Quentin Tarantino is writing a book of film criticism called Cinema Speculation, and in that spirit, we may need to file Tarantino’s Rambo under cinema speculation for now. However, he is indeed out there talking about what his version of Rambo would look like, and it sounds like it would be much closer to First Blood, the 1972 David Morrell novel that served as the source material for the 1982 film adaptation, co-written by and starring Sylvester Stallone.
Who would star in Tarantino’s hypothetical First Blood remake? Why, none other than Adam Driver and Kurt Russell.
What will be the final Quentin Tarantino movie? The cineliterate writer-director and his characters have the gift of gab, and on more than one occasion, he’s gabbed about his impending retirement after 10 films (11, if you count Kill Bill‘s two volumes as two movies, the way they were released). He’s teased so many different potential projects over the years that the real What If…? animated series should arguably be about all the zany Tarantino ideas that have never come to fruition on celluloid.
While promoting his novelization of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, he started doing it again. On The Big Picture podcast (via MovieWeb), the subject of Grindhouse, Tarantino’s 2007 box-office bomb with Robert Rodriguez, came up. Russell, of course, played Stuntman Mike in Death Proof, Tarantino’s half of the double feature. While discussing the fallout of such a flop and what could have happened in his career, Tarantino spoke offhand of how he would approach the Rambo property:
“If I just wanted to make a good movie, that I knew would be good, I would take David Morrell’s novel for First Blood and do the novel. Not the movie that was made out of First Blood. I would do the novel. And Kurt Russell would play the sheriff, and [Adam Driver] would play Rambo. Every time I read it, the dialogue is so fantastic in the David Morrell novel that you’re reading it out loud. It would be so good. But now I want to do more than that. But if it was just about to make a good movie, that’s out there.”
A Return to Rambo’s Dramatic Roots
When moviegoers think Rambo, many of them probably have an image of Stallone in a bandana: shirtless, musclebound, and sweaty, feeding a bullet belt into a gun. In the here and now of 2021, it’s easy to forget that the Rambo franchise started out as something much different from what it eventually became.
Stallone and an up-and-coming James Cameron co-wrote the screenplay for Rambo: First Blood Part II together, and it veered the franchise more toward all-out action, much like Cameron would do with Aliens a year later. Rambo III saw Stallone’s character entering Afghanistan on a mission to provide weapons to freedom fighters who were locked in combat with the Soviets. These were ’80s American movies, so Soviets, not Afghans, were the enemies.
The fourth, self-titled Rambo film, which hit two decades later in 2008, is so violent that Wikipedia categorizes it as a full-on “splatter film.” Then there was Last Blood, which came along just two years ago. (Did anyone see it or did we just skip that one?)
Back before any of these sequels was the first and still best Rambo film: First Blood. It was a more serious, actor-driven drama — drawing, as it did, from Morrell’s novel, which he wrote during the Vietnam War. In the book and the movie, Rambo is a veteran and former prisoner of war. He comes back home with post-traumatic stress disorder and lands in a town where the local sheriff and deputies misjudge him: drawing the proverbial “first blood,” which escalates into a manhunt in the woods.
I don’t know about you, but I can very much see Driver playing a character like that. He’s got the right brooding presence to inhabit the role of Rambo as a green-jacketed drifter like the one we first met back in 1982.
It’s important to note the context of Tarantino’s words in this interview. Really, it’s doubtful whether he himself will ever make this movie, but when the inevitable Rambo reboot does finally happen, Driver might be an inspired choice to take on the title role. Hollywood, take note: instead of a bombastic, action-driven Rambo, maybe a dramatic, Driver-driven Rambo would be the way to go.
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