First Blood (1982) 3.93/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 72.3
Genre: Action
Duration: 93 mins
Director: Ted Kotcheff
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy, Richard Crenna

Don’t be fooled by the formulaic sequels, First Blood is a different animal altogether. Directed by Ted Kotcheff (a man more famous for comedies) this film offers a more soulful examination of the impact of the Vietnam war and the civilian attitude towards the soldiers who fought in it. It tells the story of a war hero John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) who after learning that the last of his unit is dead, is arrested by a petty small town sheriff (Brian Dennehy) because he has long hair and hasn’t shaved. Once in custody, his uncooperative attitude brings out the worst in the deputies and they begin humiliating and physically abusing him. Naturally, it’s not long before they’re on the floor and our hero is heading quickly for the local mountainside where he kills one of his pursuers and a massive manhunt unfolds led by the vengeful sheriff.

The threat that Rambo offers to Sheriff Teasle and his ego is the central thread to this film and both the action and drama tie into it wonderfully. Some of the dialogue is truly gripping such as when Rambo snares Teasle in the forest and, in a different context, it could sound cheesy. But in the context of a small town tough guy who has finally met the real thing, it cuts deep. Stallone is brilliant as the brooding killing machine while Dennehy makes his character work in a way not many could. The only negative to the film is Richard Crenna who hams every line he’s given but even that adds some unintentional humour to the proceedings. The action scenes are handled very well by Kotcheff with the tense forest sequence being a particular standout. Of course, they’re ably helped by the great Jerry Goldsmith’s edgy score. So ignore the sequels because as a stand-alone film First Blood ranks amongst the best of the action genre.

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