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Sunday, 28 January 2018

Retro Review: Rambo First Blood (1982)

First Blood
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Bryan Dennehy, Bill McKinney, Jack Starrett
Genre: Action
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $125 million

Plot: Former Green Beret John Rambo is pursued into the mountains surrounding a small town by a tyrannical sheriff and his deputies, forcing him to survive using his combat skills

'First Blood Is Rambo's First Hollywood Forray That Is Sorely Lacking In Action'

Rambo First Blood
is not an out and out action film, as I'd come to expect with Sylvester Stallone; in fact, this is the first time I have watched it in full. It's not a film I would have sat through when it came out in the early 1980s, but it is regarded by many of his fans as his finest movie outing. In what is his most famous role, with Rocky Balboa second, Sly Stallone is John Rambo: an ex-Vietnam war vet & Green Beret who runs afoul of a sheriff and his deputies and has to fight and to stay alive as a wanted fugitive.

This film is a fusion of latter movies: 1993's The Fugitive meets 1985's Commando: a soldier goes on the run and is essentially the first real 'one man army' movie.  

As much as people make fun of Stallone and say he is terrible at acting, for me, he is one of those action movie stars, who like Jackie Chan and Bruce Willis can be emotive and show a range of expressions and to act well, rather than come across as stoic. Although as mentioned in my review of Cliffhanger, I prefer Arnold Schwarzenneger as there are more movies of his that I have enjoyed than Stallone and he can be entertaining and amusing. But Stallone definitely possessed a harder, tougher, serious exterior that he doesn't let up and it is argued that he is better at tackling serious action roles than comedies, as evident by flops in Stop! or My Mom Will Shoot and Oscar. 

First Blood contains a great Sylvester Stallone performance but as a film, it's not so much an out and out action movie, but a film that makes statements about war vets, the effects of PTSD and law enforcement. It's for me, not the most entertaining film that he has done, yet as far as performances go, he is great. 

First Blood is the first film with a plot that paved the way for Die Hard and many other movies of the type yet it has none of the entertaining chit-chat and banter and it's not as fully watchable. During the mid-way point with the banter it drags and I was eventually bored and when it focuses on the treatment of vets, it can be engaging; the scene with Bryan Dennehy and Richard Crenna chatting in a bar I didn't care for because it wasn't interesting enough. The turning point for me was Crenna's introduction and whilst a lot of people see this as a strong point, it all started to go downhill and bought First Blood down. The first act with the motorcycle chase was good when they start gunning for Rambo and Rambo beats up the deputies - good. But then after that, it slows down to the point that I became restless and I lost interest. The manhunt in the woods has a few moments, but other than that, there was little that kept me going. It loses much and has little to offer on the action side of things and instead of an actual action movie, it is burdened with a heavy drama that I found monotonous that it takes away from the film. The last 15 mins were good though. 

A lot of people also had the issue of the police being villainised and being made the antagonists of the movie that Rambo should have got a different bad guy. It didn't really bother me, but then again, the police were just nothing characters who didn't really stamp their mark against Rambo. 

Despite the plaudits this movie has received, it just didn't do enough for me; I love my action films, well classic action movies of the 1980s and 1990s and I expect lots of heavy explosions, fight scenes, good guys taking out the bad guys, and as a Sly Stallone vehicle, whilst it is essentially perceived by many as the best Rambo movie, action-wise, less wasn't better & alas, it is not my favourite of his as a whole. 

This turned out to be a far different affair to what I'd anticipated and I expected lots of action. The most serious entry in the Rambo franchise actually became the most droning for me anyway. 

Final Verdict:

The action is adequate but should have been a lot better and if it wasn't for Stallone's performance and being in this movie, First Blood would be an anonymity and forgotten about. I guess it succeeds in some ways in emphasising the aftereffects of war, but as an action movie, it shrivels and it never truly goes above and beyond to fully excite. 

But it is also a film that I will hopefully enjoy more by revisiting it again at some other point. 

First Blood was a slog of a film for me with a tedious story and a lack of great action that when stacked up against the likes of Cliffhanger, Demolition Man, The Expendables and Rocky IV, Sly Stallone has delivered far better in terms of movies.  


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