Rambo: First Blood (1982)

Rambo: First Blood (1982)
  • Time: 93 min
  • Genre: Action | Thriller
  • Director: Ted Kotcheff
  • Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Brian Dennehy


John J. Rambo is a former United States Special Forces soldier who fought in Vietnam and won the Congressional Medal of Honor, but his time in Vietnam still haunts him. As he came to Hope, Washington to visit a friend, he was guided out of town by the Sheriff William Teasel who insults Rambo, but what Teasel does not know that his insult angered Rambo to the point where Rambo became violent and was arrested. As he was at the county jail being cleaned, he escapes and goes on a rampage through the forest to try to escape from the sheriffs who want to kill him. Then, as Rambo’s commanding officer, Colonel Samuel Trautman tries to save both the Sheriff’s department and Rambo before the situation gets out of hand.


  • If there’s one character that Sylvester Stallone will always be remembered for besides Rocky Balboa, that’s this guy – John Rambo. The character of John Rambo may be an exaggeration of what kind of a struggle many war veterans live through everyday after being combat, but it represents them in a way that allows the audience to have sympathy. No matter how well decorated a war veteran is, if they suffered a traumatic event, it will never leave them. The memory will replay over and over again until their very last day. For most, the event is only strong enough to physically paralyze the veteran leaving them immobilized. However, there are some that suffer from and still can live and move around with it in their subconscious. John Rambo is one these and unfortunately, he gets pushed to far.

    After arriving into a small town to visit a war buddy, John Rambo (Stallone) is pressed by the local sheriff (Brian Dennehy) to keep moving and not return. This however, makes Rambo become defiant and return back to the town, resulting in his immediate arrest. Things only get worse once in the sheriff’s building, where Rambo is treated like the worst criminal they’ve had in the last century. To be honest, I think they were bored – but they picked the wrong person to be bored with. With all the instigating, John Rambo is finally pushed too far with many of his memories replaying over and over. It’s at this point he breaks free and begins to fight for himself as if he was back in the war.

    Stallone’s acting is great here. His doesn’t say very much for a lot of the movie but when he does, his emotions portray an accurate description of what post traumatic stress victims have to deal with on a daily basis. Also, he gives audiences a better understanding of what it’s like to be a soldier and then return to world that’s totally opposite from what one is used to and how alienating it can be. Brian Dennehy as the obsessive town sheriff is also convincing because of his stance on drifters. His mindset is understood but his morals aren’t up to par. Yet Dennehy’s character still isn’t fleshed out enough. His motives are given some explanation too but not entirely.

    Attempting to help the sheriff understand who he’s up against is Colonel Trautman played by Richard Crenna. One of the best things about Crenna’s character is how he understands John Rambo and is able to see anything coming before the rest of the authorities. Crenna also has some very good lines. Let’s also not forget (just for a little fun) that David Caruso (Horatio Caine – CSI: Miami) has a small part in here too. He’s extremely young and is one of the better cops in the local town. He at least tries to give John Rambo the benefit of the doubt that he’s not some punk off the street looking for trouble.

    The action is fun to watch here too. Retaining gorilla warfare is an interesting trait to maintain. Don’t forget those survival skills though, he’s better than any boy scout I’ve seen. Adding to that is Andrew Laszlo’s cinematography where he captures some very wide angle shots of the mountainous landscape of which Rambo must survive and live off of. Surprisingly though, Jerry Goldsmith’s score isn’t as prevalent as some may expect it to be. It’s certainly constructed better than some of his previous scores, but it still lacks strong action cues besides its main theme for Rambo. It does carry emotion but not a tune that’s extremely memorable. It’s not bad though. Definitely an entertaining action film.

    This is one heck of a survival film. It has big action and respectable performances that portray the psyche of war veterans with a perspective that many people today do not consider.

    Points Earned –> 8:10

  • In 1982, action star Sylvester Stallone had a bumper year. First, he wrote and directed himself in Rocky III. But more importantly, he took up one of the most iconic action roles of all time – John Rambo.

    The film is First Blood, directed by Ted Kotcheff, a one-trick pony who has never made anything half as good ever since, eventually making movies for television. Co-written by Stallone, First Blood is not in the league of its own in terms of Hollywood action cinema of the 1980s, but it is clearly a commendable film that defies some genre conventions.

    First Blood centers on John Rambo, a Vietnam War veteran who walks into a sleepy county in search of a lost comrade. The county’s sheriff, Teasle (Brian Dennehy), is suspicious of him and brings him into custody. There he is abused, and as nightmares of Vietnam come back to haunt him, he breaks loose and wages a one-man war with the small town’s authorities.

    Now this is one guy you wouldn’t want to mess with. But Teasle, who wants to get his man his own way, ignores advice from a lieutenant-colonel who trained Rambo many years ago. Expect fireworks…

    First Blood sees Stallone in good form as he shows why his character is a decorated war veteran. With the middle act shot almost entirely in the woods, Rambo is hunted down by armed men, yet the joke is on Teasle, as he finds his team and himself being hunted.

    For an action film, First Blood does not contain as much action as a traditional genre film. There are gunfights, explosions, and car chases, but Kotcheff’s film does not need all that to carry itself. It successfully transcends its action underpinnings to deliver a quite powerful story of its lead character.

    The measure of an excellent action flick lies not in its promise of spectacularity, but whether the audience cares enough to understand the “hero” or “anti-hero”. Such is the complexity of Rambo’s character that he is a hero, a villain, and a victim all at once. His non-provocative stance is threatened when Teasle draws “first blood”.

    Rambo reacts like any war veteran with psychological battle scars would when provoked unfairly – without hesitation and with extreme prejudice. Rambo’s ruthless nature takes a backseat in the epilogue; Stallone delivers his most sympathetic and emotional performance in the last ten minutes since Rocky. With that, Rambo’s story is complete. And a legend is born.

    GRADE: B+

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