To many, 1982’s Rambo: First Blood is an iconic movie that stands out as one of the best of the ‘80s. To others, it’s merely biceps, bullets, and bloodshed. Regardless of where you stand on that topic, Ted Kotcheff’s Sylvester Stallone-headlined picture is joining the list of old favourites getting the swanky 4K Ultra HD treatment. So, let’s see if this is a release worth picking up.
For those unfamiliar with the launching point for Stallone’s other iconic franchise, Rambo: First Blood sees Sly playing John Rambo, a Green Beret who has spent time involved in the real struggles of the Vietnam War. Now back on US soil, Rambo finds himself drifting from town to town, struggling to hold down a job, and dealing with the fallout of his time in ‘Nam. When a small-town sheriff takes a dislike to Rambo being in his locale, that’s the trigger point for this war hero to slip further down the rabbit hole of his own personal battles.
Explosions? Bloodshed? One-liners? Machismo? All ooze from the pores of Rambo: First Blood, but this is a film that is far, far more than the muscle-flexing ‘80s actioner it’s often clumsily labelled as. While casual audiences think of a shredded Stallone on a rampage to stick it to the man, First Blood is a thought-provoking marvel of a feature that was one of the first to really tackle post-traumatic stress disorder. Sly’s John Rambo is a victim of his own tortured circumstance, a man who fought in a war that he never asked to be a part of, a body and mind beaten down by the trauma of what he saw and did in Vietnam, and in turn by the reaction given to him by some of his own countrymen upon returning to US soil.
Having by this point established himself a big-name player off the back of the Rocky franchise – which by Rambo’s release had amassed three pictures based around the iconic Balboa – Stallone gives a monumental performance here. While the majority of the movie sees him in gruff, angsty, and silent mood, it’s the times that Sly does speak that resonate the most. These moments are kept to a minimum, but they hit home hard, not least his monologue in the final act where the experience and horrors of Vietnam explode and turn John Rambo into an emotional mess. It’s powerful stuff, and it reminds you of just how great Sylvester Stallone can be when he has good material to work with.
Away from the narrative of the feature, the 4K transfer of Rambo: First Blood is phenomenal, most noticeably in the movie’s chase sequences or in how the surroundings ‘pop’ during Rambo’s bloody woodland battle with the law. The visceral pain on display throughout the film – be it bubbling under the surface, or exploding in full force – looks utterly magnificent, with the bleak and battered colour palette only adding further to the tone of the movie. In terms of the special features included here, the majority have been seen on previous releases of First Blood, but the highlight is clearly the first part of the Rambo Takes the ‘80s look-back that’s spread out over the new 4K releases of the next two entries in the franchise.
Rambo: First Blood is first and foremost an oft-overlooked war classic, spinning the focus and looking at the very real and painful fallout for those involved in such traumatic events. Yes, Stallone’s gun-toting, knife-wielding, headband-adorned antics are often positioned front and centre, but First Blood is a classic of its time that hits plentiful emotional beats that are still just as relevant today as they were back in 1982.
Special Features: Two audio commentaries / Rambo Takes the ‘80s Part 1 / Drawing First Blood – Making Of / How to Become Rambo Part 1 / The Restoration / The Real Nam / Forging Heroes / Alternate Ending / Outtake / Deleted Scene / Original trailer
RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD – 4K / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: TED KOTCHEFF / SCREENPLAY: MICHAEL KOZOLL, WILLIAM SACKHEIM, SYLVESTER STALLONE / STARRING: SYLVESTER STALLONE, BRIAN DENNEHY, RICHARD CRENNA, BILL MCKINNEY, JACK STARRETT, DAVID CARUSO / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 12TH