You totally thought I meant something by John Hughes, didn’t you?
In fact, I did not watch anything by John Hughes this week. Instead, I watched First Blood for the very first time. Wow, was that a different movie than what I was expecting. Until about six months ago, I thought First Blood was about Stallone running around in a foreign jungle killing bad guys with a machine gun. I guess that’s the plot description of all the sequels. This is what happens when you watch the parody before the actual movie it’s making fun of. Still. Love you, Hot Shots Part Deux!
Here are some random, mostly incredulous notes in response to First Blood. Warning: there are spoilers. I don’t even know how to begin talking about this movie without discussing the ending, so, yeah. Total spoilers.
I love this poster. I especially like the implication that he wasn’t fighting for his life when he was a soldier in Vietnam. Anyway.
1.) Okay, dudes. I know small towns. I was raised in a small town. My small town is smaller than the town in this movie. We’re talking two stoplights here, and the creating of the second stoplight was big news. There is no McDonalds, no Burger King, no Taco Bell. There is no Starbucks where I grew up. Think about that for a second. There are like five churches and no bookstores in Middletown. We have one of those prominent Bible saying signs. My high school, middle school, and elementary school were all on the same campus. Trust me, I GET small towns.
That being said . . . the fact that John Rambo is arrested for vagrancy, which I guess means walking quietly and soberly on a public street in an Army jacket, is so utterly ridiculous that I can’t really get behind it. Like I said, I get small-minded assholes with guns, but the whole set-up for this story really tried my normally very able suspension for disbelief. For God’s sake, I like Deep Blue Sea. You have to try to make me go, “Oh, like that would ever happen.”
2. Of course, I suppose some of this could be due to the differences in the political climate of the US between 1983 and 2010. I wasn’t alive yet in 1983, so I’m kind of relying on what I remember from Mr. Matthews’s class to get me by, but I know that when the Vietnam War happened, it was pretty much despised by everyone here, and that people would go to the airports and spit at the soldiers when they came home. Which, fucked up, but okay, trying to look past that to imagine an America still just as angry at the vets years later, except . . . in the US today, it is extraordinarily hard for me to picture a small town—you know, home-cooking, small business, god-fearin’, backbone of Americana—that’s so flagrantly disrespectful of a soldier and a soldier with honors, at that. No matter how people think of the war, I just cannot wrap my head around a Sheriff’s Department in any small town that would hunt down a VETERAN in this manner.
Like I said, I do think some of the disconnect is a generational gap. On the other hand, this movie is kind of like a love song to small town ineptitude, isn’t it? I’m amused by the fact that a lot of the people who probably really like the Rambo movies are also kind of being insulted by them, at least in this first one.
3.) On that note–I bet small town Sheriffs and, for that matter, the National Guard just LOVED this movie. I wonder how many letters have gone like so:
Please stop making people in my profession look like fucktards.
Sheriff John Q.
4.) Then again, the Green Berets probably watched this movie and were like, “Hells yeah! That’s what I’m talking about! I am SO badass!”
5.) While I mostly never buy what Will Teasle is selling, I think that Brian Dennehy acts the hell out of that role. He makes Teasle watchable and almost sympathetic. And thank God, too, because he probably has 70% of the dialogue.
6.) And ohmygod, it’s David Caruso! Excuse me a moment while I go laugh uncontrollably somewhere. Seriously, I can’t believe Caruso’s actually sort of the voice of reason in this film, at least in the first forty minutes. He’s perfectly decent as the young, “naive” cop that no one listens to. I laughed pretty hard when the cops realized that they were hunting for a Green Beret in the forest, and Caruso goes all sarcastic: “Great. That’s great.” I never thought I would laugh at anything that came out of Horatio Caine’s mouth, but First Blood proved me wrong.
7.) I absolutely adored Richard Crenna as Trautman. “God didn’t make Rambo. I made him!” I need that on a T-shirt or something. His whole presence was just so perfect. He’s like a walking, talking Chuck Norris Random Fact Generator, except, of course, he’s promoting John Rambo instead of Chuck Norris. “I didn’t come here to save Rambo from you. I came to save you from Rambo.” Fucking kills me.
8.) You know who isn’t in this movie? Women. And you know what, First Blood? Good on you. I despise all male casts that throw in that one woman as your standard tough chick in the boys club, because she’s usually more of a love interest than a tough chick, anyway, and even if she isn’t, she almost always needs saving in the end. Miranda Otto in the remake of Flight of the Phoenix is particularly useless. She’s supposed to be this real, not afraid to get dirty, tough oil rigger chick or something, but really she’s only there to flirt with Dennis Quaid, and we all know it. Don’t appeal to my feminism if you’re not going to take it seriously. I’m relieved that Rambo didn’t connect with the one nice girl in town or that the Army didn’t bring in, like, an ex-wife to try and reach him. I’m a big girl. I can deal with an all male cast, honest.
9.) Now, finally, The End of the Film . . . for starters, I really loved that Stallone probably has maybe ten lines of dialogue throughout the whole film until the last five minutes where he breaks down and gives this whole monologue. I don’t think I realized how badly this movie needed Rambo’s meltdown until it happened. It really tied the movie together in a way that I didn’t actually think was possible . . . I mean, other than loving Trautman (and seriously, how cool is it that he was in Hot Shots: Part Deux? I really have to watch that movie again) I was honestly ready to write this one off as an ‘Eh, whatever’ movie.
But the breakdown works. The emotion that Stallone gives is . . . well, stunning, to tell you the truth. Sorry, Sly lovers, but I don’t find Sylvester Stallone to be that great of an actor. Even in this movie, even in action sequences, I found him more funny than intimidating. His whole, “Don’t push it, or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe. Let it go. Let it go” . . . yeah, not buying that. Those lines should have been intimidating as hell. I should have wanted to back up into the cushions of my couch and hide there until the Scary Man went away. Instead, I was just sort of like, “Yeah, okay, whatever, dude.” Oh, and the “intense eyes” he makes while trying to ram another car off the road? I was full-on giggling at that. I don’t care how many people he can take out. I would hire John McClane to save my ass over Rambo any day.
So, when Stallone burst into tears and started talking about his dead friend, I just . . . I was not anticipating the emotional reaction I got. The whole movie was just waiting for that moment to happen, and I was seriously impressed with it when it did.
10.) That being said . . . as much as I felt the emotion that Stallone dealt out, and as much as I approved of his Ugly Cry (the likes I haven’t seen since Mark Hamil in Empire Strikes Back) when he’s giving the monologue, Stallone . . . he sounds like he’s had a fucking stroke. There, I said it. You can’t understand the man. I got ‘friend’ and ‘pieces of him’ and ‘all over me’ somewhere in there, and I managed to put together the gist of what he was saying, but Stallone’s delivery wasn’t just difficult; it was incomprehensible. On one hand, it’s a testament to the actor when I’m sincerely moved while simultaneously going, “. . . what?” On the other, you should probably be able to hear the speech that the entire movie has been building to, shouldn’t you? Just a thought.
In conclusion . . . I have no real conclusion. I can’t decide what to grade this one. I’m just . . . lost, people. I’m so divided.