RAMBO WARRIOR MOVIE REVIEW: “First Blood” stars Sylvestor Stallone (Rocky, Escape Plan), Richard Crenna (The Flamingo Kid, Table for Five), Brian Dennehy (Ratatouille, Silverado), Bill McKinney (Deliverance, The Outlaw Josey Wales), Jack Starrett (Blazing Saddles, Family Reunion), Michael Talbott (Vacation, Miami Vice [TV series]), Chris Mulkey (Whiplash, Cloverfield), John McLiam (Sleeper, In Cold Blood), Alf Humphreys (X-Men 2, My Bloody Valentine), and David Caruso (Session 9, Proof of Life). It is directed by Ted Kotcheff (Weekend at Bernie’s, Winter People) and written by Michael Kozoll (Hill Street Blues [TV series], McCloud [TV series]), William Sackheim (Border River, Forbidden), and Sylvestor Stallone. Based on a novel, former Green Beret John Rambo (Stallone) returns to the States only to be pursued by a small town police force for no probable cause.
Ah, to be back in the forest with a ripped dude and a target on his back. Makes me reminisce the times watching the “Predator” franchise… but, this ain’t Arnold, and the enemy ain’t an alien. This is Sylvester Stallone, playing one of the most ruthless Vietnam vets you could ever encounter: John Rambo. I grew up hearing about this guy in school, specifically for how strong he is and how he can take down anyone who comes his way. However, I never saw “First Blood” until now, and I gotta say… I was surprised to find it really good. Not to say that I expected the flick to tank, but what I didn’t see coming was how deep of a message it would convey. “First Blood” was filmed in the Vietnam War aftermath, where the U.S. of A blamed the government, and consequently its soldiers, for fighting a war that was winless. The turmoil these troops went through to fight a battle that wasn’t their’s carried back to their home country when PTSD settled in and the tension between America and its army raged. Of course, it didn’t lead to a war on home turf as depicted in “First Blood,” but there were most likely cases of the mistreatment of Vietnam War vets. This was at full force in this first installment of the Rambo franchise, and I was impressed. I didn’t know what I was in for with the story, as I never saw a trailer or any clips in preparation; I thought it was just going to be a mindless action flick filled with fights and ripped dudes with guns. Surprisingly, it was more of a cat-and-mouse game between a heavily-killed drifter and a small town’s police department. There was a lot of tension, thrills, and destruction to be seen unfold on such a small-scale, and I enjoyed that aspect. The cinematography was pretty solid, as was the music and performances that made this all the more entertaining. I wouldn’t say they were Oscar-worthy, however I thought they got the job done well, and Stallone couldn’t be better in the role of Rambo. He played it like a champ, and I liked the pitting of him against the small town police department. Brian Dennehy was the sheriff of the pack, and Richard Crenna played Rambo’s old commander, and I thought they did solid jobs as well, making for a strong glue to hold this conflict in place. The conflict, struggle, and resolution were all raw, given the theme and location. I think the further the film went, the more I liked it, especially the ending which brought a small tear to my eye. It had the emotional intensity of an old “Rocky” flick, and the pay-off was strong. It truly hammered in the theme and tied everything up together nicely. With that being said, I would state that the flow of this story was a bit odd. Because I had no clue what I was getting into, a lot that unfolded was kind of all over the place, at least until the end of the second act. Rambo goes from drifting, to being locked up, to running, to hiding, and for someone who has no clue what to expect, I was kind of left listless throughout the action. I had no idea where the writers were going with this, especially when the forty-minute mark felt like the climax to this hour and a half experience. Really, it felt like there were two climaxes in this story, which could be a problem with the flow. While I liked the intensity of the chase and how everything came to a resolution, the build-up seemed to be a bit messy; the story didn’t really hit the pavement until the end of the third act where Rambo takes his last stand. Up until that point, the movie was mainly filled with highlights that I enjoyed, but didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel to. Granted, I was engaged for the entire experience, but once the first climax arrived, I checked the runtime and sunk in my chair, confused at how there could still be an hour left. I would place this as the only issue with “First Blood,” besides the fact that it’s a movie solely about squeezing out a Vietnam War vet from the woods for an hour. But, with the cinematography, acting, action, and strong theme put in play (which all lead to a great ending), I’d say that “First Blood” is worth a watch. It’s a small film with a big theme that is truly entertaining and gritty to see unfold. FINAL SCORE: 89%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: