Volume Eight, Issue Thirty-Eight!
“Movie Review: Rambo: Last Blood”
Despite seemingly hanging up the bow and arrow and knife in Rambo, Sylvester Stallone is back to wage war once again in Rambo: Last Blood, the fifth film in the franchise that somehow keeps chugging along. Serving as a weird epilogue of sorts to the story of John Rambo, the Vietnam vet who has probably killed more people than Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Freddy Krueger combined, Last Blood feels less like the four films that came before it, and more like a strange reboot for a Rambo limited series. That being said though, the last twenty minutes of the film are absolutely bananas, and have some of the best action sequences of the whole series.
Last Blood picks up eleven years after Rambo, with John (Sylvester Stallone) living on his family ranch breaking in horses. He lives a simple life, and has found a sort of family with Maria (Adriana Barraza) and her niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal). When Gabrielle goes to Mexico to find her dead-beat biological dad, she runs afoul of a ruthless cartel that kidnaps her into sex slavery, and Rambo has to return to what he does best: killing.
For the fifth film in a franchise that had a pretty solid finale with the previous film, there’s a lot riding on Last Blood to make it worth a watch. And unfortunately this film doesn’t really do much to make it feel like it matters. Mixing up elements from films like Unforgiven, Taken, and Logan, Last Blood tries to use all of those beats to create a film that serves as both another finale for the character, but also a weird potential restart of the franchise as well. A good portion of the 89 minute runtime devoted to Gabrielle and her search for her father, but none of it really establishes her relationship with Rambo, and since we’ve only known Rambo as a lone wolf one man army, seeing him interact with people and the urban world is really strange to watch.
Not only that, but there are elements of the script that feel extremely rushed as well. Aside from Gabrielle and Maria’s relationship to Rambo, the entire film feels like it’s in a hurry to get to the finale of the film (which is awesome by the way). Naturally this means that the film cuts corners in every way possible, and that includes it’s depiction of Mexico, which according to this film is a completely lawless country where you can be abducted by a Cartel and sold into sex slavery in the course of about twelve hours. The Rambo films have never been good when it comes to sociopolitical issues, but Last Blood at times feels so over the top and ridiculous in it’s depiction of the bad guys that it’s impossible not to feel like you’re being fed some sort of propaganda.
….the last twenty minutes are INSANE, and if you are an action fan it needs to be seen. From the early trailers a lot of people have made comparisons to Home Alone, and to be honest, that’s exactly how the finale goes down, and it’s AWESOME. Since First Blood is my favorite of the franchise, seeing John Rambo use some easy booby traps and old-fashioned stealth to take out the bad guys is really entertaining, and many times I was shocked at how gory the film was. This movie really makes you wait for the finale, and at the very least it’s well worth the wait in that regard.
While Stallone isn’t quite as good here as he is in the Creed films, he’s still the best part of this film, and there are some signs of the aspect of the character that I like in this film, mainly his struggle with being trained to be a killing machine at the cost of his humanity. Stallone gets some moments to show that off here, but this film is more interested in the “one man army” version of the character as opposed to the “tortured warrior who will kick ass when forced to” version that I like. At 73 years old though, it’s still impressive to see Sly willing to try and not phone it in when action stars half his age would start taking it easy.
The rest of the cast is pretty much forgotten, but I did really like Yvette Monreal’s Gabrielle, who has some great chemistry with Sly early on in the film. She’s pretty much the second lead of the film, and should have a long career ahead of her should this film do well (hell, even if it doesn’t she’ll probably be able to use this as a stepping stone).
Last Blood is a weird film in the Rambo franchise, as I would probably put it as my least favorite installment of the franchise, but also contains some of the coolest moments as well. The fact that it’s being billed as the “last installment”, but seems to be more concerned with rebooting the character for further adventures is a weird one, and it really does feel like another script that just inserted John Rambo into the role of the main character. But again, it does have a fantastically brutal finale that will serve fans of the series very well. The only problem is that they’ll have to wait a while to get to that, and I’m not sure they’ll like waiting that long.