Plot: What’s it about?
John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is a decorated soldier who served his country in Vietnam, earning a Medal of Honor in the process. But when he returned home, he was not hailed as a hero, since most people disapproved of the U.S. presence in the region, so he became disillusioned about his place in the world. So Rambo becomes a drifter and as he hitchhikes to visit some soldier friends, he finds himself in the wrong place, at the wrong time. He stops in a small town to get some food, only to be approached by the local law, Sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy). Teasle asks Rambo to leave town, but when Rambo states he just wants some food and then he will depart, Teasle arrests him as a vagrant. While he sits in the cell, Rambo is abused by one of the deputies and Teasle sees no reason to intervene, so Rambo bides his time. As memories from his prison camp stay swirl in his mind, Rambo decides to break loose and escapes, heading toward a wooded area to find safety, as well as prepare for his attackers. As Teasle and his men prepare to engage Rambo, can Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna) stop them in time, or will they discover first hand the extent of Rambo’s abilities in battle?
This is the original, the film that started it all and in most circles, First Blood is considered to be the best of the three pictures. I’d have to agree with that, as it has not only terrific action sequences, but an excellent premise, some well crafted suspense, and characters that are well developed, making it a good movie, not just a good action movie. I’ve seen this film countless times and it never loses its impact, it has all the needed elements to be good and those elements are used well, especially the actors. Sylvester Stallone is excellent as Rambo and he is called on to do some real acting here, not just the action star requirements of the sequels, so his performance is based more on his thespian skills in this picture. Richard Crenna is solid as Trautman and would return for the two sequels, while Brian Dennehy (Silverado, Cocoon) is good as the local sheriff, which is a complex role, without question. I simply cannot recommend First Blood enough, it is a well made movie that refuses to settle for being an action flick, instead striving to be a tense personal drama, which I think it turns out to be.
Video: How does it look?
First Blood is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a step up from the other home video editions, including the import HD-DVD, but the jump isn’t as substantial as I had hoped. There isn’t as much grain this time around, which is excellent, so the visuals don’t suffer from much softness. As far as detail level, you’ll notice an increase in depth, but this isn’t a crystal clear movie, nor will it ever be, more than likely. The colors seem brighter and more natural in this presentation, while black levels are more stark, thanks to the reduced grain. This is by all means a welcome improvement all around, but don’t expect a dynamic leap, as this movie doesn’t offer such a night & day difference.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is where this new Blu-ray releases leaves previous versions in the dust, as the DTS HD soundtrack is a sizable improvement in all respects. Even the laid back portions of the audio seem more refined here, as dialogue is crisp and clear, while immersion is more present to boot. So the more subtle sounds of the woods come to life, not to mention the basic elements that you don’t think about, but still add to the experience. Not to discount the action scenes however, as this track has immense power and will put your surrounds into overdrive. This is a terrific soundtrack and a nice upgrade over previous versions. This disc also includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX option, as well as English and Spanish subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Up first is an audio commentary with star Sylvester Stallone. He talks at length about how he approached the project, with a focus on how he prepared to bring John Rambo to life. Stallone also discusses other production details, but silence is common in those moments, for sure. We also have a second audio commentary track with writer David Morrell, who discusses the trials & tribulations of bringing his character to the screen, as well as some background on this books, which is highly interesting. Morrell is well spoken and seems to have prepared for this session, so it is well worth a listen. A look behind the scenes is offered in Drawing First Blood, which runs just over twenty minutes and features new interviews with Morrell, stars Richard Crenna and Sylvester Stallone, and members of the production team. Morrell takes us back to the source of his Rambo novels, while the others talk about their own experiences from the production, making for an enjoyable, but brief look behind the scenes. This disc also includes a trivia track option, as well as some deleted scenes.