A Vietnam veteran is assaulted by an overzealous small-town police department and reacts the way he was trained to – with deadly force. [Dir: Ted Kotcheff/ Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Brian Dennehy/ 96 min/ Action-Adventure/ Bureaucratic Abuse of Power-Excessive Force]
After the U.S. government drafted a generation of young people and dropped them into the hellhole known as Vietnam, those who made it back were surprised to find a public largely unsympathetic to their experience. It took years for many Americans to appreciate the injustice and mismanagement of the war, and to quit reproaching these young victims for their participation in it. This film addresses the unfair treatment of Vietnam veterans by portraying one of them as a forgotten hero. Just as important, it also addresses the subject of police harassment of individuals based on appearance. As the story begins, a peaceful but scruffy Rambo is arrested by a small-town sheriff on a trumped up charge of vagrancy. The sheriff arrests him because he doesn’t like his Vietman vet appearance. Rambo offers mild resistance to the arrest, so the sheriff’s deputies beat and abuse him. Big mistake. It turns out that Rambo is a former Green Beret and the last survivor of a special fighting unit that was one of the most effective guerilla forces ever. Using his unique military and survival skills, he escapes and launches a protracted one-man rebellion against the police. Stallone, who also coauthored the screenplay, was made for this action-hero role and plays it to the hilt. The two sequels that followed, Rambo: First Blood-Part II and Rambo III, are of less particular interest to libertarians, but both are antisocialist and, if anything, are even more exciting than the original. Sensitive viewers should be aware that there’s plenty of violence here, although it’s mostly of the light, action-movie type.
This article was reprinted from Jon Osborne's Miss Liberty's Guide to Film and Video: Movies for the Libertarian Millenium, available in the Advocates Liberty Store.