**** Out of 5
Tagline- This Time He’s Fighting For His Life
Release Date- October 22nd, 1982
Running Time- 93-Minutes
Screenplay- Michael Kozoll, William Sackheim & Sylvester Stallone (Novel- David Morrell)
Director- Ted Kotcheff
Starring- Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Brian Dennehy, Jack Starrett
In 1976 Sylvester Stallone wrote and starred in Rocky, which became a massive hit and won the Oscar for best picture. Prior to Rocky, Stallone was a struggling actor and Rocky put him on the map. After Rocky, Stallone had success, but box office numbers were far below that of Rocky. All his other big hit films were Rocky II & Rocky III. However that would change in 1982 with the release of First Blood, which pulled in 47-million making it the first big hit film for Sly that wasn’t a Rocky film. Rambo: First Blood Part 2, which came out 3-years later would pull in an amazing 150-million, which even now is a big deal, but a far bigger one in 1985. However back to First Blood, which actually came out the same year as Rocky III became another iconic role for Sly, which he would reprise 3 times. I doubt if David Morrell who wrote the novel the film is based off or anyone involved with the film could ever imagine it would become a franchise. Funny thing about First Blood is if you mention the title to most people it may not ring a bell, but say Rambo everyone knows it. Even I sometimes refer to First Blood as Rambo (the 4th part would simply be called Rambo). But most people associate this series with that of the Rambo character and not the actual title. Even the 2nd one is referred to as Rambo II and starting with the 3rd the First Blood title would be dropped.
First Blood is vastly different from the rest of the series. Starting in part 2 the Rambo series would become your standard action films (not that its a bad thing), but First Blood while also an action film is also a thriller and a little more grounded in reality to a certain degree whereas the sequels Rambo became a superhero of sorts, but in the original he was a regular guy with training that made him deadly. First Blood would become one of the most iconic action films and helped shaped the action film for years to come. Everything about First Blood feels like an action film from the 70s it sort of feels like a holdover. First Blood isn’t action packed, but does feature plenty of action, but all the action scenes are quite effective making worth the wait.
Vietnam vet John Rambo goes to a small town to visit an old friend, but when he gets there he finds out his friend died. Rambo leaves and than is stopped by sheriff Teasle (Dennehy) and wants him out of town. Rambo wants to get something to eat and the sheriff says he can get food in the next town. After dropping Rambo off over the bridge Teasle sees Rambo walking back over the bridge. He’s arrested and subjected to some abuse, which leads to a flashback from Nam. Rambo escapes into the woods where the sheriff and his deputies pursue Rambo.
First Blood was based off a novel by David Morrell and from what I hear the novel and film are quite different. The script was written by Michael Kozoll, William Sackheim & Sylvester Stallone. The plot is quite simple, but effective and characters are quite strong. People may not realize but Stallone often writes or co-writes a lot of his films. In regards to co-writing, Sly most likely does a rewrite to suit him as an actor and deliver what his audience wants to see. The script is strong and the influence on action films quite obvious.
Director Ted Kotcheff perhaps isn’t the most ideal for a film like First Blood, but overall Kotcheff does a very good job. The film is well paced with effective action scenes and when there isn’t action, Kotcheff delivers some genuine suspense. First Blood is an excellent film and Kotcheff gets the most out of every scene.
Brian Dennehy is excellent as Teasle and you really wanna see him get what’s coming to him. Richard Crenna like always is quite solid as Trautman. The acting is first rate and really helps elevate the film.
When it comes to Sylvester Stallone a lot of people say he isn’t that great of an actor and those people couldn’t be anymore wrong. I never really had a problem with Sly’s acting, but at times some of his performances weren’t as strong as they could have been. People forget Sly was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Rocky, which was highly deserving. As Sly’s popularity grew in the 80s his performances weren’t as strong however in his early years he was terrific and here in First Blood Sly was great. Stallone has limited dialogue through most of the film, but his presence was felt however and his speech at the end was truly emotional and Sly gave one of his best performances. For those who think Sly can’t act Rocky & First Blood prove how good he can be.
Stallone more so in his early years often came across as your average guy and I think that is what really helped elevate the Rocky films. And that quality is on display in First Blood. Rambo obviously has issues from his time in Vietnam, but he isn’t breaking any laws and a backwoods cop decides to pick on him unaware hrs messing with the wrong guy. Rambo only kills one person, which he had little choice and it was an accident. But in the final act when he starts destroying the town despite making sure no civilians are around we easily could have had one of those films where the hero becomes the villain, but like I said Stallone has this regular guy quality and that always makes Rambo remain the hero and sympathetic.
Overall First Blood is a great action film and features one of Stallone’s best performances. This film made a huge impact on the action film and gave Stallone another iconic character. If you think First Blood is gonna be another mindless action film you’re in for quite a surprise.
Before making it big on NYPD Blue, David Caruso has a bit part as the only cop with a conscious.