Recently, the Sylvester Stallone movie First Blood has been playing a lot on cable. I hadn't watched it in decades and I have to admit I had forgotten what a morally ambiguous film it is, as well as just being a flat out good movie. I suspect what happened is that it got overshadowed by the following two sequels with their gung ho patriotic themes and John Rambo being an unabashed all-American hero who fights and defeats evil communists.
First Blood, which is adapted from a novel with the same name, gives us a very different Rambo. A former Green Beret who served in Vietnam, where we later learn he was "an expert in guerrilla warfare...In Vietnam his job was to dispose of enemy personnel. To kill. Period", Rambo back home in the United States is an aimless drifter who can't fit back into American society.
But what struck me as most interesting about First Blood is how it resonates with what has been happening in America in the last few years, particularly after the death of George Floyd last year, over the abuse of police authority and the violent reaction it can elicit.
In a short introduction, Rambo visits the home of a former comrade in arms from Vietnam only to find out that the man had passed away months earlier from cancer. He then proceeds to walk into a nearby town called Hope, only to draw the attention of the town sheriff Will Teasle, portrayed by Brian Dennehy. Teasle accosts Rambo and offers to give him a ride out of town. Though he tries to present a friendly face to Rambo, he becomes cross when Rambo asks him why the sheriff won't allow him to get a bite to eat in the town. After briefly letting his mask slip, Teasle's friendly tone returns and he tells Rambo that it's a boring town and he gets paid to keep it that way. One gets the sense that Teasle has probably dealt with numerous other outside drifters in the same way.
The scene below is where the plot of First Blood kicks into motion: