Son of Rambo

01/06/2010 7:55 AM |

Flooding with Love for the Kid
Directed by Zachary Oberzan

The bloodline: David Morrell’s 1972 novel First Blood begat the 1982 film about a Vietnam vet run amok in the wild, which begat the cartoonish franchise (apparently beloved by Polish Solidarity members), which resurfaced in a gory 2008 installment, which was conceptually upstaged by Zachary Oberzan’s one-man play Rambo Solo last March, which is now a miniature motion picture. Anthology, perhaps recalling the (sold-out) screenings of the Raiders of the Lost Ark remake, gives a week to Oberzan’s superfan Tarnation-style reclamation of Morrell’s original text in a studio apartment.

Rambo is so attached to the Stallone chassis that Oberzan’s ordinary appearance sets a new tone from the start—the Green Beret drifter is here referred to credibly as “the kid.” In Oberzan’s multi-role performance, the sheriff in pursuit, Will Teasle, is more central, and he drags his full baggage: an estranged wife and, crucially, Korean War service. Because of the claustrophobic, sometimes surreally resourceful staging, the chases and face-offs between Oberzan and Oberzan give rise to psychological hall-of-mirrors effects. Teasle vividly fears, flees, follows another vet who is like his own id howling in pain.

Flooding with Love for the Kid (which takes its title from a climactic line in the book) asks for a theatergoer’s suspension of disbelief, as Oberzan stages copter flights, plays attack dogs, and gnaws on grilled teddybear. But the old formula of committed madness feels apropos here, even if one-man-band rhetoric becomes its own kind of jingoism, and his Beret trainer Colonel Trautman beats Richard Crenna’s.

January 8-14 at Anthology Film Archives