I believe I would be hard pressed to find someone who disagrees with me that John Rambo is a character of a certain time. What started as a great look at the horrors that lingered in soldiers returning from Vietnam quickly turned into a machismo fueled bloodbath where Rambo killed the state enemy du jour. It worked in the nationalistic era of the cold war where it was easy to find enemies for Rambo to kill, but what happens there isn’t a clear cut enemy of the States?
Well of course the only logical step would be to put Rambo on the US-Mexico border and have him kill a bunch of cartel members. What’s that? It could be seen as culturally insensitive? Screw it. America wants, no it needs a new Rambo movie, and by god we’re going to give it to them!
Rambo: Last Blood
Director: Adrian Grunberg
Release Date: September 20, 2019
John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), the Vietnam veteran who has killed more people than I’ve ever met in my life now lives in Arizona with Maria (Adriana Barraza), an older woman of Mexican heritage along with her niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal) who is under her care after the death of Gabrielle’s mother and subsequent abandonment by her father. Just before Gabrielle is set to go off to college she receives word from a former friend who moved south of the border that her estranged father had been located. Against the wishes of her Aunt and Uncle Rambo, Gabrielle goes to Mexico to find her father and after his heartless rejection of her, finds herself betrayed by her friend to a cartel.
If the premise sounds trite, it’s because it is. How many times have we seen the cartel capture story lazily pranced out to set up a story where revenge is taken by the victims family? If the story tried to say anything remotely poignant or worthwhile it could be excused but it’s literally only a setup for a blood bath.
Even then, the blood bath barely makes sense and seems to only be there because it’s a Rambo movie and Rambo needs to kill dozens of people. For some reason, Rambo has a series of tunnels on his property in Arizona and it’s just waved off by Gabrielle saying he “enjoys digging and is crazy.” When you know that the only reason they are there is to set up a final battle, and oh what a battle it is. After sending a message to the cartel that Rambo knows they will respond to, he goes about setting up traps ranging from rakes meant to impale, all the way up to explosives in the ground.
The violence is so over the top in the ensuing battle that it’s almost comical. It’s like a gory, gritty update on Home Alone and it all happens so fast that I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity. If you’re in it for blood then you won’t be disappointed as Rambo literally cuts a mans heart out of his living chest. It wasn’t anything overly disgusting, just hilariously over the top.
Soon after the battle starts, it’s over and then the movie is over. As what I perceived was the final scene started rolling I instinctively checked my watch to see how long the movie had been running. Roughly an hour and a half. I thought to myself, this couldn’t possibly be the end.
It was. Coming in at an hour and 39 minutes (including credits) Last Blood feels less like a movie and more like a long-form home defense advertisement. The short length lends credence to the question that plagued me throughout the entire viewing. Did we need this update? My resounding answer was no, at least not like this.
I think the things that hurt the most is that some positive points stick out in an otherwise forgettable movie. In the beginning, Rambo begins to have PTSD flashbacks looking into the tunnels of his own creation and for a second I thought they would explore that aspect of his character, but it was all flushed down the drain when he threw his medication away in a fit of rage. There was also a believable sense that Rambo was content with where his life was, with good character interaction between him and Maria and Gabrielle. But it was all in service to set up a blood bath and because of that it just feels like wasted material.
I don’t know why I expected more from this movie. Maybe because I know that deep down Sylvester Stallone is a good movie maker and I hoped that in the twilight of his years he would want to send one of his characters off with a good story. But instead I get this waste of time and money that tramples over any type of nuance in an era that needs it and I’m just done thinking about my time with it.