When reviewing Rambo: Last Blood it’s tough to know which way to turn.
Turning up your nose at a Rambo film for being virtually repellent in it’s views on the worst other cultures have to offer or it’s stance on barbarically violent revenge and blood lust would be as pointless as yelling at a fish for swimming. Like it or not, these are essentially what Rambo movies ARE and if you have a problem with them in general then I’d stay away from this fifth entry like a dose of the clap.
However, if, like me, you have a healthy tolerance for the more vicious side of cinema and you’re not adverse to the sight of Sylvester Stallone torturing someone by literally pulling his shattered clavicle out of his body then John Rambo’s last round up may have something for you.
11 years after returning to his ranch in Texas after drastically shortening the average life expectancy of a Burmese militant, John Rambo has seemingly, finally, found peace from the raging war-monster his government made him become. Close with his 17 year old niece, he trains horses, lives the quiet life and takes pills to keep those pesky ‘Nam flashbacks in check but when she finally finds out where her absent father is living, John’s niece wants to visit him to find out why he left when she was young. As she obviously hasn’t seen any of the Taken movies she heads across the Mexican border where apparently everyone is a slum dwelling low life (Millenium Films isn’t exactly known for their progressive portrayal of minorities) and within 24 hours of arriving winds up in the sex slave trade thanks to a duplicitous friend. Preparing for war, Rambo storms into Mexico to get her back but runs into the sadistic Martinez Brothers who proceed to beat him like dusty rug and leave him for dead. Saved by the movie’s only nice Mexican (Paz Vega’s ineffectual reporter sporting a fine head of hair that makes her look more like classic Rambo than Stallone does) John makes another play for his niece’s liberation and eventually plans a last stand in the tunnels under his ranch which he has handily retro fitted, Home Alone style, into a lethal assault course dedicated to vast amounts of spiky themed murder.
Despite my gleeful love of cinematic ultra-violence I’m legitimately sorry to say that this farewell to Stallone’s other franchise character can’t hope to even hope to compete with the triumphant glory of the Creed films or even the main bulk of it’s own entries. The plot, for the first half half at least doesn’t even feel that much like a Rambo movie, John’s quiet retirement giving way to a more standard Death Wish style of revenge film which trades jungles and deserts for Mexican shitholes and essentially John’s back garden. The revenge plot proves problematic as the film decides to strongly stick to Rambo 4’s template of letting the crime fit the punishment. Watching crazed military types torturing, raping and wiping out whole villagers in Burma in order to earn their ultimate punishment was eyebrow raising enough, but it proves even more off-putting when all of the sordid indignities are heaped entirely on a single 17 year old girl.
Eventually we make it to the jaw droppingly gruesome finale where the film finally starts feeling more Rambo-y and Stallone virtually shreds his enemies into screaming puddles of human flavoured goo – like Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers have both had PCP flavoured enimas and decided to gate crash an episode of Love Island – and this is where the film starts finally earning it’s more dubious points.
However, no matter how entertaining you may or may not find watching Stallone literally pull a man’s heart out of his chest (and again, I must confess I enjoyed it a lot) there’s that distinct feeling you are watching clumbsy Rambo fan-fiction written by Donald Trump with an all-American hero slaughtering invading evil minorities who have sneaked across the border onto US soil.
Oddly enough and disappointing for a film series that has focused so much on a man struggling with his darker impulses while trying to serve his country, this final episode sees him embrace the killer inside himself for his own ends almost immediately which somewhat dilutes the message of the first (and best) movie into oblivion which, has to be said, is somewhat of a shame.
Stallone himself acquits himself in the action quite admirably despite looking like a catcher’s mitt with lips but unless he’s got one more R rated Expendables movie left in him maybe it’s time to call it a day on his particular brand of geriaction film.
“Do we get to win this time?” Rambo once desperately asked in an earlier movie.
The answer, sadly, is no.