I talked to David Morrell (the creator of the character Rambo and author of many wonderful thrillers) last week and he mentioned that he was going to see Rambo later that day. I asked him if he'd like to report back after he saw it and he shared these remarks:
I saw the new Rambo movie yesterday. I took a chance and went to see it with a journalist so he could do a story about sitting next to the character's creator the first time I saw the new incarnation. With relief, I'm happy to report that it's excellent. The level of violence might not be for everyone, but it has a serious intent.
This is the first time that the tone of First Blood the novel has been used in any of the movies. It's spot-on in terms of how I imagined the character: angry, burned-out, and filled with self-disgust because he hates what he is and yet knows it's the only thing he does well.
The character spends a lot of time in the rain as if trying to cleanse himself. There's a nightmare scene involving vivid images from the three previous films (and a few glimpses of wonderful Richard Crenna, who is no longer with us). There's a scene in which Rambo forges a knife and talks to himself, basically admitting that he hates himself because all he knows is how to kill.
At the start, he is gathering snakes in the jungle, and he's so comfortable with them, it's as if the most developed part of him is his limbic brain. In the violent climax, he uses a machine gun that explicitly evokes the way William Holden uses a machine gun at the end of The Wild Bunch. Indeed a whole lot of the film has Peckinpah overtones while it also uses tropes from my novel. Again, for example, Rambo is being hunted by dogs.
It's not a 4-star movie -- the villains are too superficial. But this is a solid three stars. Even the New York Times treated it well.
I was surprised to discover that Stallone, who directed, gives me an additional credit. The contractual one is a single card "created by" credit before the names of the screenwriters. But then, at the end, after the final surprising, poetic, redeeming sequence, another credit says "From the novel First Blood by David Morrell." That's not the way Hollywood usually treats a novelist.
To say again, the violence is a solid R, but the intent in terms of the character is serious. I was blown away.
I'm definitely interested in seeing this now. I thought Rocky Balboa, the 2006 film where Stallone brought back his most iconic character, was well done, and it sounds like this is more of the same.