Discovering Rambo


“They drew first blood, not me.”  -John Rambo  


Tonight I’m watching First Blood for the first time. Even though I grew up in the 80s, I never watched this or any other Rambo flick. Rocky yes, Rambo no. At some point, I’m sure I knew a few things about Rambo but nearly 30 years on, I have no idea what those things were.


Rambo is a Vietnam vet who walks to find his last remaining friend. A loooong walk it seems clear. The friend died the previous summer which is news to Rambo. Whoops. What a great way to indicate how disconnected this guy is.


David Caruso? Ok. So peculiar to see him here. Especially since he’s so young and innocent in this role. Verrrry Howdy Doody.  


The sheriff’s car tumbles down an embankment and flips, landing top down. The sheriff gathers himself then pushes his way out of the door, stumbling out. This is 1982. Had it been 1987, the car would have immediately exploded into a massive fireball.


So, Rambo is an innocent until the sheriff gives him unwarranted grief. The belligerence of Rambo combined with the callow brutality of two police officers sparks a frightening combination of chase and escape. Okay. After 20 minutes of exposition, let the fireworks begin!


Except that there aren’t fireworks… I thought these were high body count movies but apparently that comes later. Update: He gets a gun then throws it down. He doesn’t keep a gun until the very end of the movie.


Early on there is some amazing scenery and stunt work. It’s hard to imagine superstars doing stunts like this. Wow. Cliff dives onto giant trees. Nice.


He spares the life of the sheriff who precipitated the whole situation. Rambo~Batman?


“Don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe. Let it go. Let it go.” 


Richard Crenna’s Col. Trautman character is hilarious to me. He’s basically Yoda with a stack of joke books.


A rocket launcher!?!  Well, at least the yokels that use it are appropriately impressed by it. Is it sad that I immediately thought about the S-A-M that took down the Rwandan Presidential plane in 1994, sparking the genocide in that country? (Yes. Yes it is.)


The unfolding of the tale is thoughtful and well done. We get some nice revelations as the movie proceeds.


There’s a second violent car crash. Rambo puts a police car (they’re shooting at him) into a parked car. The parked car explodes but the cops’ doesn’t and they’re presumably fine. He doesn’t kill them. It takes a very deliberate action to set the commandeered Army vehicle on fire.


What a weird movie?!? This is really not the ‘shoot em up’ movie I expected. Rambo blows up lots of stuff but not people. The only guy Rambo tries to kill is Sheriff Teasle (the clear villain) and even he gets spared.


The soliloquy at the end is incredibly powerful. I can only imagine what it might have been like to watch that as someone who lived through Vietnam. Wow.


John Rambo is a compelling character in part because I knew so little about him at the start of the movie. Like everyone watching in the theatre! Smartly done.


This is a 90 minute movie. It’s very tightly made. There’s basically nothing extraneous. I can absolutely understand why sequels were made to this. So many possibilities for next steps. Hmm.


Although I’m guessing the sequels lose most of the important psychological elements and political subtexts in exchange for massive firepower. Hey, lightning rarely strikes the same movie franchise twice.


I’ll have to think about the Batman parallels too. There’s probably a deeper connection between the two than I initially noticed. Good stuff.





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