As hard as it may be to believe, I had never seen any of the Rambo movies until just now. I think these are the kind of movies that if you don’t see them as a kid, they just slip by you. I had heard, however, that the first film, “First Blood,” was halfway decent, so I decided it was time to catch up. I would agree that there is a decent film here, but it is hidden inside some serious ‘80s schlock.
Sylvester Stallone, of course, plays John Rambo, an emotionally scarred Vietnam vet and Green Beret, wandering the country trying to find his old army buddies. When small-town Sheriff Teasle (Brian Dennehy) spots the shaggy-looking drifter wandering into town, he politely warns him to keep moving. Rambo isn’t one to be pushed, however, so he heads right back into town, where Teasle arrests him for vagrancy and for carrying one big-ass knife. The abusive, redneck deputies make Rambo flashback to his torture as a prisoner of the Vietcong, and next thing you know he is kicking ass and taking names, then escaping in a pretty thrilling chase sequence into the Cascade Mountains. There his Special Forces training kicks in, and when the Sheriff and his crew give chase, the hunters become the hunted.
I recommend watching “First Blood” with the TV muted. The movie is a ton of fun when the characters aren’t talking. It’s a blast watching Rambo unleash his goody bag of commando tricks. Stallone can’t act, of course, and he has only one facial expression, but it happens to be the perfect facial expression for this character. Brian Dennehy brings some class to the cast and manages to lend a human side to the flawed Sheriff Teasle.
Unfortunately, every time a character recites a line, it takes the film down a notch. The dialogue is so cringe-worthy it is below even Stallone’s level. The musical score is also pretty bad, although not as bad as the soft-rock song they play at the end. (“It‘s a Long Road“) Also, while Stallone and Dennehy carry the movie off pretty well, the rest of the actors are mediocre at best, including the sneering Richard Crenna as Rambo’s former Special Forces commander.
It’s a shame that “First Blood” was not better done, because the story of a damaged war veteran is one that needed to be told. America’s sometimes shabby treatment of our Vietnam vets was not one of our finest moments. Movies like “First Blood” helped shed a light on that situation and maybe fostered some compassion for those vets. Also, the film sold about a bazillion of those survival knives with the compass in the handle.
2.5 stars out of 5