Movie Review: “Rambo: Last Blood” – Ouch.

Written by Jeremiah Greville October 02, 2019

Sylvester Stallone is best known for his two most popular characters: Rocky Balboa, and John Rambo. Both characters debuted as thoughtful depictions of complex, isolated men and both later evolved into simplified hulking super-men who embodied the epitome of American jingoism and 80’s macho-muscle excess. Both characters have returned to theatres in recent years, skewing closer to their original depictions as they grapple with increasing age and decreasing relevance. Rambo: Last Blood is the latest of these films, acting as a finale to the story of John Rambo. And depending on how you look at it, it’s either a decent fifteen minute action film with an hour-long prologue, or a terribly overwrought drama with a strangely violent ending. Either way, it’s not very good.

Rambo: Last Blood stars Sylvester Stallone as legendary soldier John Rambo, who after years of fighting has finally settled down in Arizona on his family ranch. When a young woman close to him is taken and sold into prostitution, Rambo is forced to hunt down those responsible in an effort to save her, and exact revenge. Rambo: Last Blood also stars Paz Vega, Yvette Monreal, Adriana Barraza, and Sergio Peris-Mencheta. It’s directed by Adrian Grunberg from a script by Stallone and Matthew Cirulnick. There is apparently an alternate version of this film that is currently playing everywhere but Canada, the US, and the UK, but that longer cut won’t be the one reviewed here. I don’t know if it’s better — but it certainly can’t be worse.

“That bad?”

There’s one big confession I have to get out of the way before I continue: I’ve only seen one other Rambo film, and that was the original First Blood. I don’t have a strong connection to the Rambo character and went into this movie with an open mind. But wow — this movie is not good. It’s not a good character study, or a good action film. It’s not even morally good, if we’re judging movies on those merits now. I don’t know how longtime Rambo fans will feel about this outing, but it doesn’t inspire in me any hope for future sequels. Rambo: Last Blood is bad. It’s three scoops of bad with a dollop of poor writing, served in a slightly-racist cone.

I can’t really say what the biggest problem is with Rambo: Last Blood. There are several, and each affects the film in its own way. The first one that comes to mind, and stands out the most to me, is the structure. This is, ostensibly, an action film, but the action doesn’t start until the final act. The first two thirds of the movie are really — and I’m being completely honest here — a prologue. This is not an exaggeration. The best comparison I can come up with is John Wick. In that film, the first fifteen minutes are spent with the protagonist and his dog, before his dog is killed. The remaining hour is John Wick kicking the collective ass of those responsible. Rambo: Last Blood is the opposite of John Wick — where the whole movie is about the dead dog instead.

“You don’t even know me.”

Now, that may not sound bad in theory. It makes sense to spend time with characters before putting them in situations that challenge them. But this is the fifth Rambo film in the series — audiences don’t need this, and in practice, it’s awful. Rambo: Last Blood has nothing to do with any of the previous films, nothing meaningful to say about trauma or family, and nothing to offer action fans or film buffs. If I’m making the first two acts of this film sound even remotely appealing to you, then I’m not adequately describing them. They’re alternately boring and offensive, with dialogue so hammy and awkward it almost sounds like abstract beat poetry recited on cheap beer night at the college bar.

The first two acts both build to the finale, where this finally becomes a damn Rambo film. This is the only part of the movie that’s mildly entertaining, and if the rest of the film was more like it, the whole thing could have been better. It would have still been trashy and excessively violent, but at least it would have qualified as entertainment. In its current form, Rambo: Last Blood is closer to anti-Mexican propaganda. Oh, you haven’t heard? Mexico is apparently full of rapists who illegally cross the border all the time. They’re not sending their best people! Apparently Stallone has been watching Fox News, because this is what counts as both text and subtext throughout the film. All of the Mexicans depicted are villainous — not just bad hombres, but cartoonishly evil.

“We’ll find him and we’ll kill him.”

And what’s worse is that the major crime here — human trafficking — is a real-world issue that’s depicted with as much restraint and grace as a man tripping over his own pants in the restroom. It’s brutal and vicious and feels so out of place with the final act that I honestly question what the filmmakers were going for. Cruel depictions of human trafficking don’t really mesh well with a film where one man pulls out another man’s still-beating heart. Yeah…that happens here. If the ultimate message of Rambo: Last Blood is that everyone sucks and everything sucks and we should all just give up, then…okay, I guess? Message received. But then the damn thing has the audacity to end with a clip show montage of all of the previous Rambo films including the one we just saw and somehow try to be uplifting. No, you don’t get it both ways!

There’s just nothing to recommend here. The action in the final act is good at times, but even it’s shot in quick shaky cuts that don’t do it justice. The acting is serviceable but nothing worth mentioning. The characters all fall into three categories: Good, Bad, or Rambo — nothing more. And the whole thing has been dipped in Fox News grease and deep-fried in anti-Mexican hysteria. Maybe Rambo: Last Blood will work best as the final film in the ten-hour Rambo movie marathon/drinking game it’s destined to be a part of. Right now, it just feels tired. Rambo was once the living symbol of American jingoism in mass-media. Now he needs a pill just to salute the flag, and that’s only when he can be bothered. Rambo: Last Blood is so bad that I can’t be bothered at all.

My Rating: 3.5/10

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About Jeremiah Greville

Jeremiah Greville is a pretty rad beard that's attached itself to a human face. The beard likes movies, television, comic books, and gentle finger rubs. The human likes pizza and sleep. When they work together, they write reviews. Hope you enjoy them!

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