First Blood (1982) **

Though he maintained a high celebrity profile, Sylvester Stallone found it surprisingly difficult to duplicate the box-office success of Rocky, other than in direct sequels. Unexpectedly, this gritty action shocker - basically just another spin on the now  ten-year-old Deliverance formula - turned out to be his only other certain smash of the decade, giving rise to its own run of extremely eccentric sequels and establishing him as one of the key icons of 80s Hollywood.

This original invariably surprises audiences coming to it fresh on the strength of the popular image of John Rambo, its main character. Far from the indestructible avenger of the blockbusting sequels, this authentic Rambo is a mentally damaged Vietnam vet, adrift and friendless in an age that would rather forget about him, who goes on a survivalist rampage after he is goaded and wrongly imprisoned by the sheriff's department of a quiet redneck town.
The action sequences are exceptionally well-staged, but the film takes time to establish the human drama, and the final ten minutes, in which Rambo collapses with grief over the memories that torment him, puts the mayhem poignantly in context, and remind audiences of the very real talent Stallone delights in revealing only in lightning flashes.
A Kewpie doll please, Maltin.