Movie Review : Rambo - Last Blood (2019)
Sylvester Stallone movies are a different kind of crazy. Although he’s shown acting chops in the past, he truly is a specialist and his specialty is kicking ass on screen. Whether he’s punching people into becoming better versions of themselves or axe-fighting Jason Momoa to exert revenge, the transaction between him and us is always clear: we come for gruesome violence and he never ever fails to deliver. He delivers exactly that in Rambo: Last Blood. It’s an exquisitely violent film, but it fails in ways you didn’t imagine Sylvester Stallone movies ever could.
It’s… not very good? It’s not a disgrace or anything, but it doesn’t live up to Sylvester Stallone’s legacy of violence and tormented masculinity.
In Rambo: Last Blood, our beloved protagonist (Sylvester Stallone) is living the American dream on his later father’s ranch with his niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal) and a hispanic woman (Adriana Barraza) who’s identity or involvement with John Rambo isn’t clear. Everything goes to shit when Gabrielle goes to Mexico to confront her estranged father (Marco de la O) and ends up being sold into sexual slavery to a Mexican cartel by a shitty friend from high school. Do I really need to say more? If you’re any familiar with Rambo movies, you know exactly where this is going.
What makes Rambo movies so special is that they’re war movies almost entirely devoid of political intent. Sure, they almost giddily reimagine the horrors committed by Viet Congs or Burmese soldier to create a moral justification for Rambo’s violent rampages, but it could be any war. Rambo just needs a war. It could be any war. He needs people to save and violent assholes who use politics as an excuse to do dark and irredeemable shit in order to do what he does best. Rambo: Last Blood is unfortunately not a war movie. it’s a revenge thriller and it’s part of the problem.
In Rambo: Last Blood, our favorite hyperviolent soldier with a kind heart isn’t caught solving other people’s problems at his own expense. He’s saving a niece we never knew he had from sexual slavery and exerting revenge on Mexican cartel. I only have one problem with that: it could be the plot to a Taken movie. Seriously, replace Sylvester Stallone by Liam Neeson’s boilerplate badass dad character and the first 75 minutes of Rambo: Last Blood would virtually be the same.
The idea of John Rambo playing the overbearing righteous dad is seducing on paper, but it doesn’t work. The screenplay for Rambo: Last Blood is unoriginal and devoid of any tortured moral choice that made Rambo who he is. He’s always committing terrible, inhuman shit that’ll eventually haunt him in order to save people who don’t really deserve his help. This element is completely absent from Last Blood. The saving-your-child-from-sex-trafficking sure is relatable for the target demographic, but it’s also a movie we’ve watched a hundred fucking times.
But like in every Rambo movie, it all builds up to a final, over the top confrontation and force is to admit… it kind of delivers again. If you decide to watch Rambo: Last Blood after reading this review, you can’t quit until he starts booby trapping the tunnels he built on his farms like McCauley Caulkin in Home Alone. Among the amazing details: cartel soldiers walking into tripwires while Rambo pops up from his tunnels like a goddamn prairie dog to shoot the survivors, gruesome steel rod impalement and the most Rambo final scene you’re ever seen in your life.
We get 15 minutes of Rambo being Rambo in Last Blood, but it’s so satisfying it almost makes the movie good.
Rambo: Last Blood doesn’t live up the the transcendent legacy of its character. Mostly because of its hastily-written script that features a Mexican journalist MacGuffin, another Mexican lady who does literally nothing but preparing Rambo’s food on the ranch, Rambo uncharacteristically getting his ass kicked and other bullshit shortcuts like that, which make the movie more generic than it ought to be. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either. But it has the perfect ending for the character, so I hope Sylvester Stallone leaves him be. Rambo is too good for mediocrity.