23 March 2004 | bellkenneth
Stallone is the most underestimated actor of his age
this is certainly not the greatest film ever made. in fact, it's plot is predictable and formulaic, and every character is two-dimensional.
having said that, this is a film that is often dismissed as a macho action flick with no redeeming feature. these are opinions i would defy.
while the only imagination put into the film seems to be the various ways in which John Rambo can kill people, the basic theme is nevertheless a pretty strong one. this is not meant to be a Fellini-esque commentary on life, the universe, and everything.
the three most important characters in the film are all played by pros. you have Stallone's John Rambo, Dennehy's Sheriff Teasle, and Richard Crenna's Colonal Trautman.
Brian Dennehy hasn't missed a beat in his entire career; he's been a superb character actor since i've been watching movies, and - like Michael Caine - he always puts everything into each performance. his Sheriff Teasle is menacing, bigoted, and protective. he comes across like a man who's marked his territory and won't permit intrusions. i won't say he's brilliant, but he is absolutely believable as a small-town sheriff faced with a situation so far out of his own experience that he cannot figure out why he can't solve the problem.
Crenna is a patriarchial character, such as he often seems to play. he gives the Spec Ops Colonal Trautman enough soul to make him seem human, and enough blood and guts to make him seem like a veteran soldier.
of course, the centrepiece to the film is Sylvester Stallone. Stallone always suffers from the perception engendered by his appearance. he is a somewhat short fellow with a body of bulging unpronoucable muscles, and a sad bassett-hound face that looks like it was designed by someone out of "Oliver Twist."
but the man can flat-out act. he gives John Rambo depth and reality. he comes across as far too fit and far too silent because Rambo is far too fit and far too silent. like his character in "Copland," Stallone is playing a guy who pretty much wants to be left alone and is caught up by a bunch of people around him who are overly enthused by their own status.
while i can understand the dismissal of this film as just a patriotic action sop, i cannot also accept that Stallone does not give a good performance. the man has been characatured; he's an easy target. he's a really built short-guy. but Stallone's intelligence and creativity drove his first film, "Rocky," and neither quality has deserted him since. like Michael Caine, he does seem to take any old lame role offered to him. but he always gets paid, and he always puts everything into his performances.
i'll never campaign for this film to be considered a "great" film, but i think i'll always defend it's star as a guy who works too hard too often to get the such little credit.
i guess the best way i can put it is, i watched "First Blood," and i believed him. i believed Stallone.
last time i checked, that is what an actor is supposed to do.