Rambo: Last Blood

Rambo: Last Blood Review – Bled Dry

Rambo: Last Blood

Movie Rating:

2.5

The last scenes in Rambo: Last Blood, the fifth and supposedly final film in Sylvester Stallone’s signature action series, are a montage of clips from 1982’s First Blood all the way to some from the film we just sat through. This recap is a convenient reminder that the first film was a probing, philosophically rich character piece, while the rest have been various forms of revenge porn.

In other words, we’re getting another Rambo movie, not another First Blood, as much as current director Adrian Grunberg (Get the Gringo) intimates that this one will go back to the character’s origins. Last time ’round, in 2008’s Rambo (or John Rambo, or Rambo IV, depending on where you live), the character caused mayhem in Burma. Here he’s on an Arizona ranch, peacefully taking care of ponies while his surrogate daughter Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal) is about to enter college. When the girl learns that her estranged father is over the border in Mexico, she decides to go confront him and find out why he left.

Suffice it to say that things go bad – so badly, it’s almost weirdly refreshing to get a film where actual consequences play out, at least for some characters. We’re so used to slightly chaste versions of these stories that it’s nice to see one where the stakes are high. (That’s of course a pun for the booby traps that Rambo has hidden in his underground cave system. Trust me, it’s no less insane than the helicopter stuff in part III where Rambo essentially saved the Taliban.)

There are good people and bad people over the border, but the bad people are really bad, so we don’t feel pangs of guilt as they get clobbered one-by-one. In one scene, Rambo gets a concussion and we think that maybe he’s human after all. Well, it turns out that action movies may mention trauma, but the concussion protocols are certainly not followed in subsequent scenes.

At any rate, things happen, people are killed, explosions go off, horses prance, and the sun always seems to be just about to set. There are fleeting moments when you think the film will be some reflective, ruminative piece on an aging warrior who must use guile over brawn to combat his enemies, but that wouldn’t be very Rambo-ish, would it?

Stallone has long chafed at notions that this character could be politicized, either by Ronald Reagan as some iconic symbol of American virtue or by those who feel that Rambo represents the most egregious self-mythologizing of the avenging warrior. It may be impossible to divorce Rambo from the jingoistic baggage that the series of sequels brought, but a charitable reading might suggest that politicizing the character would be the same as ascribing ideological intent to a loyal attack dog. It’s dehumanizing, perhaps, but it’s at least more honest than the actual message the movies send. Things go awry? Send in the big guns and wipe them out.

This end to Rambo (and lord this feels like the end) is about as decent as you can expect. The movie offers no surprising uplift in character development, and no real recognition for the coiled energy that drove First Blood. I get why Sly and company wish to take another dip, as this revenge tale has a Home Alone or Straw Dogs vibe that’s satisfying in an evergreen way.

If Rambo: Last Blood is the last word on the franchise, it’s an unremarkable sendoff to a character who has long overstayed his welcome. Nevertheless, it implausibly works within the framework of what it’s trying to present, a blatantly simple story of revenge that doesn’t once look to either side of the road to see what it’s passing by, or how the landscape has changed. This is a horse with blinders on, and any moment of deep reflection would make the whole thing fall apart. Instead, we’re left to revel in the thwip of arrows, the gore of the attacks, and the sense of simplistic justice that has been the cornerstone of this series for decades.

6 comments

  1. Dave

    Not bashing the above review at all and I love all his reviews on this site; just wanted to speak to the fellow Stallone fans like me who enjoyed Get Carter and Oscar, because Stallone is an awesome under appreciated actor. If you enjoyed the last Rambo’s gore and violence this one is on par with it. If you liked Stallone looking legit and amazing for his age, while also delivering gym motivation brooding speeches, it has that too. Also the score from the previous film is back and fits the action and slower moments perfectly. This is not Casablanca, nor does it try to be anything other than a Rambo film and thus on an action scale its easily a 4.5 stars film. It does have the series smallest set pieces and borrows a hammer scene straight from “You were never really here,'” but not quite as good, so I knocked it a half star. Hope it does well so we can get a true final blood film and maybe a “Friendship,” instead of a “Fatality,” for an ending.

  2. Lurchie

    I’ll admit that I enjoyed First Blood (of course i was 12 at the time). I find it interesting that anyone is taking this character seriously anymore. It seems that after the second movie came out, it became an absolute (if maybe unintentional) parody of itself. I think I might have seen the third movie in bits and pieces, and by that point the storyline was tired, empty and boring. I remember shaking my head when I learned that they released several more movies. I guess if someone thinks there is money to be made. . .

  3. Bolo

    I agree with the review. I liked that there was a sense of danger and consequences and that everything couldn’t just be put right by killing some bad guys. And they didn’t waste time trying to milk suspense out of predictable plot points (specifically the girl’s reunion with her father). I also thought Rambo’s attacks were made to be as credible as possible. They don’t have old man Stallone kickboxing his way through rooms full of fighter guys a third his age. He mostly relies on lying in wait and springing traps.

    But this film did feel a tad cheap. The last one felt like a proper film, this one felt far more on a DTV scale. A few bigger action scenes, especially when he’s in Mexico would’ve been nice. This was the weakest of the series, but I can’t say I wasn’t entertained.

  4. Shannon Nutt

    This film was AWFUL. They got the tone of the character all wrong, and Rambo does really stupid things (for a man who’s supposed to be “the best – with guns, with knifes, with his bare hands!”) in the first half of the film just so we can get to the violent third act. I’ve liked all the Rambo movies (yes, even Rambo IV) to one degree or another, but this movie just left a bad taste in my mouth. It’s the “Rocky V” of Rambo movies…if Stallone wasn’t so old, I’d demand another to make up for this one!

  5. Juan

    The entire time watching this movie i kept thinking that it feels nothing like a Rambo movie but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the ridiculous final act.

  6. It was fun for the most part, dug that it wasn’t just like the others but I wish it was paced better. My biggest gripe with this movie was the disjointed editing. Just barely enough setup to get you to “care” but little else. It was content with taking its time at the front end but then rushes through the action end so fast we don’t get to enjoy it. Also – it looked damn cheap at times, that CGI at the end was PS2 level bad background renders.

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