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Revisiting Cinema's Past With a Millennial: 'First Blood'

Widely known as the launch of a popular action franchise, one of Stallone's finest performances centered around war and PTSD.
Credit: Orion Pictures
First Blood (1982) Directed by Ted Kotcheff Shown: Sylvester Stallone

ST. LOUIS — In a new quarantine-infused time-killing activity, I will revisit a single film from each year since the year I was born, beginning with 1982.

Here's what you need to know about "First Blood:"

Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy, and Richard Crenna starred in a movie directed by Ted Kotcheff and co-written by Stallone. 

Metacritic Score: 61 

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%

Budget/Worldwide Gross: $15 million, $125 million

Fun Fact: Stallone hated the first cut of the film so much, he felt like trashing it. He told the producers to give other characters more and to cut his own screen time. This ended up cutting the overall running time in half, leading to the finished product. From IMDB.com.

Did I see this film in theaters? No. The only problem being that I wasn't born yet.

Why I love it so much? This is an 80's film that carried the flavor of the 1970's in its DNA, from the aesthetic all the way down to the portrayal of the characters and the simplistic story. This film is well known for launching the highly popular Rambo series, but it's an underrated look at the true effects of post-traumatic stress disorder from Vietnam veterans.

Stallone's John Rambo is a veteran Green Beret who is forced into the mountains when a sheriff (Dennehy in a great turn) and his deputies physically abuse him at their precinct. In the beginning of the film, he's simply walking the streets back just back from the war and wants a warm bed and a good meal. Due to prejudice against the war and its combatants, Sheriff Teasle harasses Rambo and the entire film hinges off an unneeded hatred and the dire state of the world.

The action in this film is superbly crafted, especially for the times. CGI didn't really exist back then, so the effects abilities were limited, which forced the filmmakers to rely on true stunt work. From the sequence where Rambo experiences PTSD while being showered down and breaks out of the building to the final battle at the supply store, the action is hard-boiled and blunt. A scene where an officer falls out of a helicopter after the airborne carrier is hit by a rock is still jarring to the naked eye.

This is one of Stallone's top three performances. He wasn't a full-blown superstar yet, only an actor who had an Oscar under his belt for "Rocky" and some smaller roles. This is one of his most honest and heartbreaking performances. The scene near the very end where Rambo tearfully confesses the rage swirling inside of him to his one confidant in Crenna's Trautman is a tear-jerking moment that doesn't get old.

The movie may been widely viewed as the launch of one of action cinema's finest heroes, but it's more of a testament to the effects of war and how the general public viewed it from afar. Prejudice can lead to deadly encounters, even between a group of Americans thought to be fighting on the same side.

It's quietly powerful, taut, quick at 93 minutes, and the action still connects during this modern age of green screens and trickery.

It is available on Amazon Prime and YouTube for $2.99. Spend some time with a young Stallone in one of his best roles while you hang out in comfy pants.

ST. LOUIS - Spenser (Mark Wahlberg) has a good heart and a mean punch, but he can never get the two to merge on a healthy road. The right thing and Spencer just don't get on the same page.

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