“RAMBO: LAST BLOOD” is the fifth entry in the franchise with Stallone reprising his role as the former Green Beret. Adrian Grunberg is directing this sequel with Matthew Cirulnick & Sylvester Stallone penning the screenplay. The story here is set roughly 8-10 years after the events of the last movie when we saw Rambo returning to the family ranch in Arizona. He has a niece that is very much like a daughter to him and he has seemingly put the violence of his past behind him. But that of course will not last for long because there would be no “Last Blood” to spill in this sequel otherwise. His niece gets into some trouble south of the border and John Rambo will have to revisit the soldier inside himself to get her back which this time will bring the battle to his doorstep.
So pretty much this movie is a blend of 80’s action, with shades of the final act of “Home Alone” spiced with whispers of a horror movie like “Cube” from 1997. Now to be honest I was confident Stallone would be capable in this role and he certainly was. Like the last Rambo movie back in ’08 the story didn’t stretch the character past his physical capabilities. This film embraced the age of Stallone when crafting the ultra-violence and the result is satisfying. From the aspect of acting, Stallone once again was the action lead that the film sold him as. But sadly, the movie overall was a miss for me. I enjoyed it in sections and during others I honestly got bored from the blatant lack of creative story-telling. The script doesn’t spend too much time diving into the character of Rambo. But that has been the trend in the franchise because the days of “First Blood” are long gone. The troubled soldier at war with himself inside has been swapped with a one-man killing machine since “Rambo II” and it is what it is.
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So, I wasn’t expecting too much in that area of the writing. Yet, surprisingly enough between the generic action-movie story tropes there was a development to Rambo I enjoyed, however subtle it may have been. There is a visible optimism and a feeling of being content that I haven’t seen from Rambo which I thought was a nice emotional touch. I could see some of the growth in the character as he truly looked like he had put the war behind him. Unfortunately, the overall narrative of the movie felt like something more suited for the straight-to-video rack. This was a B-movie script that lacked a lot of creative ambition. It felt like an assembly line story with a collection of familiar stops we have seen done too many times. It was filled with cardboard characters that never felt authentic thus I never connected with or cared about them. I will through give great credit to Yvette Monreal. She brought the movie a heartfelt character and despite some simplicity on the writing side she was able to pump some emotion into the performance that can grab the viewer.
The villains were cut-and-paste characters with no lasting impression. As soon as you see them you know their fate, so no real intensity was created. Not simply from their performances, which I thought were more than serviceable. The problem is that after about 15-minutes you can pretty much assume where this movie is going to go, and how it will get there. I watched the story progress but didn’t ever feel pulled into it and that is something that even the last Rambo from ’08 was able to accomplish.
There never felt like a reason why this story needed to be told. I enjoyed watching Stallone in this movie, but I admittedly love Stallone, and I have since I was a kid. I can watch him in anything and despite wanting this movie to blow me away, it simply didn’t. It does however have a great final act with endless gratuitous violence. It delivers plenty of blood and carnage. Limbs are chopped off, bones are broken, and Rambo creates a truly evil dungeon full booby traps that would blow Kevin McAllister’s mind! And I’ll admit when the killing is at full speed it’s a joy for fans of violent action movies. It’s a nod to the classic Rambo moments of years past at times as well. It’s just unfortunate that the plot-line pulling these bloody sequences together brought nothing new to the table. I know the Rambo name will naturally put butts in seats. Still though, with a couple small tweaks this could have easily NOT been a Rambo movie at all. And it possibly may have resulted in smaller expectations for what this script does provide story-wise.
Stallone certainly was still amazing. He felt comfortable in the role, he was powering and intimidating. He delivers a handful of nostalgically cheesy lines that are the epitome of pure action-movie bravado which brought a smile to my face. This isn’t a bad movie by any means, it’s just an uninspired one. Rambo could get closure in so many ways and this one felt easy. Not at all like a story that needed eleven-years to be told. It could have come out a couple years after the last movie and maybe been even better without the decade gap. On the bright-side it’s less than 90-minutes with credits, it keeps a swift pace and doesn’t wear out its welcome.
Because of the simplicity of the plot and characters the first half of the movie does drag, but it isn’t too long before the killing starts and that is when the movie is at its best. The traps and gun-play are nicely shot to build a ton of intensity and I was completely locked in once it got going. The creativity in the movie is purely in the variety of how Rambo dispatches of his attackers and for that aspect this one was a complete success. I loved the cat-and-mouse killing spree and it does make the writing more forgivable. Stallone is suited for a last round but the story-line does feel like first-semester creative-writing. And I know, who comes to Rambo looking for a character study? Give the people what they want, Rambo killing and reverting to his one-man army and that is exactly what the final act provides. So, if you love the franchise, Stallone, or were interested it’s worth a shot. But it could wait till it hits digital in a few months.