From: Subject: Date: April 21, 2005 3:53:51 PM CDT Hankblog

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Movie Retrospectives: One Man Armies
First Blood

Name: John J. Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), former Army Green Beret during the Vietnam War. Rambo is now struggling to find a place in a world where he is feared and despised for the actions he took while serving his country.

Mission: Survival and revenge. After being hassled by a redneck sheriff (Brian Dennehy) in the northwest while looking for an old army buddy, Rambo finds himself on the wrong side of the law. He's wrongly arrested, beaten, but breaks out. When Dennehy's Sheriff Will Teasle makes this a personal vendetta, the war is on.

Allied forces: Col. Samuel Trautman (Richard Crenna), Rambo's C.O. in Vietnam. Trautman tries valiantly to convince Teasle of the folly of his thirst to nail Rambo. It falls on deaf ears.

Enemy combatants: Sheriff Teasle, and his loose gathering of lawmen that ranges from the fellow redneck good ol' boy in Deputy Sergeant Arthur Gault, to the more reflective Deputy Mitch (a very young David Caruso), who seems to understand the fool's errand that trying to catch Rambo really is.

Success of mission: Rambo does get a fair amount of payback, but the damage wrought in the course of duty is surprisingly low. Though he does seriously injure a large number of deputies, there is only one verifiable on screen death, and that is the result of an accident. lists three more in a car crash in a later scene, but those kills aren't verifiable, and the car itself does not explode. Considering the subsequent carnage in the two sequels to this movie, seems odd that they should be so death ridden when the original was not.

Other notable activity: Typically wooden acting from Sly, although he is mercifully not called upon to speak much at all. He does have one tear streaked speech at the end to Trautman that is almost wholly unintelligible. Stallone is to articulation in this movie what Brad Pitt was to it in Snatch. Sadly, Stallone's gibberish isn't nearly as entertaining because it isn't played for laughs in any way.

Summation of activity:
It's interesting to watch this movie, because in its own ham handed way, it does raise some interesting questions. Would this movie play the same way if Rambo's character were a black man being harassed by white lawmen? The message would take on a whole different meaning under those circumstances.

And while I do get the impression that this movie is something of a fave among the conservative crowd, I find that odd considering that this movie carries a very strong anti-war message. Trautman's voice of reason coming from a career officer carries a little more weight as he lectures Rambo to take a look at what his personal war has wrought. It's a much more peacenik message than one would expect out of a movie such as this, and in some respects, I think that message actually plays pretty well, despite Stallone's dramatic limitations. It's an interesting discussion/debate, at least in my mind.

Next up: Maximum carnage from the Gubernator's John Matrix (who came up with that cockamamie name) in Commando.