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Hank Reinhardt

Who Did Movie Knives Better? “First Blood” vs. “The Hunted”

Here’s a look at a movie knife classic, First Blood, and a movie that tried to rip off Rambo. Spoiler alert: ripping off Rambo is never a good idea.

Knife Use in First Blood: Rambo-esque, but Not Ridiculous

After I saw First Blood, the first Rambo movie, some buddies and I started to look at it with a critical, knife-centric eye.

Nothing that Rambo does in the movie is impossible. Some of the feats require a very well-trained man who’s in excellent physical condition, not to mention one who’s stubborn as hell. The feats also require a great deal of luck.

I’ve always been critical of fight sequences where the hero beats up 10-15 opponents all at one time. You can see the bad guys hanging back, each waiting his turn. That doesn’t happen in real life.

However, in First Blood, each person Rambo fights is physically isolated, so Rambo can take each one on one-on-one. It could work that way. The movie was very well thought out choreographically.

At one point Rambo leaps from a cliff and falls through a pine tree, breaking tree limbs on the way down, and survives. Tricky and tough—and yet possible. I once fell out of a pine tree, breaking pine limbs on the way down, and wasn’t hurt at all except for my 18-year-old ego. It was about a 20-foot drop, not anywhere near what Rambo fell, but long enough to convince me that it was possible to survive it.

Rambo’s use of the knife in First Blood is excellent. He knows what he’s doing. One of the first things he does is use the knife to make a spear, which is a good idea because a spear is a better hunting tool and a much better weapon than a knife. For one thing, a spear has reach and speed over a knife alone.

First Blood is an exciting movie. If you haven’t seen it, rent it. It’s worth it.

Knife Use in The Hunted: Ridiculous

Several of my friends saw The Hunted and told me that it was the MOAB (Mother Of All Bombs). However, having seen The Musketeer, I didn’t believe them. While The Hunted isn’t the MOAB, I would put it in the 2,000-pound category.

The Hunted isn’t a remake of First Blood but copies it—and does a lousy job at that.

The movie opens with a hellish scene in Kosovo, with Serbs killing Albanians right and left, especially women and children. I think the viewer is supposed to get the impression that all the Kosovo violence has driven the villain, Aaron Hallam— played by Benicio Del Toro—crazy.

I realized that I was in a fantasy movie very quickly. Tommy Lee Jones, who portrays L.T. Bonham, is running through a forest that’s deep in snow when he sees a wolf caught in a snare. He catches the injured animal, frees it from the snare and then dresses its paw. The animal doesn’t bite Bonham or, for that matter, make any threatening moves whatsoever. Heck, my wife rescued a four-week-old puppy a few months ago and was bitten!

the hunted movie knife
(image via imdb.com)

The plot is that Hallam is a real killing machine whom Bonham has trained. The main action takes place in the dense rain forest of Oregon—sound familiar?—and starts with a scene of two deer hunters. The hunters are equipped with bolt-action rifles sporting monstrous telescopic sights. Stupid is such a harsh word, so let me just say that it makes no sense to use telescopic sights in underbrush so thick you can’t see 10 yards in front of you!

Anyway, Hallam threatens the hunters, telling them they have no reverence for life, and they have to match their guns against his knife. Needless to say, he kills the hunters, and subsequent photos show that he chopped them up like butchered deer. Meanwhile, it turns out that he also has killed a couple more hunters. Since the movie never offers any other reason for Hallam’s behavior, I guess he must have joined a radical arm of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

Bonham is an amazing tracker and expert knife fighter who’s called in to capture the killer. He starts out after Hallam and, of course, doesn’t take a weapon. Hallam immediately finds Bonham, they have a brief fight and the chase begins.

I can’t begin to tell you how incredibly stupid this movie is. For one, in one scene a thrown knife goes all the way through a tree trunk that looks to be about 3 inches in diameter! Bonham knaps a flint blade to use as a weapon, never thinking to simply buy a knife instead.

One of the most startling scenes is when Hallam breaks off chunks of leaf spring. He starts a small fire and then forges a knife using the chunks of leaf spring for steel, and another chunk as a hammer. After he rough forges the blade, he hardens it and then files it! I have no idea where he gets the file, let alone how an open fire that size develops the heat necessary to forge steel.

In certain segments, The Hunted is a direct steal of First Blood, right down to Bonham repeating a quote from the Stallone movie about how many body bags will be filled in the quest to nab Hallam.

The knife fighting and the scenes showing the training aren’t so much stupid as just silly. Some guy stands still as someone pretends to cut his throat, chest, stomach, brachial artery, and then moves down to cut both femoral arteries! I mean, what’s the point? How many times does your opponent need to bleed out? It’s like blowing up a rabbit with a stick of dynamite—the furry little critter can only die so much!

The final fight sequence between the two principals is very poorly choreographed. It bears no resemblance to a real fight. For those who have read my reviews about movie knives before, you know that I feel a fight must follow the flow of the film. In other words, it need not necessarily be a “real” fight but one that must be consistent with the plot. In that respect, the final fight does follow the plot—both are total and complete nonsense.

Don’t waste your time or your money on The Hunted. This time I did the suffering for you.


Getting Movie Swords Right: Joan of Arc vs. Joke of Arc

joan of arc movie swords
For how it should and shouldn’t be done when it comes to historic blades, consider the classic and contemporary film versions of the Joan of Arc story.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the August 2003 issue of BLADE magazine. You can read more from BLADE‘s archives with this extensive collection.

When I first heard of The Messenger, the 1999 movie version of the Joan of Arc story, I thought it best to ignore it. It just didn’t sound very good. However, I caught a trailer on HBO about the film—directed by Luc Besson and starring Milla Jovovich as Joan and John Malkovich as The Dauphin—and was quite impressed.

According to the trailer, the producers spent an enormous amount of time researching the era in which the story is set, including the armor and weapons. They also researched Joan and reportedly would present a different portrait of “the Maid of Orleans.”

On this basis, my wife, Toni, and I journeyed to the theater prepared to see the new portrait, and to appreciate the research into the clothing and the arms and armor.

What Went Wrong

custom knives action moviesOne of the most notable things about the movie was the popcorn. It was really fresh and delicious. The drinks were well mixed, and, as usual, the price was sky high—but the popcorn was worth it.
I regret to say, however, that I have a weak stomach. Oh, scenes of carnage don’t bother me, but really bad acting, directing and outright falsehoods in a movie have a tendency to make me want to heave!

Nonetheless, I’m not a coward. I walked to the restroom, threw some cold water on my face, steeled my nerves, and went back to try to watch the rest of the movie.

I failed.

I made it through the fall of the Tyrell and the relief of Orleans. About 10 minutes later, though, my stomach quailed at what I watched on the screen, and Toni and I had to leave. Meanwhile, a couple of my friends braved the whole film. They told me that as the time approached for Joan to be burned at the stake, many in the audience were shouting, “Burn her! Burn her!”

Not Falling for Those Cheap Movie Swords

If the producers paid for research on The Messenger, they should get their money back.
All the armor looks as if it’s straight out of some cheap fantasy movie, and the same goes for the swords and other weapons. However, the war hats look pretty good. As for the fighting, it’s more ludicrous than anything else.

After the fall of the Tyrell, the camera pans somewhat lovingly over the scene of “carnage.” There’s one severed foot, a “tastefully arranged” group of what might be entrails and, I think, an arm lying about. In short, it’s the most unrealistic battle scene since the Saturday serials.

Actually, I would be willing to overlook a lot of the flaws and errors if the movie had anything else going for it, but this one doesn’t.

The Hundred Years War helped create a time of deep cynicism that co-existed with a profound and strongly held religious belief. Whatever one’s opinion of Joan of Arc—and whatever the reality actually was—she was able to lead and inspire many men, those sincere in their religious belief, as well as those quite cynical.

On the other hand, this movie’s version of Joan could, and did, inspire an exodus from the theater. Don’t waste your time with this one. For one thing, I doubt that you’ll be as lucky with the popcorn as we were.

Better Swords, Better Movie: Joan of Arc (1948)

movie swords historical accuracy

After we left the theater from watching The Messenger, I promised Toni that I would show her the definitive film version of Joan of Arc. Produced by Walter Wanger in 1948, Joan of Arc remains one of the most stupendous epics ever produced for the silver screen.

As Joan, Ingrid Bergman had a positively ethereal beauty that really hits home in the movie. She was also a tremendous actress and comes across as a confused peasant girl, driven by forces she only partially understands but in which she fully believes.

La Hire, one of Joan’s great battle captains, is well played by a bluff, tough Ward Bond. Since I always liked what I read about La Hire, I was pleased to see him played so admirably.

The Dauphin, a somewhat feckless and timid person, is well handled by Jose Ferrar. I could go on and on, as everyone in the movie does a superb job and each is quite believable in his/her role.
The primary battle in the movie is the capture of the Tyrell and the relief of Orleans that’s besieged by an English army under the command of Sir William Gladsdale. This is one of Joan’s first battles and in it she’s wounded by a crossbow bolt.

She regains consciousness and insists on leading a final charge against the Tyrell, which falls in the ensuing battle.

accuracy of weapons in hollywood movies

This is one of the best siege battles ever on the big screen, and is worth the price of the movie rental alone. You see arrows flying from crossbows and bows, and the horrors of trying to storm walls—men fighting their way to the top of the ladder only to have it hurled down or being speared from the top.

As the Tyrell falls, La Hire climbs over the wall and shouts for Gladsdale, and the two meet in the center and fight with two-hand swords. La Hire drives him back and, rather than surrendering, the Englishman falls into some burning debris.

Getting the Two-Hand Swords Right

Hollywood movie swords

read blade magazine back issues
Read 10 years worth of back issues, including the three-part series about “The Iron Mistress,” in this collection.

The two-hand sword was just beginning to become popular at that point in history, and for two knights in full plate armor it was a handy weapon to have. Certainly, you can’t cut plate armor with a regular sword but you can crush it.

The movie is well acted and well done, but even more impressive is the costuming, right down to the haircuts of the men. The hair is worn thick and cut into the shape of a bowl. This was done at first to provide extra padding under the helmet but also became the fashion for the dandies, even if they never fought. The armor is accurate and so are the many swords, pikes, fauchards, pole axes and battle axes.

See this one. It’s fun and a good movie as well.


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