November 29, 1982 12:00 PM

Based on David Morrell’s brutal 1972 novel, First Blood is a kind of Deliverance Meets the Deer Hunter. Sylvester Stallone plays—splendidly—a former Green Beret Congressional Medal of Honor winner trying to track down an old Army buddy in a small town in the Northwest. He finds that his friend had died of cancer contracted in Vietnam. When police chief Brian Dennehy arrests the bedraggled Stallone for vagrancy, a finger-printing session triggers Stallone’s nightmare flashbacks of VC torture. He goes berserk, tramples a dozen cops and escapes to the mountains where he becomes the object of a massive manhunt. As the bodies pile up, the law brings in Richard Crenna, the colonel who first trained Stallone as a killing machine. “We can’t have you out here wasting friendly civilians,” scolds Crenna, who is nonetheless proud of his guerrilla pupil’s prowess. Stallone cunningly uses camouflage, kills animals for food and, in a gruesome film first, actually stitches his own arm wound. The script by Michael Kozoll, William Sackheim and Stallone makes a few hackneyed stabs at social comment, but they are dropped in, not dramatized. (Will Hollywood ever tire of insulting Vietnam vets by portraying them all as victims?) First Blood, directed by Ted Kotcheff, is an adolescent male fantasy pure and simple. The jolting action is virtually nonstop, the outdoor photography magnificent and the stunts, especially a 30-foot cliff fall into a clump of trees, the best since Raiders of the Lost Ark. (R)

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