Released: October 22, 1982
Watched: February 1, 2021
It’s always funny what we pick up through cultural osmosis. Like Nightmare on Elm Street, my knowledge of Rambo was largely based on images from later films and genre stereotypes. I dismissed Rambo as the exemplary example of testosterone-laden male power fantasy of an guns-ablazing one-man-army in the jungle mowing down bad guys.
First Blood is none of that. It’s a very solid action movie with very little excessive personal violence about a returning solider evading and enacting revenge against the small-town police force who bullied him. Although there were hints of Rambo’s PTSD throughout the film, the last 5 minutes elevates and nearly recontextualizes the entire film, depicting Stallone as a lost solider who doesn’t know how to switch off and reconcile his Vietnam experiences with the non-combatant life in a country that doesn’t value his service.
Although we’re clearly meant to sympathize with Rambo, his overreaction does terrorize the small town. During the big action sequence building up to the climax of the film in which Rambo guns down and burns the small town, I found myself feeling sorry for the townspeople who had no skin in the fight; As small as it is, the town most likely will never recover from the property damage. I could see it becoming a ghost town, its residents forced to move elsewhere.
Thanks to my Covid19 Film-ed class, I’ve gained a new appreciation for Stallone. His acting range might be limited, but given the right project, he absolutely nails the weary working class/solider citizen persona with an haunting thousand-yard stare. I’m surprised how many writing and directing/producing credits he has.