Rambo: Last Blood isn’t exactly a great capper to the long running franchise but it does an okay job at giving Rambo one final ride that takes him back to the urban combat and pensive vibe that defined the first movie. For a Rambo movie it is surprisingly chatty at the start as Last Blood only has one sustained scene of action chaos that comes at the end but it’s a really good, really messy action chaos. Rambo is still Rambo even though he isn’t wearing a headband and has a haircut now. The film is unabashedly exploitive in the middle wallowing in grime but whenever Rambo growls or when he takes out a dozens of goons it becomes a proper Rambo movie.
Eleven years after he finally returned home from the violent wilds, traumatized Vietnam War veteran and killing machine John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) has settled into a quiet life at a ranch with Maria (Adriana Barraza) and her granddaughter, Gabrielle (Yvette Montreal). The girls wants to meet her real father who disappeared years ago and she follows a lead to Mexico but ends up being captured by sadistic criminal brothers, Hugo (Sergio Peris–Mencheta) and Victor (Oscar Jaenada) who enslave the girl in a brothel. Now Rambo vows to save his adopted daughter but doing so may lead the evil criminals back to his home. Which is just what Rambo wants.
In 2008’s Rambo, John was a simmering pile of menace alone in the jungle but in Last Blood, Rambo is basically a family man. Although he has apparently spent the last decade making an intricate network of tunnels located under his farmland as hobby or something. It’s never quite explained why he’s built it but the tunnels can be written off as Rambo is a weird and distant guy who needs to work on something, since it is very likely his life will explode eventually. None of this is mentioned in the film but the character has a sense of history hanging over him which adds quite a lot. Rambo has never been a verbose fella so when he actually talks to his family and makes something approaching a joke it’s jarring.
Stallone is still really good in the role as at the start he’s more stable than usual, even shown taking medication which is probably what Rambo needed for years. There is a good bit where he’s roaming around in his tunnels and has a flashback to the war as Gabrielle mentions later that his intensity tends to freak out her friends. Stallone’s best stuff is when Rambo’s switch is flipped and then he becomes terrifying. This intensity comes to the fore after Gabrielle is kidnapped and when he’s unleashed, it gets ugly.
The problem is it takes a whole lot of time for Rambo to unleash, leading to a chunk of the movie compromised of Gabrielle being abused by her captors. The two brothers are suitably slimy, Peris-Mencheta gets a great evil monologue when Rambo is beaten by a cadre of goons and Jaenada is unrelentingly creepy. There is also a great, tragic scene when Rambo gets alone with Gabrielle and sees effect captivity had on her. Monreal is good when Gabrielle is simply looking for her father and the scene when she meets him is heartbreaking but afterwards, she’s just a victim. As Rambo’s friend, Barraza’s character just worries a lot. South of the border, Rambo meets a reporter played by Paz Vega who seems like she’s going to be an important part of the story but after she saves Rambo from death she just delivers exposition and disappears.
Still, what makes Last Blood watchable is the gory action that is almost entirely localized in the last twenty minutes. Before, there’s basically just two action scenes, a really ripping moment when Rambo attacks the brothel armed with just a hammer that is truly messy and later on when he goes for revenge against one of the brothers which is very gruesome. But the finale siege when Rambo is at his house and layers in traps against the invaders is uniformly great and spectacularly bloody. Sure, the movie may be stretching for time beforehand with two different montages of Rambo arming for the confrontation but scenes of Rambo arming up is a staple of his series. When Rambo gets the goons into his tunnels, it finally becomes a real Rambo movie with over the top splatter as the final moment Rambo has with a villain is jaw droppingly extreme. The last shot of the movie is perfect, leading into the credits montage of all five movies which works really well. Unfortunately, this rather satisfying ending is kind of ruined with a scene that happens after the credits but it’s forgivable.
Rambo: Last Blood does ultimately offer what should be in a Rambo movie but it is mired in misery until the good stuff. Not that a slow burn is a bad thing it’s just kind of drag. At least the baddies are so despicable that the horrific things Rambo does to them feels like justice. Rambo’s road may finally be done but this is an exit with a bang. Eventually. V
Rambo: Last Blood
Director: Adrian Grunberg
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Sheila Shah, Óscar Jaenada, Paz Vega and Yvette Monreal