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Rambo: Last Blood Review | Escape to the Movies

So the last like 10 minutes of this are just
nuts – in a good way! An extended, very well put together action sequence wherein John
Rambo lures his enemies into a series of booby trapped tunnels under his farmhouse and just
shreds them into goo with saws and nails and spikes and sawed-off shotguns and machine
guns and tripwire mines and arrows and that friggin’ bowie knife he swings like such
a beast he can just hack dude’s legs or their fuck’n heads off with just one clean hit and it’s gory
and bloody and nasty as hell with a final killing-stroke for the main(ish?) bad guy I mean you got to see to be believe that it’s in a mainstream movie. Ya’ know I mean… strictly in that respect,
for that limited stretch of time? Hats off Sly, ya still got it. …I mean, just imagine how much more people would get out of it if there had been anything
interesting or cool going on in the movie before that? Or if any of those random bad guys getting
killed had like names, or personalities, or identifying characters or any reason for us to give a
shit who they were? Or if the events leading up to them being there had been compelling,
suspenseful or original in any way instead of just a generic taken knock-off goosed up
with some half-hearted Mexican-border xenophobia that can’t even muster the energy to commit
to that base level of thematic coherence? Or if even that brief part had
felt at all meaningfully like a Rambo movie apart from the intermittent Jerry Goldsmith
motif? I mean even at their lowest points, the “classic”
Rambo installments were alternately capable of eliciting cheers or ruffling feathers with
their evergreen controversial mixing of topical scenarios and B-movie ultraviolence; but apart
from a single aerial shot of what I guess we’re calling the (ahem!) “wall” under
construction and the same generically ugly Mexican gangland stereotypes on display in
every other Hollywood action movie like this. It’s not appreciably “worse”
on that front than, say, Man On Fire over a decade ago and (pardon the pun) pales in
comparison to Peppermint last year, so… I guess that’s the world now: John Rambo
– get out “politically-incorrect-ed” by Jennifer freak’n Garner.
Now do you even need to know what the plot is? Do you care? …okay fine. So, we re-join John
Rambo ten years after coming back to a family farm he apparently has in Arizona at the end
of the last movie in 2008, where he’s spent the past decade being a horse-farmer, okay, and surrogate dad, sure, to a now 18 year-old niece after the death of her mother from cancer and abandonment by her deadbeat dad who took off to Mexico. Playing the Dad to said niece being, obviously,
the sole thing keeping Rambo from turning back into… himself all this time; of course
she decides to sneak across the border to Mexico to seek closure from her apparently-resurfaced
“real dad” and gets captured by ruthless cartel sex-traffickers…like immediately – meaning Rambo has to track her down and do his whole “Rambo thing” to get her back. Except… actually, no he doesn’t for some damn reason the film bizarrely decides to act like Rambo is
a regular human guy again for most of it’s runtime (as though anyone who goes to see
“Rambo: Last Blood” is coming in unaware or somehow having forgotten that this dude
all but singlehandedly dismantled battalions of the North Vietnamese, Soviet and Burmese
army in the previous three movies all by himself) so Act 2 draws itself out into this bizarre weak
sauce Taken-a-like where Rambo (despite Stallone being in ridiculous shape and somehow looking
ten years younger at least than he did ten years ago in the last one, I mean say what you want about Stallone dude does take care of himself) he does some light
detective work in Mexico, gets his ass beat by just a bunch of regular henchmen, meets Paz Vega for a completely pointless nothing guest role, does a dumb riff on the hammer thing from Oldboy…
…and then only when things get sufficiently shitty enough plot wise (like he was waiting around for permission or something?) does the switch get flipped and he finally seems like, “Oh yeah, right – I’m Rambo!”
and we get that still meaningless but at least impressively nasty finish. But even then,
it’s not an especially definitive ending despite all the talking that gets done about
how meaningful a growth experience this has been for Rambo.
I mean setting aside the jarring aesthetic shift from wilderness battlefield action of all the other movies to urban Mexico and rural Americana neo-modern Western setting, the idea of reminding the audience
that we typically only see action hero characters like Rambo for a few days or even hours out
of their whole lives and giving us belated context on what else he has going on in
his background has a certain appeal there… but nothing happening in Last Blood feels strongly
informed by the previous films or reverberate back to them any more context. So ultimately this is just another bad late-period franchise entry that doesn’t feel like it
knows why it exists. First Blood got sequels in the first place because Stallone and the
producers had thematic and/or political stuff they wanted to explore (for lack of a better
word) with the character, the fourth one got made because Stallone had just tied the
bow off on Rocky (or so we thought). And while Stallone maybe underappreciated as an actor in many respects,
he’s never been all that good at pretending to give a shit when he doesn’t. 4 out of 10 – most
of that going to the ending… this is a bad, mostly boring, and uneven entry in what is honestly (if we’re being fair with ourselves) a pretty uneven series and this time I really hope we are done.


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