First Blood (1982)

First Blood
Directed by Ted Kotcheff
Written by Michael Kozoll, William Sackheim and Sylvester Stallone based on the novel by David Morrell
(number 261)

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.

Best line:

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.

Watched movie count

Rocky (1976)

Directed by John G. Avildsen
Written by Sylvester Stallone
(number 378)

I didn’t know Sylvester Stallone wrote this!

Anna and I sat down to watch this. Neither of us had seen it before and didn’t particularly know what to expect beyond some punching. Anna was a bit hesitant on account of the last boxing movie she watched was Million Dollar Baby which is apparently sad. I didn’t think this one would be as sad.

Anyway, after the opening boxing sequence, there’s a lovely ‘Rocky walking home’ montage which sets the scene in the crappy part of Philidelphia and there’s a sweet bit where he walks past some people singing in the street.

Anna: “He’s a boxer with a street a capella gang?”

This is a hometown hero story. Rocky is a down on his luck every-day guy who takes on the challenge to box against someone famous. He wrestles with self doubt, performs one of the most famous training montages to music of all time and gains the support of the people around him.

Having said that, I’m not very keen on Sylvester Stallone in this role. I’m sure there’s a lot of great reasons that he should have played his own main character, but I don’t find him charismatic as an actor and he is literally hard to understand. That said, it does make him believable as a Philadelphia nobody who’s unaware of his own talents. I dunno.

Does it make me love the people? Rocky talking to his turtles and fish sets the scene pretty early on for him as a sensitive guy with some humour. Then we see him practising the joke he wants to tell to Adrian in the mirror before he sees her the next day. It’s sweet.

Bechdel test: No. Adrian talks to the other woman who works at the pet store but she’s never named. She literally exists as a character to be seduced by Rocky (he has to fight past her shyness and poor self esteem in order to kiss her,) and he makes her more beautiful by taking off her glasses and weird hat, and from that moment on she’s the supportive love interest. Aside from the first moments of her in the pet shop we only see her in the context of Rocky as a love interest, or her brother Paulie as a point of contention. There’s a really dramatically awkward Christmas scene where Paulie is so incensed to see his sister existing outside of the context he knows her in (sad, pathetic, obedient to him, domestic), he’s so angry that he gets physically violent. So yeah, she’s not a strong character to me.

Best line:

Mickey: Your nose is broken.
Rocky: How does it look?
Mickey: Ah, it’s an improvement.

State of Mind: We sort of missed whether he won or not, so I had to check on wikipedia. I can’t say much about this, because neither Anna or I really cared. It’s a bit slow, it’s a bit lacking of plot.. The training montage was fine, but even as a sports movie it didn’t really grab me. Anna wants to be on record saying she didn’t care about it.

Watched movie count