First Blood (1982)

TED KOTCHEFF

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

USA, 1982.  Anabasis N.V., Elcajo Productions.  Screenplay by , , , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Sylvester Stallone began his second impressive franchise following the Rocky films with this exciting, motivating action film. He plays a former Green Beret who served in Vietnam and now visits a tiny Oregon town to see a fellow soldier who he finds out, in the opening sequence, is dead from Agent Orange-related cancer. Walking through the town looking for a meal, he sparks the ire of the blustery town sherriff (), gets arrested for vagrancy and then breaks out of prison. Stallone heads for the nearby Rocky Mountains hounded by the police, who turn a simple misunderstanding into all-out war when they discover that he has been trained to survive just about anything and kill anybody who gets in his way. There’s a level of hilarity to the deeply dramatic way in which the material is treated here, an attempt to create a Vietnam angst film told through explosions and gunfights, but it’s so skilfully achieved that it never reaches an embarrassing level. Ted Kotcheff’s direction is as earnest as Stallone’s performance, who really threatens to go mawkish in his closing monologue but actually manages to hit some pretty effective, genuine emotional chords. It’s a great film about rage and masculine ego, featuring some gorgeously atmospheric scenes of the west (actually British Columbia, not Oregon) and political undertones whose subversive nature is undetectable thanks to the genre. Followed by three sequels.

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