In Praise of Stallone’s Rambo (the first two)

So after I was convinced to go see the new Rambo film (and loved it), it occurred to me that I hadn’t ever seen Rambo III, hadn’t seen Rambo: First Blood Pt. II in it’s entirety, and it was well over 20 years since I’d seen First Blood.

So I’m on a quest. The new film comes out on DVD May 27th, so I want to familiarize myself with the older films. I remembered thinking that First Blood was a decent movie, but both Sly and Rambo became whipping boys shortly thereafter, so I’ve pretty much discounted the character.  

So……First Blood. The film’s got a weak link, and it ain’t Sly. Richard Crenna’s performance is painful. Otherwise, this is a spectacularly good movie (as long as you accept the idea that the whole movie’s about a disagreement over where Rambo can eat, escalating as it does). What’s amazing is Sly’s performance, especially his breakdown at the end. I really can’t say enough about Sly. He acts his ass off in this movie. The supporting cast (with the exception of Crenna) is strong too, especially Brian Dennehy.

It looks great too. It’s hard to believe that the director is the same guy who did Weekend at Bernie’s, but there you have it. The scenery is gorgeous, the action scenes are great, and the whole film is well-paced. There isn’t a flat spot in it.

I do like the alternate ending better than the theatrical one, but then there would be no…..

Rambo: First Blood Pt. II. What an awful title, eh? Came out my junior year of high school, and I had no interest in seeing it. In fact, other than bits and pieces I’d seen on TV, I hadn’t watched the entire film until last night, and sat through half of it going, “oh, so that’s where Hot Shots Part Deux got that from.

R:FBpII is a silly movie, and pales in comparison to it’s predecessor. But as an action film it acquits itself very well. The racial stereotypes are quaint, and chest-beating patriotism is there in full-force. I did have to fight to keep from laughing at the helicopter scene at the end (thank you Weird Al and the cast of UHF), but overall it’s a pretty good movie.

Stallone (again) plays Rambo with a sincerity that is utterly lacking in his other films of the era (Tango & Cash, anyone?). No, it’s not the character study that the first film is, but it’s still a great performance.

George Cosmatos does a fine job directing the film and keeping it on a serious point (unlike his next film, Cobra). Again, this film is beautifully shot, and paced extraordinarily well.


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