“Rambo: Last Blood” (2019)
Running time: 89 minutes
Written by: Matt Cirulnick and Sylvester Stallone
Directed by: Adrian Grunberg
Featuring: Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adriana Barraza, Yvette Monreal, Genie Kim, Joaquín Cosío and Oscar Jaenada
Rambo: “I’ve lived in a world of death. I’ve watched people I’ve loved die. Some fast with a bullet, some not enough left to bury. All these years I’ve kept my secrets, but the time has come to face my past. And if they come looking for me, they will welcome death. I want revenge. I want them to know that death is coming. And there’s nothing they can do to stop it.”
It has been eleven years since Sylvester Stallone last appeared onscreen as Vietnam vet John Rambo in the singularly titled “Rambo” (2008) which seemed to put a full stop in the story of a man who had seemingly been betrayed by his own country, but now we get an epilogue of sorts with this new R rated “Rambo: Last Blood” (2019) which is a call back to his first appearance in the David Morrell adaption “First Blood” (1982). Whilst that first movie signalled a pivot in what an action movie could be it showed a man who lived a solitary existence only had himself to look after with nothing to lose. This new movie offers something different, that same man who has embraced family and society (as much as a man like Rambo can) has everything to lose, it is a sad indictment on how we view people like Rambo that a man of action by himself can do little, one wonders what Rambo could have accomplished if he had more connections with an outside world. In some respects, this character has become little more than an isolationist and a shadow of his former self in that he only has one action, revenge, which is the staple of the entire franchise. This, the character of Rambo has in common with the Republican Party of today, in particular Trump who seems to preach what is exalted within the franchise, protect not those who you love but get revenge after the fact.
The majority of, and heyday of the entire ‘Rambo’ franchise was the 1980s, produced under a Republican led government and its totem of the day Ronald Reagan these movies offered audiences an antidote to the Cold War, especially as it came to an end, with people looking back at the failure of Vietnam and the problems that had produced. Rambo in the first movie was lost, someone attempting to live life on the road, although looking for an excuse to get some form of revenge, it is telling of Stallone’s own politics that he chose to let the character win – he died in the source material. From then on Rambo became some kind of wish fulfilment for the right wing as he became more cartoonish which is why there is a twenty-year gap between the third and fourth instalments. What has become apparent is that John Rambo is not a peacemaker, he is a revenge taker which is why in this movie, if he had taken some advice or even seen from a different point of view the outcome in this new movie would have been significantly different and better for all those involved. I have to admit I was expected more, a more languid understanding character who may have learned something over the past forty years but he still does not listen, instead having a myopic view on life and people. All in all, this feels like a throwback but not a good one, it has the promise of something different at the beginning but by the third act it is nothing more than a poorly executed derivative ‘A-Team’ rip-off.
The movie itself is of centred on John Rambo who lives with a Hispanic woman and her daughter who he seems to treat as his own. Through a decision made by his quasi daughter he has to travel to Mexico to save her as she has been taken hostage by a Mexican cartel.
A movie like “Rambo: Last Blood” lives and dies with the people behind the camera, for a movie like this to be any good there has to be some depth to it with themes imbedded within the DNA so that on closer scrutiny it is saying something either about the character, society or anything else that an audience can equate with. Unfortunately for some reason Stallone has decided to hand the reigns of this movie over to a director, Adrian Grunberg, and a co-writer, Matt Cirulnick, who have very little experience which shows onscreen almost from the outset. There is little explored within the narrative that holds up, in fact I would say that this plays very badly, I actually found myself bored which in a movie that runs less than ninety minutes is a very bad sign. The direction is pedestrian at best with very little going for it, the action is tired and motivations for everyone involved is murky at best. What I find confusing is the lack of Stallone’s involvement in the directing, he has proven on multiple occasions to be a better than average director, my heart sunk when I realised he was only credited as a co-writer.
Of course the lead of the movie is Sylvester Stallone who still holds the screen like ever before, this is one of his standard characters that is impossible not think of when you being Stallone to mind. The rest of the cast are not the highest calibre, however in saying that the young actress who is the centre of the story, Yvette Monreal is the real standout and is excellent, playing a part that requires her to be at once youthful, innocent and headstrong, all quite believable.
When I first heard about “Rambo: Last Blood” going into production as well as viewing the trailer for it I was looking forward to the movie but actually viewing it made my heart fall. It does not hold a candle to “First Blood” (1982) or even rise to “Rambo” which is a shame as both those movies had something to offer, both analysed the returned veteran in two eras that illustrate not much has changed in terms of returned servicemen. This new movie has little to say in regard to anything and its action set pieces seem designed to shock not adding to the overall narrative which these movies require. The very idea of commentary on politics in this movie is not explored much and the idea of Rambo being irrelevant is not touched on at all.
To be honest I would hold off on a visit to your local cinema, this is something that should be watched on a streaming service or rented on another platform. It is worth a watch as a curiosity piece but I think I prefer “Rambo” as the closing chapter to this franchise.