Before John Rambo became one of the most parodied action figures in film history, known primarily for strafing deserts full of enemies with his machine gun, First Blood introduced him as a hunted dog just trying to stay alive after a wrongful arrest. In a performance mostly free from dialogue, which many agree finds Sylvester Stallone at his best, the actor makes frantic escape an engrossing experience. The film's middle portion is its best, as Rambo sprints through a dense forest, emerging bleeding but intact after many near misses, including the memorable moment when he's forced to leap from the side of a rocky crag, hoping against hope that the evergreens beneath him will provide cushion. That Rambo's survival instincts often involve killing innocent cops is rendered less offensive by the first act, in which he is imprisoned merely for looking sketchy and utterly mishandled by every station of hick cop. A film whose skewed morality is best ignored in favor of veteran action director Ted Kotcheff's finesse with crisp set pieces, First Blood was a hit whose relative subtlety was quickly overshadowed by the box-office bravura and overblown idiocy of its sequels.
by Derek Armstrong review