(This is the sixth in a series of reviews of the entire Rocky / Rambo sequence)
Now is the time when you begin to wonder why you choose to such an inane thing as watching and reviewing eight Sylvester Stallone films in just a few days.
I’ll give Stallone credit for one thing. First Blood is honestly a different movie from the entire Rocky series. The character Stallone plays is even mostly a different character from Rocky. That said, John Rambo is exactly who Rocky would have become if he had served as a Green Beret in Vietnam. It’s not so much that Rambo is a different character from Rocky, just that he’s in a different situation from Rocky.
And when you think about it, even the two characters’ situations aren’t entirely different: they both have no practical skills. Fighting is all they can do well. Since there are only a few circumstances in everyday life where fighting is appropriate, they struggle… a lot.
That said, First Blood is a better movie than all the Rocky movies except the first one. It’s certainly more entertaining — especially if you like violence. If there’s one thing Rambo’s good at, it’s coming up with new and unusual ways to hurt people real bad without actually killing them.
The movie also has a relatively reasonable plot — we understand why Rambo does what he does, and it all makes sense, in a far-out, over-the-top sort of way. In case you’re not familiar with the plot of First Blood, it’s the story of a Vietnam veteran who has lost all his fighting buddies and is wandering around the Cascade Mountains in the early 1980s. A small-town sheriff arrests him for vagrancy, the deputies mistreat him while they’re booking him, and, spurred by a flashback of being a POW in Vietnam, Rambo goes berserk.
Since he’s been trained to be a cold-blooded killer, the bumbling cops in the town have a difficult time catching him, eventually cornering him in a mountain pass, but not before suffering horrendous casualties at his expert hands. The action in the film rarely slows down as Rambo makes one daring escape after another. He’s finally surrounded back in town in the sheriff’s office, and he’s carted off by his former commander from Vietnam to start bulking up for his next sequel.
They actually filmed an alternate “suicide” ending, which was included on the DVD, and which we dutifully watched. Whether or not that ending would have been preferred, I don’t think Stallone’s a good enough actor to pull it off, and it fell flat.