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There are certain movies that last with you, even though they are not meant to. There are movies that have no emotional content to boast of, no melodrama, no heart-warming love story, just a guy fighting other guys, like a killing machine. These typical action movies should be just enjoyed for the moment, and they generally are. But then, there are some unfaithful ones that break the rules of the genre, and intend to stick with you, for all reasons right or wrong. First Blood (Rambo) does just that; and I am glad it does, simply because it combines the social and mental stigma that scarred the Vietnam War veterans.
An unforgettable, unparalleled cinematographic experience, Sylvester Stallone’s First Blood (Rambo) is a captivating tale of survival, and of unmitigated adventure. The action packed film vividly captures the heroics of the only survivor of the elite ‘Alpha A team’, the former Green Beret, adept at hand to hand combat, and fighting a callous society, represented by Hope Town’s sheriff Will Teasle [Brian Dennely].
Based on the book by David Morrell, this by the way has a different ending compared to as seen in the movie, the story grips from the start. John J Rambo [Stallone], difficult to adjust in a society that doesn’t care for those who gave it all in the Vietnam War, wanders from town to town, in need of a job and enters Hope Town but his long hair and untidy looks immediately offend Teasle who warns him off Hope town. Rambo has done no wrong and obviously finds the Sheriff’s orders difficult to follow.
Charged with vagrancy, Sheriff’s minions spray him with a hose, beat him, and torture him. Their attempt to shave off his scruffy beard is the cul-de-sac that sends Rambo back into combat mode, with memories of the bygone times in Vietnam.
The subsequent action of this one man army thrills the audience no end as his bare hands are sufficient to ward off the cronies of the sheriff. The audience applauds him as he makes his way into the deserted jungle on a stolen motorcycle. Being more sinned against than sinning, Rambo wins the viewers’ full sympathy making the audience gasp as he runs in the forest with just a knife attached to a makeshift handle for protection and to live off the land. His unmatched histrionic abilities go to make the words agility and prowess to become synonymous with his name.
Despite being an anti-hero, Rambo’s pursuit to survival wins hearts. Although Rambo is capable to kill all his pursuers yet being innocent at heart and having lived amidst tragedies of an unprecedented magnitude, he values life. Come what may he instinctively shrinks from shedding blood. Yet, in spite of himself, without meaning to, he sheds the first blood when a rock thrown in self defence at the relentless pursuers’ helicopter results in a fatal tragedy.
Col. Samuel Trautman [Richard Crenna], the former Commanding Officer of Rambo’s Old Special Forces Unit, alone knows the capability of the guerrilla-warfare-trained Rambo but Trautman’s warnings to the overconfident town sheriff go unheeded. Washington State Patrol and 200 guards notwithstanding the manhunt is a total failure for the valiant Rambo survives all odds, surmounts all hurdles, no questions asked. The Authorities’ propelled manhunt only leads to destruction of not only sheriff’s office but also the town’s main street. As an emotionally charged Rambo aims at sheriff, Trautman uses the emotional-blackmail-weapon to persuade Rambo to surrender himself to the Authorities. The stay in the maximum security prison, with its stress on intense labour is to provide to this innocent and hunted man with a measure of stability.
This superb action film, with its dark-horse-box-office-hit stance is a tribute to the director-actor-writer’s caliber who lends the whole action sequence credibility and substance. And the audience believes in his abilities to enter – sans fear – one tricky situation after another and emerge the unconquered hero they have come to love. Whether Rambo is throwing cops aside or effecting the twinkling-of-an eye jail break with mere use of fists, the audience fully supports and believes his valour.
The typhoon like velocity of Rambo’s onslaughts is as sudden as dramatic. No wonder the film transcends cast, colour, creed and the geographic boundaries in its one large sweep and could draw crowds to the cinemas even today!