Rambo: Last Blood (2019, Adrian Grunberg)


A series of reviews looking at Sylvester Stallone’s two most famous characters, Rocky Balboa and John Rambo, film by film…

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

While living on a peaceful farm in Arizona, John Rambo learns that his friend’s granddaughter has gone missing in Mexico, so he crosses the border to search for her…  

What does Stallone do? He co-wrote the script and plays John Rambo for a fifth time. Well… Sort of. He’s certainly credited as playing John Rambo for a fifth time. In truth, the writing is so indistinctive that the lead character might as well be called Generic Geriatric Action Hero (a point that’s also been made by David Morrell, the writer of the novel that introduced Rambo to the world). With a face that’s not so much granite as landslide, Stallone limps through the film with a permanent scowl and a sense that he’d rather be somewhere else. John Rambo’s never been an upbeat man, but this sinks to new strata of tedium… It’s been 11 years since we last saw our hero. He’s now living a sedate life with a platonic friend and her granddaughter, Gabriela, who he dotes on like she’s his own. But he’s still haunted by flashbacks of his Vietnam War stint and has taken to building elaborate systems of tunnels underneath his farm, where he likes to hide away from the world. When Gabriela then secretly heads to Mexico to search for her deadbeat father – and subsequently doesn’t return – John drives south to look for her…

Other main characters:
* Maria Beltran (Adriana Barraza) is the matriarch-like friend who John now lives with.
* Gabriela (Yvette Monreal) has been pining after her long-skedaddled father, for reasons that passeth understanding. Both John and her gran tell her that he’s a waste of space who abandoned her, and she has few clear memories of him, but the old storytelling crutch of a parental pull is being used here. When she arrives in the kind of Mexico that Hollywood films seem to love – muted colours, lots of scenes at night, deprivation, poverty, music – she finds her dad, Miguel (Rick Zingale). He’s a twat who tells her she’s hot but otherwise doesn’t want to know. She’s then at a nightclub when a local sleazo spikes her drink. She wakes up as a prisoner of a crime gang and forced into prostitution.
* Hugo (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) and Victor Martinez (Óscar Jaenada) are the local gangsters who hold various young women hostage as enforced prostitutes. Like most successful crime lords in these types of films, they’re also whackjobs with short tempers. Of course they are.
* Carmen Delgado (Paz Vega) is a woman who comes to John’s aid after he confronts the Martinez brothers and has the shit kicked out of him. A journalist investigating the Martinez drug cartel, she offers help without ever feeling like anything other than a plot device.

Key scene: Last Blood’s critical reaction has featured many mentions of its gore and violence. It’s easy to see why. In the final third of the film, John deliberately provokes the Martinezes into coming after him, then holes up in his tunnels. He prepares a number of traps and weapons, all the better for picking off the pesky Mexican bad guys one by one in a variety of gruesome ways. Heads are cleaved, legs are chopped off, bodies are pierced. But rather than any shock value, the sequence is just *boring*.

Review: This is a hopelessly tired, sluggish movie, always quick to go for the easy option and always keen to be obvious. Hackneyed stereotypes practically trip over each other as a simple-beyond-belief plot is played out with leaden, lumpy crassness. We’re a very long way from the character study and subtexts of the original Rambo film.

One cross carved into your cheek out of 10

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