First Blood [1982]

Six hours of monosyllabic John Rambo high jinks, best savored in surround sound (for the bone-rattling explosions) and with your brain on pause (for everything else). Sylvester Stallone's second signature character, after Rocky, a seething ex-Green Beret killing machine, went from Viet-vet victim in the original picture, First Blood, flipping out over the ingratitude of his beloved homeland, to a muscle-bound terminator in Rambo III, mowing down Commies in the deserts of Afghanistan. You should consider bypassing the boxed set in favor of just the middle chapter, Rambo: First Blood Part 2, written by James Cameron and directed by George Pan Cosmotos. It's the most balanced and satisfying of the three films: Rambo is dropped back into 'Nam to rescue some POWs, and the action builds steadily in scale and ferocity. Each fireball seems to be bigger than the last. Of all the recent headbanger action movies, only the first Die Hard offers more bang for the buck. The underrated character actor Richard Crenna (a standout sleazebag in Body Heat), as Rambo's military mentor and staunch defender, is the series' secret weapon, providing some welcome human ballast. --David Chute

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