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Review First Blood (1982), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III (1988) and Rambo (2008)

genre: action adventure

Rambo: Last Blood is upon us. Still starring Stallone as John Rambo and not some nephew or son. Amazing really! Sylvester Stallone is 73. Most soldI have yet to watch Last Blood but I felt it was time to revisit the earlier titles in the franchise and share my thoughts on them.

First Blood (1982)

John Rambo a veteran soldier returns home to visit a friend to find out he died of cancer, a consequence of being exposed to the chemicals used in the Vietnam war. Saddened by the news he walks to the nearest town to get some food and perhaps find a motel. Before he can set foot in this town the local sherrif has decided to bother him and deny him access. Clearly a sherrif who is overstepping his authority. Rambo responds like any person would do and ignores his warning. To which the sherrif played by Brian Dennehy arrests him and puts him in jail. During the booking procedure Rambo gets a flashback and attacks all of the deputies present. To be fair even without the trigger they deserved to be knocked out since they were abusive and very disrespectful towards him. 

Rambo manages to escape the police station and flee in the nearby forest. The proud sherrif and deputies then chase him into this forest to hunt him down. Very soon the roles are reserved. It's Rambo who is hunting them one by one. It's not like he is a total lunatic. He even gives the sherrif the chance to leave him alone. But of course the sherrif can't accept defeat. 

At the time and years after many critics and politicians seemed to have a problem with the violence in Rambo. I have no clue what they are on about. There is very little blood, even less gore and only one death. Perhaps it was the political message that was more the issue. But the action is satisfying since it's pure joy to see the sherrif and his deputies get punished. The political message is the fact that the American soldier (who is ready to bleed and die for his country) is not respected one bit. In this case Rambo wasn't bothering anybody but gets treated like a leper. Usually I am not too big on this kind of patriotism. However this was just a matter of basic respect and decency. Everybody should be treated with common decency and civility.

First Blood definitely is a classic. Even today it holds up. Especially the ending is heartbreaking due to Stallone's performance.

Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

The first one might have started it all. This second part is what made the franchise iconic. 

First Blood Part II barely has a story but enough to keep things compelling. Ridiculous but compelling nonetheless. I mean would the Vietnamese really keep American soldiers alive for so long after the Vietnam war? While the Vietnamese barely had money to feed themselves. Highly unlikely. Still, for the film it's one that had my sympathy. Another element that appealed to me was the addittion of sidekick Julia Nickson. Incredibly stunning woman who managed to be endearing in so little time. I don't really understand why this film and the actors got nominated for the Razzies. I mean the acting is far from superb or dazzling. But it was very serviceable. Not even close to bad or laughable. Besides both Stallone and Nickson add an emotional component to make you root for them. That is always a plus in my book.

But of course it's the action that matters. It's creative, explosive and fun. Creative? Yes. For example you can witness Rambo going full guerilla or ninja. Using bushes or mud to conceal himself. And using a bow and arrows with explosive heads. Silent (until they explode of course) but very deadly.

The conclusion felt rushed and underwhelming. But who cares? Rambo exits like a boss.

Rambo III (1988)

Another Rambo film that gets a lot of hate. Undoubtedly because it paints a good picture of the Mujahideen in the Sovjet - Afghan war. But whether you like it or not the Afghans were allies of the Americans. Strong allies. Never ever forget that! In any case Afghanistan is Russia's Vietnam and directly connects to what John Rambo and Col. Samuel Trautman (Richard Crenna) have been through. It's Trautman who warns Colonel Zaysen that there is no way he will be able to defeat the Afghan people. Like the Vietnamese they will keep fighting unless there is no one left.  (Irony of course is that years later the US forgot about his and got caught in two unwinnable wars yet again.) Naturally Colonel Zaysen needs to find out the hard way. 

In the form of John Rambo. A little older, longer hair and even more muscular. Initially Rambo is hesitant to go at it again. He claims he has found peace. We all know this is a bunch of BS. Especially when he finds out that Trautman got captured. He doesn't hesitate to rescue him and deal some pain. 

For a long time I considered Rambo 3 to be the best in the franchise. And I still do. The first time I saw this at a birthday party when I was 12. I already was heavily into movies but I can tell you that Rambo had a profound impact on all of the boys present. Rambo 3 hits all the right notes drama and action wise. It even manages to put some humour in the film. The action is exciting and explosive. Perhaps not as creative as the second one but the sheer scale of it all is quite impressive. But it mostly is just a lot of fun. That is what action films are supposed to be. 

Definitely one of the best in this franchise and an action classic for sure.

Rambo (2008)

The fourth part in the franchise feels different. Mostly this was due to the rights now being owned by Nu Image. Rambo is an independent film and had a much lower budget than before.  

It's funny how the first one still gets blasted for it's violence while it has very little and this fourth part went under the radar. It has easily the highest body count so far and is incredibly bloody and gory. I think in this one it was important to emphasize how despicable and evil the soldiers of State Peace and Development Council are. But Stallone states that due to the relative low budget the graphic violence was needed to make it memorable. In that he has succeeded tenfold. Because good god Rambo is like the Grim Reaper himself.  

Also I like how the missionaries are so ignorant and full of themselves. Even after Rambo has warned them they think they can waltz in supposedly to do God's work and not get in harms way. But then are so happy when he comes to rescue them. When are people going to realize that sometimes you need to listen and accept the truth. You can't save everyone! No matter how good the intentions are.

I really thought this was the final part. But hey, I am down with Rambo kicking ass one more time. 

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