This year marked the 40th anniversary of the release of Rambo: First Blood which spawned four sequels. Even with four sequels, Rambo: First Blood still stands as a unique movie. Watching the first Rambo, in contrast with the other four, is a trip. They are very different movies. First Blood is a very serious film that focuses on a veteran suffering from mental health issues and a world that doesn’t want him. The four sequels are balls-out-action flicks that are popcorn movies first and foremost and don’t offer anything.
I recently watched Rambo and realized that although it is the most grounded of the film series, it has some very bad tactics.
In the 1980s, there wasn’t a huge concern with realism, especially in military and action movies. Yet, since it’s the movie’s 40th anniversary, I thought it would be fun to talk about the terrible tactics used in Rambo: First Blood.
Rambo’s knife kind of sucks
Rambo carries a massive knife. When asked why he carries it, he responds, “for hunting.” What can you hunt with a knife? According to Rambo, anything. Rambo heads into the wilderness with nothing more than this giant knife, and that’s all he needs!
Once in the wilderness of Washington, we see him open the handle, use the cap as a compass, and later use some survival supplies plucked out of the handle to stitch up a wound. It’s a neat idea, but the problem is this means the knife lacks a full tang.
A blade has a full tang when it is one solid piece of steel from the tip to the handle. Any knife that lacks a full tang is at risk of breaking where the blade meets the handle. The bigger the knife, the bigger the risk. So, a big heavy blade without full tang is useless for doing big heavy blade things.
The tourniquet advice
Rambo doesn’t kill anyone throughout the film. You can argue he caused the death of the cop in the helicopter, but the pilot was the one who rocked the chopper and caused the cop to fall. Rambo might not kill many people, but he hurts plenty of them. One of them is the dog handler whose Dobermans are pursuing Rambo.
Rambo shoots this dog handler in the leg to end his efforts. As the dog handler bleeds out, the sheriff puts a tourniquet on him, which is a smart idea. The bad idea is the advice the sheriff gives.
“Release that tourniquet every 15 minutes!” he says. That is a terrible idea all around.
Releasing the tourniquet will cause you to lose more blood and will likely dissolve any potential clots you might have built. Once a tourniquet is in place, it should only ever be removed by a qualified medical provider. Maybe this was the standard advice at the time, but these days it’s absolutely terrible advice.
Hip fire for days
What are sights? It’s a good question because not many action heroes ever seem to learn how to use them. After all, how can you see an actor’s face if they are aiming their weaponry? This is a problem that’s plagued action movies until only recently. Oddly enough, it seems like only the bad guys in First Blood aim their weapons, but they still never hit anything.
Rambo, on the other hand, just fires full auto from the hip and hits exactly what he wants to. Most people remember the scene where he lights up buildings with an M60. Admittedly he is not trying to be super precise, and his target is literally the size of a building.
Outside of the M60, Rambo applies the hip fire technique to his M16 in one portion of the film. He’s not trying to kill anyone, so he intentionally misses and suppresses his opponents. The thing is, his suppressive fire is right on top of them. It takes a lot of effort to be that accurate. First Blood certainly didn’t take any lessons from Special Forces marksmanship training.
“First Blood” was a catalyst
First Blood was a real catalyst for 80’s action movies. It’s still got some of the grime of 1970s movies and some grounding, but it really opened up the balls-out genre of 1980s action films. Rambo would inspire movies like Predator, Commando, Invasion U.S.A., and more. It’s still a legendary film and a worthwhile watch. It holds up pretty well for being middle age.