Edgar and I join forces yet again, this time for the Rambo Marathon, and you all know how dangerous that can be!
Screenplay By: Michael Kozoll, William Sackheim & Sylvester Stallone
Directed By: Ted Kotcheff
In retrospect perhaps tackling a Rambo Marathon wasn’t so hot of an idea. After watching First Blood I don’t know if I will be ready for the shift in tone that the following films will bring. I have small memories of First Blood and its kin, but not enough for me to actually say anything in a precise fashion about any of the films. I do know however that First Blood was a slow and serious action film tackling a very important issue in America in the early 1980’s. The following Rambo films, well, to say that they are over the top and all action would be a bit misleading, because they are even more bombastic than those words allude to. Then again, I don’t know what I’m worried about, because I love all types of movies and variety is the spice of life, and maybe the Rambo franchise moving in a more cartoonish direction was the right call, we shall see.
Back on point, First Blood is indeed much more than just an action flick. It has action flick moments, don’t get me wrong, but they are merely moments in what was otherwise a surprising testimonial to the life and times of Vietnam War vets in America in the early 1980’s. First Blood even avoids the all out battle ending that occupies most action flicks, opting instead for an ending with some action splashed around the breakdown of a man. I found First Blood to be a very interesting film, it explores some intriguing areas and ideas and it does so in a way that I wasn’t much expecting.
That would be the best way to describe First Blood, it is a film that was quite different than what I expected and in the end completely nixed whatever preconceived notions I had about First Blood going into it. First Blood isn’t a spectacularly well made film, it suffers a lot early on from some bad post-production voice dubbing, and Ted Kotchoff never really lets his camera go. His straight forward directorial style fits with the tone of the film, but especially during the few action scenes I was hoping he would open up a little and show a bit more verve. Still, those are essentially the only complaints I have with the film, so not too shabby at all.
Sylvester Stallone once again shows that he can in fact act when he so chooses. His portrayal of John Rambo in First Blood is a haunting one. He is a man who just wants peace but can’t find it in a society that has rejected him. Stallone does a wonderful job of channeling the central theme of First Blood through his character. In his portrayal we see all of the Vietnam War vets being shunned, not receiving any gratitude for serving their country and ultimately being tossed aside and discarded like so much refuse. It’s performances like this that make me a tad peeved that Stallone so easily lapsed into action hero mode for most of his career.
I do find myself struggling a bit with Richard Crenna’s Trautman. He needs to be there at the end, but I find him to be somewhat distracting throughout the rest of the film. His inclusion in so many scenes takes away a smidgen from the conflict of Rambo versus society in the form of the sheriff. But, like I said, Trautman is needed at the end, because without his presence then Rambo’s cathartic breakdown wouldn’t pack the punch it does. At the moment I am torn on Trautman, he’s needed but then he isn’t, maybe a future rewatch will help solidify my thoughts on his characters presence in the film.
You and I both know what is to come in all of the sequels, but let’s not lose sight of the type of film First Blood is. First Blood is a social commentary film with some action set pieces tossed in. The action is well done and it serves its purpose, but First Blood is truly enjoyed in its quieter moments when Rambo serves as a substitute for Vietnam War vets all over America. I didn’t expect to like First Blood as much as I did, or I should say to like it for the reasons that I do. I’m happy First Blood so successfully subverted my expectations, and if you have any preconceived notions about the Rambo franchise then give First Blood a shot, you’ll be pleasantly surprised, trust me.
Find out if Edgar was able to make it out alive over at Between The Seats.