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Sylvester Stallone had his first non-Rocky hit playing lovable sociopath John Rambo in this lean, mean action thriller, in which the eternally misunderstood killing machine is hunted through the forests of the Pacific Northwest by an army of cops and National Guardsmen.
1982 was a turning point in Stallone's career: even as the mega-grossing Rocky III took his trademark likable lunkhead into comic-book territory with the outsized villainy of Mr. T, the same year's First Blood became his first non-Rocky hit and began his transformation from sort-of dramatic actor to larger-than-life action star. Stallone stars as Vietnam vet and former Special Forces hotshot John Rambo (a part previously turned down by Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta), whose mistreatment at the hands of a small-town sheriff (Brian Dennehy) turns him into a one-man army, leading the cops and National Guard on a brutal manhunt through the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Like many films that usher in major filmmaking trends, First Blood is surprisingly unlike the eighties action movies that it helped to spawn: while the name "Rambo" has become synonymous with cartoonish, brain-dead Hollywood excess, this first entry is lean, mean and gritty, with a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards its neurotic "hero" that would evaporate completely in the tub-thumping sequels.