First Blood

This review was originally written for French Toast Sunday.

John Rambo, Vietnam veteran, green beret and recipient of the congressional medal of honor, is looking for an old war buddy of his. Upon hearing the news of his death – thereby making Rambo the only surviving member of his platoon – Rambo’s day is exacerbated further when the town’s sheriff (Brian Dennehy) denies him access because of his haircut, curmudgeonly manner and generally unkempt appearance. When Rambo fails to comply he’s locked up, but once the small town cops start antagonizing him, out things start to get messy.first_blood_pic1 Continue reading

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The Sand Pebbles

The year is 1926, just before one of the many Chinese revolutions. Jake Holman (Steve McQueen) is a ship’s engineer who has been transferred to a small run-down gunship named the San Pablo, or the Sand Pebble to her crew. Aboard the Pebble, Holman causes tension amongst the already tight-knit yet divided crew, which doesn’t help when the Chinese public attempt to instigate a war with the US. Continue reading

Body Heat

In a balmy summer heatwave in the American Deep South, the not-terribly-good defense lawyer Ned Racine (William Hurt with a 70s pornstar moustache) makes a random encounter with wealthy, sultry Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner), who is unhappily married to Edmund (Richard Crenna), a good man who is always away on business. Ned and Matty begin an illicit and steamy affair, and both decide that they’d be better off financially and romantically if Edmund were no longer around, so Ned, with the help of Mickey Rourke’s criminal consultant, sets out to murder him.
What sets this apart from the rest of the noir genre it draws obvious inspiration from is the copious nudity and sex scenes between the two leads, which are excessive even by today’s standards, as well as several shots of Richard Crenna in his underwear that I could have done without.
I was surprised that the plot didn’t contain more twists and turns, as in the end it was all fairly straightforward. For instance, I assumed early on that Matty’s husband Edmund would be in cahoots with either Ned or Matty, but in fact Edmund has very little to do in the story. In fact, his character arc is completed so early on that I was intrigued as to where the plot would go next. Also, some elements are set up with no eventual payoff – Matty’s niece catching Ned doing something he shouldn’t be doesn’t end up with her identifying him to the police – which led me to think that either we were deliberately fed loose threads to keep us guessing, or it’s just sloppy writing, though seeing as writer/director Lawrence Kasdan also wrote Star Wars Episodes V and VI, as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Big Chill, it’s probably the former.
I was surprised to see just how attractive Kathleen Turner used to be, as other than her vocals in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I’ve only ever known her as the dog trainer in Marley & Me (I have never willingly watched the film, it’s a favourite of the girlfriend) and as Chandler Bing’s drag-queen father in Friends, so I was rather confused that someone with such nice legs and skin could go on to be, well, Kathleen Turner.
There have been better noirs made before this (Double Indemnity) and after (Coen brothers’ debut Blood Simple), and if it weren’t for the aforementioned raunchiness there’s little chance of it being remembered today. The film isn’t necessarily bad, but its not revolutionary either.
Choose life 6/10

First Blood

The first time I watched this franchise kickstarter, as I’m sure was the case with most people who saw it after the release of the sequels, I was expecting a film more like Rambo 2-4, Stallone’s version of Red Dawn or Commando, charging around winning the Vietnam war singlehandedly, damming rivers with the sheer volume of machine gun shell casings left in his wake. But instead, First Blood follows Sly’s Vietnam vet John Rambo who, upon discovering he is the last surviving member of his crew, is run out of town by Brian Dennehy’s judgemental cop who doesn’t like the look of him. Refusing to leave, the cops – all of whom are either crooked, sadistic or offensively ginger – take him in and beat him around a bit, causing Rambo to snap and run off into the wood suffering ‘Nam flashbacks, with the cops hot on his tail and eager for revenge.
Seen from a different viewpoint, it would be easy to retell this as a horror film from the perspective of the police, with a plucky young David Caruso as the potential hero, as the small town police are taken out one by one by a sack cloth tunic wearing lunatic and an array of ingenious yet brutal traps, but this is Stallone’s show, and he puts in a committed, almost wordless performance.
Choose film 7/10