Rambo: Last Blood
Directors: Adrian Grunberg
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adriana Barraza, Yvette Monreal, Genie Kim, Joaquín Cosío, Oscar Jaenada
One last time.
A phrase uttered by many a movie nowadays in an attempt to steal our heartstrings and breach our tear ducts, but one that never really has that effect because it’s so overused. Rambo: Last Blood seemed the perfect vehicle for this cheesy utterance and guess what…it’s the one movie that doesn’t use it! It seemed like such a perfect match! A hokey cliché and a movie that really seemed pointless from the get-go, it was written in the stars but alas, Sly couldn’t bring himself to utter those three words. However, hopefully, this is the last time around the block for Rambo.
Ol’ Sly is back as Vietnam War vet John Rambo for the fifth time on-screen but now he just wants to settle into a ‘normal’ life. He lives on a ranch, he rides horses and lives with an older woman named Maria (Barraza) and her granddaughter Gabriela (Monreal) whom Rambo has adopted as a daughter-of-sorts. BUT things couldn’t stay calm forever though, could they? When a deadly Mexican cartel kidnaps Gabriela as she searches for her father across the border, Rambo takes it upon himself to rescue her and exact violent and painful revenge on those involved. Stallone has shown in recent years with the Rocky/Creed franchises that he can revive a dying franchise whilst putting in great performances along the way – he’s a defibrillator, of sorts. It felt right in those instances, the old puncher becomes the mentor figure to the new generation. With Last Blood, the intentions aren’t quite so clear. Yes, Rambo is older, but he’s no wiser and the real need for this latest installment is non-existent given the story and the direction it takes. Whereas Rambo: First Blood was a stark depiction of the effects of war on man and held considerable depth, the subsequent sequels simply turned Rambo into a butch, sweaty and invincible killing machine and Last Blood is absolutely no different. Grunberg opts for the Logan approach throughout, the old warhorse after the simple life – Rambo states how he is trying to control the balance of rage and control, effusing the need to change and move on - but the movie is mixed with too many contradictions and moments of hypocrisy to be anything other than hollow. Stallone tries his damnedest to give John Rambo the earnest dignity he feels he deserves but nothing around him can claim to be doing anything similar. Yvette Monreal tries with what she has but her on-screen friend, Gizelle (Fenessa Pineda)…boy that was some seriously bad acting. The cartel members are all portrayed as typically evil, clichéd villains, though I don’t fully buy into the xenophobic slant that others have seen. The performances just aren’t great.
The short runtime, just piercing ninety-minutes, feels like a blessing as it allows the movie to thunder towards its inevitable third-act carnage-fest – however, in getting to the ending, Last Blood stumbles over its own narrative and the editing doesn’t help. Add in Brian Tyler’s overly melodramatic score and it becomes apparent that the weight and emotion Grunberg and Sly strived for was missed by a huge distance. The third-act carnage-fest does indeed arrive and it’s utterly brutal. It’s Home Alone on steroids and packed with death. Despite lacking the soul that Rambo once possessed, admittedly, the ultra-violent third act was one hell of a ride in spite of it being utterly ridiculous.
Rambo: Last Blood was surely perceived as a saviour for the franchise and a golden way to wrap things up – however, it’s really not that good…at all.
September 25th 2019