Tuesday, July 02, 2002

The Movie I Watched Last Night XXV
First Blood
Despite Sylvester Stallone's extremely guttural performance, this remains one of my favorite action-adventure flicks from childhood. (I was 9 when it came out.) A drifter, Viet Nam War veteran, Green Beret, and guerrilla warfare expert pushed too far by a parochial small-town sheriff, John Rambo wigs out and heads to the hills. The movie is basically a series of chase scenes and fight scenes, but director Ted Kotcheff builds in ample suspense -- particularly when Rambo's crawling through the abandoned mine. Brian Dennehy plays the small-town sheriff to good effect and we're treated to a young, boyish David Caruso, but Richard Crenna's Col. Sam Trautman is a little heavy-handed and dampens some of the drama and interpersonal sparring. Even though the movie helped sales of survival knives skyrocket -- particularly if they had a compass in the hilt -- I'm disappointed that the movie became the progressively weaker franchise it evolved as. Based on a novel by David Morrell, the movie doesn't capture the psychological workings of Rambo -- especially the flashback scenes and memories that trigger his lashing out -- and totally changes the ending. In the novel, Rambo dies, making for a nicely ambivalent and slightly pessimistic ending. In the movie, he lives -- perhaps to ensure the making of Rambo: First Blood Part II three years later.

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