A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie, the most successful of the movies featuring the Rambo character, has many moments of violent bloodshed (including the hero sewing his own gashed arm shut) and foul language. Rambo's incredible guerilla survival skills have special appeal for young fans, but there's lots of not-to-be imitated stuntwork.
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What's the story?
FIRST BLOOD introduced to movies the John Rambo character, a cross between G.I. Joe and Tarzan, and a virtual icon of American film in the 1980s. We see him first as a shaggy-haired drifter trying to visit an old platoon comrade in rural Washington state -- where he learns the man, his last surviving friend, has died of Agent Orange-related cancer. The downcast Rambo is subsequently sighted by bullying local cops, harassed and arrested for vagrancy. When the small-town lawmen brutalize him in the town jail, flashbacks to Rambo's wartime torture by Viet Cong push the well-trained Green Beret back into full combat mode and instincts. Escaping into the wilderness, he fights back using guerilla weapons and tactics. Ultimately he makes one-man war on the entire town with captured National Guard firepower.
Is it any good?
First Blood is a crude but often effective actioner. Even if its worthwhile themes about the country's treatment of its soldiers kind of get lost in the fiery mayhem and the now-classic pose of the Rocky leading man brandishing enormous rifles and bandoliers.
The problem-plagued production shot alternate endings, one in which Rambo died, another in which he didn't. Audience reaction made the filmmakers take the softer option -- and made the producers very wealthy when the film and its sequels became a hit. At least Rambo got to deliver a powerful climactic monologue (the only time he speaks at length) that puts into words the vet's feelings of anger and betrayal. And reminds us that Stallone could be a fine actor, when not caricaturing himself.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difference between the military and the civilian mindsets in the movie, and how Rambo was educated by the Army: "When in doubt, kill." You can also discuss the shabby treatment of American Vietnam veterans compared to other war vets, and how Hollywood's portrayals of them -- either psychos or super-commandos -- contributed to the problem.
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