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Green Beret veteran Rambo takes on a Pacific Northwest sheriff and the National Guard.
It's easy to forget that this Spartan, violent film, which begat the Rambo series, was such a big hit in 1982 because it was a good movie. Green Beret vet John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) wanders into the wrong small town to find a fellow 'Nam buddy and gets the living heck kicked out of him by the local law enforcement (led by Brian Dennehy). The vet strikes back the only way he knows how, leading to a visceral, if unrealistic, flight and fight through the local mountains. Based on the 1972 novel by David Morrell, this film saved Stallone's then-foundering career and the Rambo character became the inspiration for countless political cartoons. But this film is Deliverance without the moral ambiguity. --Keith Simanton
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Released soon after the third installment of the Rocky franchise, this first Rambo film is by far the best of the lot, absent the heavy jingoism of the sequels. Casting Stallone in the familiar David-against-Goliath role works well here, particularly with the Jerry Goldsmith score. Whatever people may say about Sly and his limited range, he has always played the underdog well. Strong cast, especially Brian Dennehy and Richard Crenna.
The film steers clear of killing Rambo; the book's ending was clearly not made-for-Hollywood. Rest assured, the final monologue here packs plenty of figurative punch. Relevant social commentary on Vietnam, too, a scant eight years after the U.S. withdrawal.
The previous (Special Edition) release from Artisan is the one with author David Morrell's scholarly commentary. This Ultimate Edition makes do with an excellent track from Stallone--particularly enjoyed when he called Dennehy a "crazy circus bear"--as well as a couple deleted scenes.
Predator is a better movie, First Blood is a better film. Does that make sense? Who cares, watch both.