RAMBO: LAST BLOOD Ĺ
2019, R, 94 mins.
Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo / Paz Vega as Carmen Delgado / ”scar Jaenada as Victor Martinez / Sergio Peris-Mencheta as Hugo Martinez / Yvette Monreal as Gabrielle / Adriana Barraza as Maria Beltran / Louis Mandylor as Sheriff
Directed by Adrian Grunberg / Written by Sylvester Stallone and Matthew Cirulnick
It's been an awfully long road for Jonathon James Rambo since he was introduced in the early 1970s in Canadian author David Morrell's novel FIRST BLOOD.
book spawned a movie adaptation in 1982, which delved into the back story
of this former Green Beret Vietnam War vet that faced a different type of
war trying to acclimate to his home country after combat, facing a nation
of citizens that didn't think highly of the war and his involvement in it.
That gave way to the more aggressively cartoonish, but nevertheless
entertaining RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD
PART II, which showed the ever increasingly impervious to death
soldier destroying an entire battalion of Vietnamese troops in a revenge
porn fantasy come to life.
Then came RAMBO III, featuring the titular character teaming up
with Mujahideen rebels to take on the Russians, the former of which
eventually morphed into the Taliban (awkward!).
Then came the most recent RAMBO,
showcasing the aging, but still grizzled and battle hardened warrior
terminating a dastardly Burmese militia with extreme prejudice.
2009 sequel emerged as one of the more surprisingly effective - and
savagely violent and viscerally potent - entries in the entire saga,
albeit at the expense of perhaps losing a bit of focus on thoughtfully
exploring what makes this troubled man tick (FIRST BLOOD, if anything,
still remains the best of the franchise in balancing action and social
comes the inevitable follow-up installment in the full circle titled RAMBO:
LAST BLOOD, which alone hints at a possible sense of closure for one of
the most famous action heroes ever to grace the silver screen.
Even though this fifth RAMBO film - much like its predecessors -
doesn't try to emulate the exact same blueprint of what came before and
has some interesting character arcs for the now elderly war hero, the film
isnít entirely successful or satisfying as a potential send off for the
RAMBO: LAST BLOOD feels like the most cheaply disposable entry of
the franchise (that, and its premise bares a plagiaristic resemblance to TAKEN).
But Sylvester Stallone remains as commendably committed to the role
as ever at a ripe old age of 73, and this sequel absolutely delivers in
its final 15 minutes, even if it's of the too little, too late
At long last it appears that the forever traumatized Rambo has finally found some inner peace, not to mention some mental stability thanks to multiple prescription meds that are obviously designed to keep the historical nightmares of past wars at bay. When we last saw him he was mowing down mercenaries in war-torn Burma with a barbarism unprecedented in the whole series, but now the gray haired and worse for wear vet has retired to a quaint and peaceful life of training horses on his deceased father's Arizona ranch. He shares these picturesque surroundings with his adopted family in Maria (Adriana Barraza) and her granddaughter Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal), the latter who's poised to start college and will soon be apart from her loving "Uncle John." When Rambo isn't enjoying tranquil horse rides with his niece and tending to his ranch chores, he takes solace in developing a vast underground tunnel system beneath his home that becomes his man cave.
Gee, I wonder if
it will figure into some kind of home defense network for invading baddies
Gabrielle has one
last thing on her agenda before starting college: re-connecting with her
long estranged father, who abandoned her and her now dead mother years
She wants answers, and thanks to a friend, she discovers her dad's
home address in Mexico, but the ultimate nihilist in Rambo pleads with her
not to seek out this absentee parent, mostly because he believes it'll end
Like all inquisitive and naive teenagers, Gabrielle ignores her
uncle's advice and goes anyway, and in under 24 hours she finds herself
kidnapped, drugged, and forced against her will to participate in a sex
trafficking ring headed up by the Martinez brothers (Oscar Jaenada and
Little do these fiends know is that their new prey has an uncle
with "a particular set of skills..."
start with the negatives, RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD's narrative, as mentioned,
feels like a ripoff of TAKEN, right down to the basic element of a
dangerously proficient killer's family member being kidnapped into sex
slavery, granted with changes in geography and subbing in Rambo for Liam
Neeson's CIA operative Bryan Mills. This
has the negative side effect of making this RAMBO outing feel a bit too
paint-by-numbers, generic, and, yes, derivative for its own good.
The previous RAMBO films - with inconsistent levels of success -
also had their share of memorable villains, but here all we are given are
some pretty stereotypically rendered "Mexican bad guys" whose
only defining traits are that they're homicidal pigs that use woman as
slaves and make the mistake of abusing Rambo's niece, therefore making
them easily exploited target's for this man lustful killing spree of them
to unavoidably come. I'll
give writers Matthew Cirulnick
and Stallone props for not trying to lazily regurgitate past storylines
from previous series entries, but they're guilty of milking other action
franchises for their premise here.
LAST BLOOD at least tries to tap into the character's advancing years and
how those years have mentally and physically ground him down.
There's something to be said about how the character has
unhealthily devolved from an initial representation of how military
service in an unjust war can ruin a man forever and into an unstoppably
macho machine gun wielding super hero that hungrily craves combat.
I think RAMBO: LAST BLOOD tries to have it both ways, showing a
well past his prime combat hero drowning in bad memories and
pharmaceutical assistance that's trying to eek out a normal existence
that, uh huh, gets dragged back into a hellish conflict that will
certainly involve him murdering a lot of people that most definitely had
it coming to them.
There's an undercurrent of sadness to this sequel, seeing as Rambo
seeks out and wants an easy life of retirement, but unfortunately and
tragically will not get it.
Having said all
of that, no one goes into a RAMBO film to see this anti-hero sitting in a
rocking chair on his ranch's front porch to contemplate the complexities
of his life. We go for feverously intense balls to the wall carnage
that this character will be inclined to deliver when his buttons are
pushed by unsuspecting foes.
This, as predicted, culminates in a final climatic third act
featuring Rambo - in lurid Kevin "HOME ALONE" Macalister fashion
- booby trapping his underground ranch maze with arrows, knives, spikes,
pitchforks, mines, bombs, sawed off shotguns, explosive rounds of
ammunition, and just about every possible imagined MacGyver'ed weapon the
character can dream up to take on the Martinez brothers' invading goon
squad, who didn't take too kindly to Rambo taking his niece back from
As hordes of Mexican mercs swarm in on Rambo's ranch he utterly
unleashes unspeakably gory comeuppance in ways that even make the
brutality of the last RAMBO look quaint by comparison.
There are some
out there that are ripping Stallone and company a new one for the film's
unflattering portrayal of Mexico and Latinos, although I'm not entirely
convinced that the film is staunchly trying to be xenophobic of the entire
nation and its people: Rambo lives with two caring Hispanic women who are
painted in a largely positive light, but, yes, the film is certainly
guilty of white savoir motifs on a level of Rambo saving Gabrielle from
bloodthirsty villains of color (still, it's also hard to defend the pure
evil of the sex traffickers as well).
RAMBO: LAST BLOOD definitely falls victim to simplistic scripting
and a lack of narrative embellishment, which may have something to do with
its scant 89 minute running time (oddly, the film is longer by ten-plus
minutes - with a whole different opening - in some foreign markets,
leaving me more than a bit disappointed with what we're missing here in
There's an entire subplot with Paz Vega's Carmen, a journalist in
Mexico that assists Rambo that feels so rushed and truncated that her
character feels more like a cheap plot device than anything else.
Although creatively problematic in multiple areas, I don't think that RAMBO: LAST BLOOD is as categorically awful as many other critics have pained to let on. Stallone is thanklessly good at effortlessly dialing back into the whirlwind of contradictions that makes up this polarizing character, and the story he occupies is refreshingly not as jam packed with action as its predecessors, having a story that tries - and sometimes fails - to take its time to ground Rambo in an environment of relative normalcy before the you-know-what hits the fan and prompts him back into viscous service. And let's be honest, the blood and brain splattered final moments are exemplarily well paced and pack a sizeable gut punching wallop: The film wholeheartedly achieves intended levels of pure retrograde, grindhouse action (although it may convince squeamish audience members to flee for the theater exits). Still, those expecting a memorable curtain call for this iconic action hero may be greeted with disappointing vibes by the time the end credits roll by with highlights from previous - and better - series films spliced in.