Published on September 19th, 2019 | by Harris Dang
Rambo: Last Blood – Film Review
Reviewed by Harris Dang on the 17th of September 2019
Roadshow Films presents a film by Adrian Grunberg
Produced by Avi Lerner, Yariv Lerner, Kevin King-Templeton, and Les Weldon
Written by Dan Gordon, Matt Cirulnick, and Sylvester Stallone; based on characters by David Morrell
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Yvette Monreal, Adriana Barraza, Joaquin Cosio, and Oscar Jaenada
Edited by Todd E. Miller and Carsten Kurpanek
Running Time: 89 minutes
Release Date: the 19th of September 2019
Did anyone imagine Sylvester Stallone would continue the Rambo franchise up to 2008’s fourth installment? If so, ask yourself that same question regarding this year’s episode. It is amazing to see the franchise progress from a traumatised political parable, and one of the first films to address PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome), to an overblown cartoon splatter fantasy.
The franchise’s final entry, fittingly subtitled Last Blood, has been in development for a decade. Many scripts were written including one compared to the Coen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men (2007). It is easy to assume that a lot of effort was put into the making of this installment. With director Adrian Grunberg at the helm (a protege of Mel Gibson, having his directorial debut with Get the Gringo, 2012), will Last Blood provide a satisfying hurrah for the soldier without a war?
The film commences with John Rambo working as a voluntary rescue worker who is saving people from a massive rainstorm. Unfortunately, his inability to save everyone bears similarities to his fallen comrades in the Vietnam War. He lives a life of peace and quiet (when does he not?) in his family home by caring for his horses and living with his lovingly named “sister”, Maria (Adriana Barraza), and her pure-hearted daughter, Gabriela (Yvette Monreal).
However, Gabriela learns that she knows the whereabouts of her estranged father, who is not revered by Maria and Rambo. Despite the warnings, Gabriela travels to Mexico to look for him. Unfortunately, she is taken hostage by a sadistic Mexican cartel, leading Rambo to rescue her from the clutches of human traffickers, headed by the Martinez brothers (Sergio Peris-Mencheta and Oscar Jaenada).
When the film’s teaser trailer released, many compared it to Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992) and James Mangold’s Logan (2017). The final product is so far removed from those films it is ludicrous to compare them. Last Blood is more like the fourth Rambo than the first. It is ultra‑violent, racist, corny, laughable, and bewilderingly sincere. However, I would be lying if said I did not enjoy it. It might be the best unintentional comedy this year.
It hilariously shares similarities to the plot of Taken (2008) and one that has been well-worn for over sixty years since John Ford’s Western The Searchers (1956). It is also embedded with Taken’s xenophobia. The men are either hoodlums, drug dealers, human traffickers, or terrible fathers. The representation of women is misogynistic too. They are portrayed as victims, plot devices, and worry-warts. What is it with recent films involving lead characters musing about their estranged parental figures and are upset when they realise they are imposters?
The script’s blatant, unsubtle themes become laughably didactic. It is fitting since Stallone’s face can no longer move enough to act out the dramatic scenes. Thankfully, he knows his acting range, such as when he is silent and working on his action chops, and busy angrily welding. His presence lends grit and intensity that works well within the film’s misguided scope. The other performances range from pantomime (Peris-Mencheta and Jaenada twirl their mustaches and then some) to petrified (Monreal cannot emotionally register convincingly). Only Barazza and Vega (two great actresses in their own right) manage to imbue life into their thin roles with utmost sincerity.
The disharmony of the downright serious tone and the film’s intent becomes shockingly funny. We are shown horrific, villainous acts, such as forcing women into drug use and implied rape. Yet the counterbalance of the violence and retribution in the third act is so over-the-top that it borders on hilarious farce, complete with terrible green screen (as expected, since it is a Millennium Films production). You would expect a bottle of beer to sprout out of the armrest as it is so mindlessly violent. A positive is that it is not morally repugnant as the previous film. It dispenses with using sanctimonious ideals (in the case of the fourth film, religion) to motivate the character’s pursuit of blood-soaked, entrails-smothered carnage.
Rambo: Last Blood is an incredibly boneheaded amalgamate of the third and fourth installment. It combines the comic-book fantasy of the former with the serio-comical splatter of the latter. Alternatively, one can view it as an unintentionally hilarious horror comedy with gallons of blood, severed heads, disemboweling, bone shattering, and infinite explosions. Your mileage may vary but either way, you are going to need a good supply of body bags.
Summary: It is ultra‑violent, racist, corny, laughable, and bewilderingly sincere. However, I would be lying if said I did not enjoy it. It might be the best unintentional comedy this year.