Directed by Ted Kotcheff
Written by Michael Kozoll, William Sackheim and Sylvester Stallone based on the novel by David Morrell
Here’s what I thought Rambo was about: hard core action dude killing lots of people and surviving ridiculous odds. Here’s what it’s apparently actually about: a soldier with PTSD is abused by small town police and then hunted through the mountains as they use deadly force to try and subdue him. Hard core.
Here’s a genre of film I wasn’t exactly aware existed before I watched a few from this list: hard man solves random problems with violence. I’m looking at you Taxi Driver, Electra Glide in Blue… I guess Fight Club? In retrospect this isn’t a surprising discovery. I just hadn’t thought of it exactly in terms of it being its own genre. Certainly there’s slippage between this and crime/gangster/war/revenge movies but it clarified in this instance. There really isn’t much story here in First Blood beyond ‘they were awful to him, won’t let him get away, so he solves it with violence.’
It’s a bleak film, and I guess I was supposed to be getting excited and amped from the violence and the tense chase but mostly I found it desolate and depressing. It’s hard to imagine this film being made again now. It’d have to have a psychologist character being like ‘oh no, this will trigger his PTSD from that time in Vietnam where he was crucified’ and looking over the footage from the station and shaking their head. ‘You shouldn’t have come at him with that straight razor because it reminds him of the knife he was scarred with’.
Does it make me love the people? I dunno, I kind of liked the crappy misguided commanding officer Trautman. I mean. Horrible person but played with a certain charisma. I always like watching Brian Dennehy but I don’t think his character added much to the general understanding of the human condition. He was mostly just playing a bad old Brian Dennehy character. The young red haired cop at the start who had some vague moral compass was nice but he didn’t ever manage to change the course of the action so felt a bit pointless.
The level which I empathised with Rambo is probably the key to what the movie is showing us. I understood how he could get to the place where he felt like nothing could go right. Where his only option was to lash out. And I wanted everyone to just back the hell off and let him run away into the mountains. So, there’s that.
Bechdel test: women? I’ve never heard of her.
Teasle: Whatever possessed God in heaven to make a man like Rambo?
Trautman: God didn’t make Rambo, I made him!
State of Mind: The mountain landscapes are pretty and the cliffs and the stunts etc are all well done. It’s competently acted and easy to follow. But man, it’s bleak. I don’t think this is one I’d watch again and I have no interest in the following ones which just seem to be ‘let’s put him in more and more stressful situations until he goes bezerk again’. Maybe it’s just me, I’m not into that.