By: John M Jerva
REVIEW: Rambo: Last Blood
STARRING: Sylvester Stallone, Yvette Monreal, Paz Vega, Sergio-Paris Mencheta, Oscar Jaenada
DIRECTED BY: Adrian Grunberg
Official Synopsis: Almost four decades after he drew first blood, Sylvester Stallone is back as one of the greatest action heroes of all time, John Rambo. Now, Rambo must confront his past and unearth his ruthless combat skills to exact revenge in a final mission. A deadly journey of vengeance, Rambo: Last Blood marks the last chapter of the legendary series. Lionsgate in association with Millennium Media presents, a Millennium Media Balboa Productions and Templeton Media production, in association with Campbell Grobman Films, and in association with Dadi Film (HK) Limited.
THE REVIEW: I have been a Rambo fan ever since First Blood was released in 1982 and I have been a Sylvester Stallone for even longer due to his Rocky films. With each entry in the Rambo franchise, Stallone has mixed it up each and every time putting the iconic warrior in different surroundings and going up against different enemies. Rambo: First Blood Part II will always be my personal favorite with 2008’s Rambo coming in a close second but with the release of his newest outing this weekend, aptly titled Rambo: Last Blood, Stallone has reinvented the character yet again as now the world and war weary warrior is now in his 70’s and after coming home at the end of the last film, he has tried to put his past to bed and has tried to lead a somewhat normal existence for a change with the only family he has left, his niece Gabrielle played by Yvette Monreal.
It has been 11 years since Rambo has seen the violence and brutality of war and it has taken its toll on the once indestructible fighting machine as he is now broken down and suffering from PTSD. John now takes an endless assembly line of pills to help quench his inner demons and everyday is a struggle as he exists on his family’s Arizona ranch tending to and training horses. He’s only solitude is the series of tunnels he has built beneath the ranch whew he spends a lot of his days making knives and trying to deal with what he has done in the past. This isn’t the Rambo we are used to but it’s the Rambo that exists today.
When Gabrielle, Rambo’s niece, asks her uncle if she could go and confront her father who walked out of her and her now deceased mother, Rambo immediately knows it’s a bad idea as he knows the kind of man her father is. He is a man with a black soul and that’s one thing, Rambo unfortunately knows all to well.
Against her uncle’s advise, Gabrielle goes down to Mexico anyway where she has found her father and things do not go well of course as she is shunned by the man who helped give birth to her. After experiencing who he really is, Gabrielle goes to a local nightclub with a friend and here she is drugged and kidnapped while being forced into white slavery by a ruthless cartel run by the evil Martinez brothers. These men are the scum of the scum and the lowest pieces of trash that walk the Earth. These men, you want to see them get what they have coming.
Hearing that his niece has disappeared, Rambo takes it upon himself to formulate one more mission to save her and bring her back safely. Unfortunately, he is not the man he once was and this fight will summon all the strength, lethal skills and knowledge that he has left in his war ravaged body. Even at 50%, Rambo is still one of the most dangerous men on the planet and the cartel will soon learn that in a bloody display of vengeance and savagery.
Rambo: Last Blood has essentially divided the fan base and critics with some saying that it’s a mess and many saying that it isn’t a true Rambo film. I am here to say that in my mind, as someone who has been there since day one, this is indeed a Rambo film and if anything, it delivers the character into a new light that some people are not ready for. This film is essentially Stallone’s Logan where just like Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, he is well past his prime and his body and mind are now his greatest enemies. He is a shell of who he once was and that is not an easy thing to see when you consider this was the same man who blew up half of Vietnam back in ‘85. But just like Logan, Rambo has one more fight in him and when the time comes, he unleashes his once dormant lethal skills as his savage and barbaric alter ego shows himself once again. The old Rambo is back even if it’s only for one more time but this time it means so much more.
Watching the film, it feels like a lot of it is missing and that is the case as I have read that a lot of footage in test screenings have not made it into this final cut. Unfortunately, these scenes seem like they added more meat to the bone and enhanced the viewing experience so hopefully we get an extended cut further down the road. Paz Vega’s character of Carmen Delgado looks to be one casualty of the editing process as her character leaves a lot to be desired. She essentially just shows up to help Stallone when he’s down and that’s basically it. Also I know Louis Mandylor filmed scenes for it and he is nowhere to be found. But even with this, Last Blood is still a tight and gripping tale of bloody retribution with Rambo now a lone wolf vigilante instead of a decorated soldier.
The villains are nothing more than cardboard cutouts but they serve their purpose and give Stallone ample bodies to pummel along the way. There’s nothing extra in the performances of Mencheta and Jarnada but they do a serviceable job and make you want to see them die a cruel and grissly fate. Spoiler alert, they do and boy do they. The rest of the cast is fine as well with Monreal being the clear standout as Rambo’s niece Gabrielle. She’s really the only other character who gets a backstory and you feel for her and what she goes through. I will say that the scene where Rambo does his best Oldboy impersonation is a welcome one.
Another integral part to the film is the awesome and epic score by composer Brian Tyler who did Rambo as he returns to score this film as well. Tyler mixes the classic Rambo themes with new and adrenalized music that takes you into this world of vengeance and the music highlights and punctuates the action seen on the screen. It definitely has an old school 80’s action vibe to it that will put a smile on your face if you’re a true fan.
Now lets talk about the most important part of the film and that’s the last 20 minutes where a lone warrior takes on a cartel army by himself but does it in a way that makes it believable at the same time. Think Home Alone meets the Saw franchise as Rambo turns his once idyllic ranch into a blood soaked battlefield. Make no mistake, Rambo has still lost a step or two but he makes up for it with outhinking his foe and laying deadly traps throughout the land and underneath. This last blast of action is violent to the extreme and it is highlighted by a more fierce Rambo then we have ever seen before. The stakes are higher this time because they have taken away that which was most dear to him and for that, he will make them feel like he feels. It’s a grotesque and brutal display put on by the lone wolf and he essentially leads the unsuspecting cartel memebers into his world of retribution. The scene is highlighted by a fierce and unforgiving battle in the tunnels that once served as solitude for Rambo.
For these last 20 minutes, Rambo is back in the “Nam and to have it play out in the tunnels just like the ones he fought in back in the war is eerily fitting and it generates the highest symbolism as Rambo has reverted back to the warrior he once was. It’s not easy to watch at times as the cartel memebers are dispatched in extreme ways and the violence is of the horror movie variety where it is both savagely breathtaking and gruesomely appauling that even the most die hard of action fan will do a double take at the carnage on display on the big screen. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of the barbaric ending of the previous entry but it most certainly gives it a run for its money.
The finale culminates in one of the most shocking kills in action film history as Rambo finally makes the one man pay who deserves it the most and when Rambo says that he’s going to make him feel what it’s like to have his heart ripped out of his chest like him, he means it…literally. It’s shocking to the extreme but necassary at the same time. It’s the ultimate pay off for all the wrong that was done throughout the film. It really is satisfying in the most disturbing way ever.
I’d like to also mention that it’s hard to see our heroes grow older and lose a little of what made them so special to us and that’s what makes Last Blood so worthwhile. Each Rambo film was different for certain reasons and here Stallone reinvents his iconic character once more one last time. This no longer is the indestructable killing machine we are used to but he is now flawed and with that comes a moment at the end where you think this might truly be the end. I won’t spoil it but the ending is fitting and if this where we last see the character then so be it. Rambo is a man who sadly was always meant to be alone and Stallone keeps the legacy of this warrior in tact and even though it’s hard to watch, it’s fitting.
To sum it all up, Rambo: Last Blood is indeed a Rambo film and one that has changed along with the times. Stallone does the character proud and he can do this part in his sleep. The film is much more than an action-thriller. It’s a testament to the enduring legacy that Sly started way back in 1982 with First Blood. One must watch all the films in order to really get a true appreciation for the evolution of Rambo and if you are a serious fan then you will gain the most from watching this last installment. It delivers the action goods but it also closes the final chapter in one of the greatest franchises in action movie history. Some think that the ending of the fourth film was the best way to say goodbye but I feel that this is the best way to bid farewell. I personally don’t want another film in the series because the character has been through so much. Hopefully Stallone puts Rambo to rest once and for all and with that, this fan was completely satisfied. Job well done Sly…job well done.
VERDICT: 4.5 Out Of 5 Stars
About The Author: John M Jerva is the owner and editor-in-chief of Action-Flix.com and is a DIE HARD fan of everyhting Action! From the glorious past to the rousing present and thrilling future, John lives and breathes action!
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