After watching “Conan the Barbarian” last week, I’ve been thinking a lot about action movies from the 80s. While Arnold has so many iconic films with memorable lines, there was one other major action star I though of from that time. Sylvester Stallone may not always play the smartest character but some of them have a lot of depth. That theme could not be more apparent than with John Rambo in “First Blood.”
First off I have to make one quick comment about the titling of this series. While “First Blood” is a great name, the sequels thereafter lacked much continuity. Instead of calling the sequel “Second Blood” or “First Blood Part II,” instead it’s called “Rambo: First Blood Part II.” I know it’s not a major issue but still something that always stands out to me about this series.
Now when it comes to “First Blood,” I was very much surprised by what the movie was really about. I thought it would be absurdly bloody with Rambo just killing person after person to come off like a complete badass. And while he was certainly unstoppable, Rambo actually kills very few people. In fact he tries hard to avoid killing the villains when given the opportunities.
Instead the film focuses on a decorated soldier coming back from Vietnam to a country that doesn’t accept him. After wandering into a town and looking for some food, he is arrested for vagrancy and treated very poorly by the men in blue. In their unfair treatment, Rambo’s PTSD kicks in and he goes off the rails. After escaping their clutches, the crux of the movie focuses on his ability to evade the sheriff department, National Guard and more in the wilderness.
However I will say one of the flaws of this film is the real legitimacy of the villains. Sure they treated him badly but he went through an awful lot for just some schmuck, small time officers. And yeah the movie makes the leader very unlikable and unnecessarily dark but it takes away from the impact. I mean Rambo is too overpowered for guys like them and most actually fear him except for the sheriff.
But with that aside, the best part of the movie was the end. After Rambo practically brings the city down, he has chance to kill the sheriff but is stopped by his former teacher. It is this point where the depth of his character is truly revealed and Rambo breaks down from all the emotions that have stayed with him since the war. It makes you very sympathetic for him because he isn’t a bad guy. He has nowhere to go, nothing to do but yet everything from the war is still fresh in his mind. It’s a very deep and impactful moment in the film, which I think is why it’s so memorable.
While there were some slight issues with “First Blood,” overall it is a very entertaining movie especially in the ways it surprises you. Instead of being a bloodbath, it was more about intense fear as well as soldiers dealing with PTSD. In fact it seems like a perfect standalone film. No matter what the sequels are like, “First Blood” holds up on its own.