When we last saw John Rambo, he was finally returning home after a long time away fighting other people’s wars. The final shot of Rambo (2008) seemed like a perfect end to the series, with him visually resembling the man we were first introduced to all those year ago in First Blood (1982).
Since then, there have been rumblings that Sylvester Stallone still was not done with the character, with him wanting to bring him back to the screen for another go around. While it has taken him eleven years, Rambo: Last Blood proves that the septuagenarian hero still has some fight left in him.
The plot carries on where Rambo left off, with Rambo now running his father’s ranch and living with his housekeeper Maria (Adriana Barraza) and her Granddaughter Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal). Rambo has become a surrogate father for the young Gabrielle whose own father left her years before to go and live in Mexico.
Against Rambo’s wishes, Gabriella decides to travel to Mexico to see her father so she can find out why he abandoned them. As expected, things do not exactly go as planned for the teenager, with her being kidnapped by members of a Mexican cartel. Now it is up to Rambo to travel to Mexico and bring her back.
While the weakest entry to the series, Rambo: Last Blood is still a solidly entertaining action thriller. The only real issue is that at some points it does not quite feel like a Rambo movie. Certain aspects of the film have more in common with the Death Wish series, with Rambo going on a trail of revenge. While the plot gives Rambo ample opportunity to exact his bloody retribution, it robs the film of the iconic heroic moments that previous installments had.
Apparently, there was a scene cut from the film that had Rambo saving people from a flash flood, which would have been a nice addition and would perhaps have given the film that iconic hero moment that it is sorely lacking.
Even though it pales in comparison to the previous instalment, there is enough good stuff here to keep fans of the series happy, with an especially strong performance from Stallone, exciting action scenes and some nice visuals.
As expected, Millennium films carry out their usual sub-standard work with the special effects, with some especially rear projection shots detracting from the film at certain points. Thankfully the effects work is stronger when it comes to the blood and gore, which has a mixture of practical and digital work.
Unlike the last entry, Stallone hands over the directing reigns to Adrian Grunberg. Grunberg does a good job of emulating the style that Stallone had previously employed, especially when it comes to the gore laden action scenes.
Surprisingly, Rambo: Last Blood is more of a slow burn than expected. Of course it is still an action movie, but it takes its time to get to it with Grunberg slowly building the tension while Rambo searches the violent streets of Mexico. One particularly brutal interrogation scene will certainly stick in the mind, and shows that Rambo has not lost his skills for inflicting pain.
While there are some smaller skirmishes throughout, the majority of the action comes in the final third, with the final twenty minutes being a viscerally enjoyable piece of action cinema. Playing like a deranged take on Home Alone (1990), it has Rambo laying out a multitude of traps throughout his compound in preparation.
Fully earning its R rating, the finale has no shortage of beheadings, dismemberments and bullet wounds. Although the violence is not on the same level as part 4, Rambo: Last Blood still ranks as one of the most violent films of the year.
Things have been somewhat quiet for Grunberg since his directorial debut with Get The Gringo (2012). Since then he has primarily focused on assistant and second unit directing, working on the likes of Narcos (2015) and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016).
His only other main work as a director since Get The Gringo has been an episode of crime drama Here On Earth (2018), which is a shame as he has shown he has a particularly good eye for violent action.
It is great to see Stallone back in a starring role. Unlike his recent DTV efforts such as the Escape Plan sequels which gave him star billing but with limited screen time, Rambo: Last Blood has him front and centre getting into the thick of the action.
It shows that this is still a man marked by his experiences in war, with him still haunted by flashbacks to that time. While he seems at peace, he comments that he is only keeping a lid on it and you know it is only a matter of time before that lid comes off and he has to revert back to his old ways.
Rambo’s age is addressed, but even at 73, Stallone/Rambo is still is a force to be reckoned with. The villains may be derogatory about his age, but there is no point in the film that you doubt what he is capable of.
By this point in the franchise, Sylvester Stallone knows the Rambo character better than anyone. At least the movie version, as he has become far removed from the character originally introduced in David Morrell’s novel.
Like all entries in the series, Stallone had a hand in the script, this time co-writing with Matthew Cirulnick. The screenplay does give Stallone a chance to show his emotional side, with Rambo having a personal stake in the fight this time round.
Like previous entries, the screenplay does not shy away from showing the horrors of the world, shedding a light on the horrific world of human trafficking. Being a Rambo movie, it does take a somewhat simplistic view of what is really going on, but the subject matter does set it apart from previous entries.
While Stallone is giving a lot do here, the same is not true of his co-stars. While the likes of Paz Vega, Yvette Monreal and Adriana Barraza are fine in their roles, they are thinly drawn and only given limited screen time. With a run time of only 89 minutes, it is clear that parts of their roles ended up on the cutting room floor. At least they appear, with the likes of Louis Mandylor having their entire role removed.
The villains are even worse, with there being nothing in the way of character development. They are suitably evil however, so you will be glad to see them getting their comeuppance.
Brian Tyler’s score is a nice accompaniment to the on-screen action, with him working in enough of Jerry Goldsmith’s themes to make it feel organic to the series.
Even though Rambo: Last Blood is not the complete success I had hoped for, I was thoroughly entertained by its brutal thrills. Even with its faults, I would even be open to more adventures for the aging hero.