This 1982 film introduced the character "John Rambo", and was followed by other films that portrayed a powerful but misunderstood superhero. Rambo is arrested for walking through a small town, but makes his escape against great odds. He flees into the wilderness, Sheriff Teasel's men in hot pursuit. [Does this remind you of some early Hitchcock films?] The many forces combined against one man prove unequal. ["A Fistful of Dollars" or "Yojimbo"?] Like some Hitchcock films, the visuals are used more than dialog for the story.
Most of the film is devoted to the hunt for Rambo in the cold, rainy forest. Rambo eludes his pursuers, the hunted becomes the hunter. The dead and wounded are brought out of the wilderness. The forces against Rambo are escalated, yet success eludes them. Colonel Trautmann, who trained Rambo to be the best killing machine, shows up to confront the Sheriff, and attempts to end the conflict by a political solution ("let him go, get him later").
The burning gas station echoes that scene in "The Birds", a film about Nature taking revenge. Shooting into electrical transformers creates a blackout that is all too familiar. The explosions and fires are another disaster. Does the ending with the Colonel remind you of Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men"? While Rambo walks away, the rest of the story is left to your imagination.
The military trains its guard dogs to be vicious, and to obey only their handler. When the handler leaves the service, his dog is destroyed; it has outlived its usefulness. This film is important as an example of propaganda in the movies. A psychotic drifter who kills police and National Guardsmen is portrayed as a hero! Could this happen in real life? Does the failure of the hunt for Rambo echo the Vietnam war? Does the attack on the town portend future terrorism?