the top has this character become, that it has been parodied to ad nauseaum by every form of media imaginable. While the grand majority of the masses remember or merely know this character like this, it gives me some sadness that such is the case mainly because all of these people probably never saw or if they did see, they never bothered to understand the torments that John Rambo was going though. Thoughts and fears that would be completely wiped off the map in the following unnecessary (and flat-out stupid) sequels, but are present here in this first installment, and which are the coal and the fire that drive this engine of a man and which blasts through the rails of this movie.

We meet our man John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) as he comes up towards a small black community located nearby a lake in Oregon; a personal sign of hope for Rambo to finally start things fresh with a former war buddy that he came to hook up with. Sadly, he finds out through his friend’s mother that he died a summer ago due to cancer (or Agent Orange as she implies). Devastated, Rambo suddenly finds himself rudderless as he wanders along the state highway wondering what his future now will be. He comes up to a nearby town called Hope where he immediately is targeted by a zealous Sheriff named Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy), who sees in Rambo nothing more than a filthy beggar. Rambo, trying to be polite just asks Sheriff Teasle for a place to eat, but Teasle immediately lays down his terms and drives him off towards the edge of town and tells him to take a bath and a hike. Offended, and determined not to take any shit from anybody, Rambo walks back to town, and Teasle of course arrests him on the spot, and books him for vagrancy and carrying a concealed weapon (Rambo’s Army issue knife). Teasle’s deputies, turned into a bunch of thugs (especially Deputy Arthur Galt [Jack Starrett] who’s a friend of Will’s) begin to take shots at him during the booking process. It’s during this moment, that Rambo begins to suffer flashbacks from his captivity in Vietnam, where he was tortured in horrific ways. As Galt and his men continue to rough Rambo up, Rambo finally snaps and single-handedly kicks every Deputy ass in the building and escapes out of town and into the nearby Oregon woods. Sheriff Teasle immediately organizes a party to search for Rambo in the woods, but Rambo maims all of them with frightening precision, forcing Teasle to call the state police and the National Guard. It’s during this moment that Rambo’s former CO Colonel Samuel Trautman (Richard Crenna) appears trying to convince Teasle and the rest to let Rambo go because Rambo will kill anyone who stands in his way because he was trained for such purpose and to survive in conditions like the ones in the forest. Teasle ignores Trautman’s request, and deploys his men to find him, regardless of the consequences; consequences that he will bring to himself once Rambo goes after him big time

Though the psychological troubles of the Vietnam War soldier were explored albeit with some flaws in The Deer Hunter, First Blood offers another glimpse into these very inner workings. Though David Morrell’s book was basically distilled and altered for the screenplay, the modus operandi remains for the most part intact. Rambo is a mentally unstable veteran, misunderstood and isolated from society. He only knows what he was trained to do and is capable of doing it well, yet he’s completely unable to express his feelings or demons to anyone other than the very people that shared a similar experience. And when he gets into trouble, it would have potentially lethal consequences, for the soldier was trained in the rules of engagement, which if you’ve seen enough war movies you know what they are: no one fires unless fired upon. In this situation, Rambo gets pushed and bullied to the point that the deputies go over the line, and once that happens, he automatically feels entitled to respond against them. The movie title “first blood” comes from the action of dealing the first blow, which will of course result in a retaliating response. As that one man (Teasle) decides to wage war against him, Rambo retaliates going for the very source of that conflict. It’s a plausible scenario, and a very frightening one if it ever happened. It has to be said that Morrell’s book is more violent, because Rambo goes on a killing rampage left right and center, but despite the fact that the movie suffers only one casualty (two if you count a boar), the essence of this “soldier mentality” and its effectiveness remains the same.

The film’s original cut apparently was a different beast than the released version; Stallone hated how the film turned out that he demanded most of his screen time to be cut off. Fortunately, the requested changes worked effectively for the movie’s pace was sped up and the film’s focus on Rambo was on his survival and his military skills. This certainly is a huge plus, as the film keeps us going. Director Ted Kotcheff (whom I’ve never heard of before and since) also manages to paint some dark yet vivid portraits of the cold Oregon forests courtesy of Andrew Lazlo. The forest itself you could say becomes a character as well as the terrain and the trees and the green leaves as well as the dried out leaves simply come alive and it seems swallow everything that goes in there. The action sequences are spectacular of course, and credit has to go to Sylvester Stallone for executing that dangerous stunt at the Gorge where he plunged himself off the cliff and into those trees; came with a price though, as he broke 3 ribs, but the shot itself was breathtaking.

Speaking of Stallone, kudos to him as his minimalist turn as John Rambo (in part courtesy of the film’s editor) gives him probably his best performance since Rocky as anger, sadness, and sheer ferocity are channeled through his face effectively. But perhaps the best of the performances come from the supporting crew, with Brian Dennehy chewing the scenery with his embodiment of Will Teasle. Dennehy plays him as micromanaging zealot, who likes to be in control and who cannot tolerate anyone that goes past him who doesn’t bend over and kiss his ass. Dennehy is a longtime favorite character actor of mine and sadly a tad underappreciated, as he can unleash some fury and charisma either as a good guy or a bad guy. Richard Crenna expertly understates his part of Col. Trautman in order to give his character a sense of wisdom that any intelligent man could grasp, but no ignorant man could (which is the case of half the people in the movie that are chasing Rambo). Oh, and look for a green David Caruso in one of his first roles as Deputy Mitch, who’s probably the only character in the film that has a grasp of conscience and becomes aware of Rambo’s trauma.

In the end, this flick has become sort of an action “classic”, but most of that fame is probably more due to the film’s character due to the film itself, since John Rambo was used by Stallone and his cronies to turn the character into a full bred action hero for hardcore conservatives out there. This part saddens me the most, because usually you’ll have some people that watch a certain movie that will miss its point due to some circumstance or another. Here, of all the people that could’ve missed the point of the film and the character, it was the very people that were involved in making this film. This sort of development simply defies belief. So please, forget everything you’ve heard about John Rambo, forget the myths, the arrows, the macho bullshit, and the dumbass sequels. See this film for what it is and you’ll see that this is a very good film that has more to it than what you think. 4.5-5

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originally posted: 06/22/09 18:55:28
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User Comments

9/16/17 morris campbell dull & sadistic 1 stars
6/15/14 Jamie Loved this review, so insightful. Just a great movie! 5 stars
8/15/10 bored mom A seriously meaningful classic unlike the sequels. Still resonates strongly well after Nam. 5 stars
2/20/10 art STALLONE"S BEST ROLE!,{I ROLL MY EYE"S!} 1 stars
1/25/10 Chad Dillon Cooper A one man Hostess twinkie on a rampage. 1 stars
4/09/09 Hiroshi Probably my favorite Stallone film. 5 stars
5/18/08 carlos G Better dialogue woulda done world of good, but Denehy great & not cheezy 80s/2008 gungho 4 stars
8/09/07 EZ $$ that's a huge gun 5 stars
7/14/07 Quigley Why is this so overrated. It's amazingly average, despite some cool scenes. 3 stars
6/13/07 al smith amazing one of the best films of the 80's 5 stars
1/01/07 johnnyfog No one believes me when I say this film has emotion. Thanks Stallone for the shitty sequels 5 stars
7/17/06 Indrid Cold Some great acting tempers the 80s cheesiness of it, but it still is far from a classic. 4 stars
3/20/06 Klondo yeah, we get it Snider: You Hate George Bush 5 stars
1/10/06 Cody a excellent action movie with good story and great perf. by stallone 4 stars
8/22/05 ES An amazing movie, the sequels were not 5 stars
7/29/05 tony EXELLENT PICTURE! 5 stars
3/13/05 Ronin Excelent. Still entertaining. A classic of the genre. Quite deep too. You MUST see it. 5 stars
2/16/05 Sugarfoot Absoluate classic. 5 stars
2/11/05 Jeff Anderson A surprisingly good film with Stallone at his best! A great double-bill with 1982's RUCKUS. 4 stars
2/06/05 Tom Benton One of Stallone's best; entertaining to the max. 4 stars
2/04/04 Spiderfan729 I had low expectations but while being crazily different from the book, it delievers! 5 stars
1/17/04 justin osborn i loved this movie 5 stars
12/27/03 Spiderfan729 The book freakin' rocked! David Morrel is a great writer! 5 stars
11/29/03 Jaron A brillian film!!! This film Captures the reality of after-war experiences... 5 stars
11/27/03 John it's exiting and involving - one of the best scores by Mr Goldsmith 5 stars
7/14/03 Sam Moszynski Best Rambo film. One of Sly's best! 4 stars
3/10/03 Jack Sommersby Too implausible to resonate, yet too exciting to ignore. 4 stars
3/09/03 jack b nimble Great movie 5 stars
5/19/02 john waite stallones best..more human than the sequels..nice knife to!..ohh.and he crys!..ahhhhh 5 stars
4/05/02 Justin My favorite Sly film without a doubt! 5 stars
3/06/02 Nate Makes alot of sence. One of the best movies I have ever seen. 5 stars
1/21/02 Spencer Lent This is sweet!!! 5 stars
1/03/02 thijs mulders it's deeper than you think, not just action but also drama 5 stars
11/30/01 Mr. Hat (formerly Joe Zappa) The the best of the Rambos, even though it's the first. 3 stars
9/23/01 Larry Smith Perfect Stallone movie to feature his machismo! 5 stars
3/25/01 Monster W. Kung One of Stallone's best. Still isn't that good. 3 stars
3/01/01 R.W. Welch Less superficial than the bulk of Stallone's flicks and fairly intense. 4 stars
1/08/01 Captain Klerp Poor Production, believable acting, but a good plot with important Vietnam Undertones 4 stars
12/24/00 Destruction Worker Dude, I live in Corvallis too! 5 stars
11/03/00 Cristopher Revilla the key to the movie is the ending, listen carfully, and you'll know why its a great movie 5 stars
9/10/00 jasper stapleton instant classic 5 stars
8/23/00 zall lets see how many words does he speak here? 1 stars
6/17/00 Bender Shine shoe Shine shoe. Hilarious Action flick 4 stars
6/15/99 Dylan Fucking 'A' 5 stars
11/24/98 Fred Only decent Rambo movie. After the sequel, I figure Sly signed with Satan. 3 stars
11/13/98 Lord Of The Dunce Gave Sly a new chance at a career post-Rocky. Best of the series. 5 stars
11/03/98 Silent Rob Remove the topicality from the plot and it's.....nothing special. 3 stars
11/01/98 Vick Di Brecci An ok movie but watch out for Sly's silly climactic speech and Crenna's bad lines 4 stars
11/01/98 Oz A great movie. Free of patriotic fervor, darker and more real than the others. 5 stars
11/01/98 J-Guy (the MFC) liked the movie. liked the video game more. 4 stars
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  22-Oct-1982 (R)
  DVD: 23-Nov-2004

  N/A (15)

  02-Feb-1983 (M)

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