First Blood (1982) - 7/10
I was too young for Rambo when it was released and despite its pop culture status, all the sequels simply past me by. My only references then are Gizmo in Gremlins donning a red headband and a pretty awful commodore 64 computer game. John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is back from Vietnam, looking for a place to stay. His address book doesn’t have many options and folks aren’t too friendly to returning Vets. Especially a local sheriff Teasle (Brian Dennehy), who drives John out of town to keep things “boring”. This isn’t going to be boring though is it. John is a likeable guy, with some serious PTSD. He’s stumbled across some small town American conservative authority and inside 10 minutes, I’m already looking forward to him teaching them some manners. The yokels trigger some bad POW memories and Rambo’s violent past quickly meets his present. Taking out a police station and making an escape on a motorbike into the pacific northwests grey rocky wilderness. Essentially what ensues is a game of cat and mouse as the idiot cops do what they do in America and Rambo outsmarts them A-Team style. Not much is asked of Stallone, other than the physicality of the role, but despite this he’s very good. Out in the woods, Rambo’s at home. The cops however are bumbling around comically as Rambo picks them off. It’s all simple stuff, but the tension is palpable. Largely down to the setting. The rugged terrain looks great on camera and gives this the heft it needs to fend off the cheesy televisual nature of the authorities, plotting and postering. Dennehy is good too, he plays the vile stubborn sheriff well. His character keeps things personal and keeps the narrative focussed. Neither will give up, Rambo has no guns, but Teasle brings in the National Guard and what happens when you throw more guns into the mix America? Yep, more blood. Subtle this is not, with a fairly hefty pyrotechnic budget its route one 80s blockbuster, but there’s just enough substance and with a thrifty runtime it ticks along nicely, before we get to the expected all action finale. Rambo is a good film, but it’s hard not to watch it and see it as fuel for arguing Americas stupidity in both gun culture and appetite for war.