Rambo: Last Blood
Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Yvette Monreal, Adriana Barraza
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… a perfectly enjoyable, if oddly put-together, action flick with a decent kill count but it doesn’t feel like the conclusive end of an established character’s arc.
The Rambo franchise has always been a mercurial series, seemingly changing tone and quality levels based on market forces and social whims. For evidence of this, just check out where it all began, 1982’s First Blood, the first Rambo movie. First Blood is a taut, surprisingly lowkey thriller about a Vietnam vet, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), suffering from severe PTSD and being driven to acts of violence by smalltown prejudice and a lack of human empathy.
Compare that to Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), when John is brought back into active service and much of the nuance and subtext abandoned in favour of explosions, or Rambo III (1988) which is essentially a grit-free, propaganda reel for American military might set in the Soviet-Afghan war that takes time to praise the brave Afghani fighters, prior to the US bombing the shit out of them in recent years.
The series took a two decade hiatus before returning with 2008’s grim, gory Rambo which was both effectively staged and surprisingly sombre. Now, we reach the (possible?) conclusion with Rambo: Last Blood and… it’s a strange one.
Last Blood sees John Rambo living the quiet life, helping tend to his dad’s farm with older sister figure Maria Beltran (Adriana Barraza) and helping care for Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal), his “niece” who really feels like a daughter surrogate.
Being the type of flick this is, Gabrielle soon ends up kidnapped by a Mexican cartel and it’s up to John to unleash the violence he has held at bay for so long.
Last Blood is a strangely paced beast, with the first two thirds ranging from the effectively ponderous to the vaguely mawkish, followed by a final third that is so imbued with splattery catharsis it scarcely feels like the same film. More confusing is Rambo’s bone-headed rescue plan, which initially fails so spectacularly, it’s hard to imagine what the hell the character was even going for.
Performance-wise Stallone once again digs deep into the mumbly hangdog charms for the character, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before and certainly not the equal of his stellar work in 2015’s Creed.
Adrian Grunberg does a serviceable job of directing the piece, and really comes alive in the climax, but otherwise doesn’t make much of a mark. In fact, that’s probably the most accurate and damning statement about Last Blood, it’s… fine.
It’s a perfectly enjoyable, if oddly put-together, action flick with a decent kill count but it doesn’t feel like the conclusive end of an established character’s arc. Still, fans of the series will likely have a decent time, and anyone curious as to what an R-rated reboot of Home Alone might look like will enjoy the prolifically spilled blood in Rambo: Last Blood.