First Blood (1982) Review

Director: Ted Kotcheff

Genre(s): Action, Drama

Runtime: 93 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

First Blood is the first entry into the Rambo series, and, if you’re not a fan of run-and-gun movies, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “Why am I even reading this review?” Well, First Blood isn’t your typical Rambo film, and, even if you don’t think you’d enjoy the other flicks in the franchise, this one might be worth checking out. Compared to the other members of the series, this one’s plot is somewhat low-key, being about Vietnam War veteran and supersoldier John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) being harassed by small-town cops in the American Pacific Northwest and having to take to the neighboring, forested hills to survive.

One thing that sets First Blood apart from the rest of the 1980s shoot-’em-up pack is its microscopic body count. Rambo isn’t piling up the corpses like he does in the sequels. Despite this, the violence feels more graphic and painful than it does in Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) and Rambo III (1988). The action scenes are fantastic, despite generally being devoid of lethal carnage. This picture is far more realistic than its sequels, and it makes more grounded acts of physicality outrageously exciting. Something as simple as a guy jumping on top of a moving truck is a blast to watch here.

Jerry Goldsmith’s musical score is excellent (the film wouldn’t be the same without it), and the theme song, “It’s a Long Road,” sung by Dan Hill, is mighty effective. It’s a morally complex movie, with few clear heroes and villains (Rambo here sometimes resembles a more anti-heroic version of a slasher film bad guy). Sylvester Stallone is the picture’s backbone, providing an able performance that keeps it from straying into kitsch territory. His character, Rambo, is ridden with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), giving him a lot more depth than he’s often given credit for.

Like Death Wish (1974), First Blood is actually a remarkably well-crafted drama that sometimes gets dismissed due to its connection to its Crazy Town sequels. It works best as a rugged action-drama that moves the audience as it excites them with violent fireworks. It’s not as fist-pumpingly heroic as the other installments in the series, but it’s certainly a wild ride.

My rating is 9 outta 10.

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