20th Sep2019

‘Rambo: Last Blood’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Yvette Monreal, Paz Vega, Oscar Jaenada, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adriana Barraza, Genie Kim AKA Yenah Han, Joaquin Cosio, Marco de la O | Written by Matthew Cirulnick, Sylvester Stallone | Directed by Adrian Grunberg


Fresh from breathing new life into Rocky in the Creed movies, Sylvester Stallone (73 this year) brings his other ’80s icon out of creaking retirement for this fifth instalment in the Rambo series. As such, the film does exactly what Rambo fans will be expecting, but that isn’t saying very much.

Rambo: Last Blood (and to steal a joke that quickly did the rounds on social media, it’s a shame they called it Rambo: Last Blood instead of Rambo Number Five) picks up more or less where 2008’s Rambo (titling is decidedly not this franchise’s strong suit) left off, with PTSD-afflicted former Vietnam vet John Rambo (Stallone) now happily retired to a horse ranch in Arizona, where he lives with his Mexican housekeeper Maria (Adriana Barraza) and his teenage niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal). However, when Gabrielle gets sold into sex slavery while attempting to find her absent father (Marco de la O) in Mexico, Rambo tools up for a rescue mission that has disastrous consequences.

Sure enough, large numbers of the Mexican cartel are soon headed for the Rambo ranch with murder on their minds. Luckily, it just so happens that Rambo has prepared a network of underground tunnels, which he duly equips with a wide variety of death-traps and hidden firearms in preparation for the ensuing bloodbath.

To be fair to Stallone, he’s in pretty impressive shape for a 73 year old, to the point where you just about believe he’s capable of taking down an entire cartel without even pausing for breath. However, age has done nothing for Rambo’s speech patterns – if anything he’s even more incomprehensible here than he was in his previous four outings (and that’s really saying something).

You couldn’t exactly accuse the previous Rambo movies of subtlety in their depictions of the bad guys, but in the era of Donald Trump, the choice of Mexicans as the all-purpose rapists-slash-sex-traffickers-slash-murderers seems at best ill-advised and at worst calculated to appeal to a very particular audience. There is literally one sympathetic person (Paz Vega’s under-used, under-written journalist) in Mexico, that’s how bad it is. Frankly, it’s a wonder the filmmakers didn’t go the whole hog and stick a Vote Trump sign on Rambo’s front lawn.

It’s fair to say that director Adrian Grunberg knows exactly what Rambo fans have come to see, namely lashings of the old ultraviolence. He’s not shy about dishing it out either – one particularly nasty bit has Rambo questioning someone by pulling out their collarbone and twisting it till he gets the required answer.

Essentially, Rambo: Last Blood is all about that climactic sequence, beginning with an unintentionally hilarious bit before the Mexicans reach the tunnels where Rambo keeps popping up out of different holes in the ground, like a demented, machine-gun toting whack-a-mole. Grunberg duly stages a series of gruesome death trap and head shot scenes that will no doubt have fans cheering, though they do get rather monotonous and repetitive after a while. On top of that, there’s actually a deceptively low gore factor, thanks to a combination of low lighting (so the blood is black or silhouetted rather than red) and a squelch-heavy soundtrack that makes everything sound worse than it actually is.

Ultimately, Rambo: Last Blood is pure bloodlust and not much else, making it frustratingly empty experience with nothing to say. That’s a long way from the character’s origins in 1982’s First Blood, which used the character’s PTSD to say something important about how Vietnam veterans were treated by American society. Maybe that emptiness is meant to represent Stallone’s comment on today’s turbulent times. Or maybe not.

** 2/5

Rambo: Last Blood is in cinemas now.


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