Movie Review: First Blood (1982)

Synopsis: After learning the last of his elite combat unit from Vietnam has died from cancer, John Rambo enters a small town in Washington looking to buy a meal and is arrested for vagrancy. When abusive sheriff's deputies trigger his PTSD, Rambo turns violent and, during his escape, inadvertently kills one of the deputies pursuing him. With the sheriff determined to get revenge, Rambo is forced to flee into the woods and fend off both deputies and members of the local National Guard.

Who's in it? The movie stars Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Brian Dennehy, Bill McKinney and Jack Starrett.


Review: I came across this movie while my wife and daughter were at karate/kickboxing yesterday evening and, since it had been a long while since I had watched it in its entirety, decided to do so. After seeing it again, I have to admit this was a movie that earned its "classic" status.

I think the thing I like best about this movie is, even though Rambo (Stallone) is technically the hero, I don't know if you could necessarily describe him as a good guy. I mean, he's easily the good guy when compared to the sheriff (Dennehy) and his men but, without them putting him in some context, I don't know if I'd be able to see it. And I mean this in a good way.

There were two things that really stood out for me when coming to this conclusion. The first was his PTSD, which made his reactions to certain situations, such as coming across a kid hunting in the woods, unpredictable. That, when combined with his elite military training, made him a very dangerous person, and not just for the bad guys.

It was also clear that, while the sheriff and his men started it and "drew first blood," Rambo wasn't exactly taking the high road either. There were plenty of opportunities for him to just escape and/or surrender peacefully but he didn't cease those opportunities and, instead, started seeking a revenge that had him destroying property that didn't even have anything to do with the sheriff. It's not like all the residents of Hope, Washington treated him poorly.

I also have to say I don't think there was a way to end this movie better than it did. There was a surprising amount of emotion as Rambo came to grips with what he did and the consequences and that, in turn, made the ending a lot less predictable than it normally would be. Obviously, having seen the movie (and its sequels) before, I knew how it would turn out but also think the ending would be a bit of a surprise to a first-time watcher. A lot more movies should take lessons from this one.

Final Opinion: I'm not a huge fan of the sequels, but this movie does stand the test of time and is one that is worth taking the time to watch at least once.

My Grade: A

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