First Blood

"Nothing is over! Nothing! You just don't turn it off! It wasn't my war! You asked me, I didn't ask you! And I did what I had to do to win! But somebody wouldn't let us win! And I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport, protesting me, spitting. Calling me baby killer and all kinds of vile crap! Who are they to protest me? Who are they? Unless they've been me and been there and know what the hell they're yelling about!"    - John Rambo

release year: 1982
genre: action
viewing setting: home Bluray 1/19/20 and 4/3/17 and 8/31/15 and 2/1/15 and 6/11/13, and home DVD 12/3/09 and 12/22/03 and many other times dating back to the early 1980s

synopsis: Pushy cops in a small town mess with the wrong guy.

impressions: That summary I just gave doesn't do this movie justice. Many people forget that this relatively serious movie preceded the over-the-top Rambo sequels. What we have here is an exposition - in action-film form - of how our Vietnam veterans got mistreated by the country they fought for. The police chief is a jerk right from the start and continues to be, refusing to see or admit that he or any of his men are bullying idiots. First, he won't let Rambo even get some food in his town, suggesting that he walk 30 miles in the freezing cold to the next town to eat. Second, he arrests Rambo on ridiculous charges. Third, he ignores the fact (twice!) that one of his deputies is way out of line. Fourth, he takes it personally when that deputy gets killed (due to that man's own stupidity.) Fifth, he doesn't know when to give up and tend to his wounded, which only results in more wounded. Sixth, he later ignores further evidence of his deputies being abusive. These are small-town hick cops, the kind who were bullies as kids and grew up to be bullies as cops; they're used to doing whatever the hell they want, whether it's right or wrong, simply because they can get away with it. Their ego and stupidity won't let them realize that they are in the wrong, even when presented with clear evidence. And they can't back down from a challenge, even when they've already had their asses kicked more than once. And they use their badges to justify all of that., they all get what they deserve - see the "cost of bullying John Rambo" section below. Aside from being a great action/wilderness thrill ride with numerous military tactics used in an understated way, this movie also makes an important statement about the way the general public fails to appreciate the soldiers who fight for the freedoms the general public takes for granted. I know it's gotten better since Vietnam, but those veterans were mistreated, misunderstood, underappreciated, and sometimes vilified - and that's just wrong.

the cost of bullying John Rambo: 1 dead man, 3 dead dogs, 8 asses kicked, 6 men crippled, 1 motorcycle, 3 police cars, 1 other car, 1 Army truck, 1 gas station, 1 used car lot, 1 department store, 1 gun store, 1 police station

acting: This is a low-key performance by Stallone, actually - he only kills one person throughout the entire movie, and it's not even his fault. Rambo is a guy who just wants to be left alone, but after being denied that, he goes into war mode. Late in the movie, I realized that to him, these weren't police officers to be obeyed and respected, because they didn't earn or deserve his respect. They were just hostiles, enemies to be defeated...they declared war on him and so he responded the only way he knew how, the way he'd been trained. Brian Dennehy does a good job being the unlikeable sheriff; he's basically a decent guy who just won't admit when he's wrong or that he's overmatched. Richard Crenna is great as Rambo's former commanding officer, and possibly the only one who can shut down this new war.

      John Rambo: (after taking out six deputies and three dogs using basically just his knife) "I could have killed them all...I could have killed you. In town, you're the law. Out here, it's me. Don't push it. Don't push it or I'll give you a war you won't believe. Let it go."

quotable #2: 
      Colonel Trautman: "It can get confusing sometimes. In Vietnam, you can bet that Rambo and I got pretty confused. But we had orders...when in doubt, kill."

quotable #3: 
      Sheriff Teasle: "We found Rambo's body. As a matter of fact, it stole an army truck, blew up a gas station the other side of town."
      Colonel Trautman: "The kid is resilient."

final word: This one's underrated because many people won't take Stallone seriously. They don't know what they're missing (on either the action or the message levels) and probably couldn't appreciate it if they did.

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