First Blood 1982

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David Morrell’s novel was mooted as a project for Martin Scorcese and Robert De Niro, post Taxi Driver; if they’d taken up their reins, First Blood probably would be quite a different film from the one that Ted Kotcheff crafted for Sylvester Stallone. It would have been hard for it to be much better; First Blood is a very different wounded animal from the Rambo films that followed; rather than a muscle-bound war-god, spitting fire and knocking helicopters out of the sky with his hands, John Rambo is a depressed drifter who falls foul of the local authorities in a small town, stripped, jailed and humiliated before he fights back and makes his escape. Even then, First Blood is clearly a survivalist picture, with a small body count and the emphasis on how John’s training helps him rise about the persecution of local Sherriff Brian Dennehy. By keeping things small-scale, Kotcheff manages to make the action work; the scene in which Rambo steals a motor-bike to make his escape is still one of the most exhilarating cinematic examples of breaking the law.

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