It could have been his Gran Torino, his final “heyday” film that sent him off into a sort-of retirement with some dignity, a little bit of grace and some very fond memories of the past that still, to this day, has some shining lights. But, instead, Sylvester Stallone chose to make Rambo: Last Blood, one of the year’s worst and most repulsive films that tarnishes the work of its predecessors (well, the first two anyhow) and its star and makes you question as to why, if they were going for one last hurrah with the franchise, that THIS was the best idea? Sadly, the answer is probably driven by finances but be warned: this isn’t pretty. In fact, it’s one of the most dismal cinema experiences for a long while.
Back in Arizona, his home, some ten years after the previous instalment, Rambo is pulled from retirement (aren’t they all?) after his surrogate daughter of sorts, Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal), heads across the border to Mexico to seek out her real father only to find herself in trouble with a Mexican gang who are kidnapping and selling young women. Hearing of her ordeal, Rambo saddles up to rescue her with his trusty knife and gun along for the ride. We give you two guesses to figure out what happens next…
Now 73, it is pretty clear that Stallone is past his prime in the action world but if you look at what he is capable of – ie Creed and its sequel – it’s absolutely bamboozling that this is the direction he (as producer and co-writer) wanted to go with the final part of the series. It’s out of depth and out of its time, stuck in a mid-1980’s action tornado that just doesn’t play the same way anymore. The world has changed, mindsets have changed, people have changed, but Last Blood ignores all of the historical and cultural impacts made in the decades since and goes foraging down a rabbit hole well-worn with absolutely no way out re-emerging. A certain president might quite like it, though, given the amount of shots of the Mexico “wall” – over the wall is where the bad guys live. But which side?
What could have been is hinted at barely, here – a mentally, emotionally and physically wounded ex-soldier who is trying to live out his remaining years as best he can while his memories still puncture his dreams – and that would have made for a much more human story at the very least, similar to how Rocky Balboa is in those aforementioned Creed films. But he certainly deserved better than this – a sad end to what was, at least in the beginning, an engaging 80’s action pinnacle.
Everything on show here is bloody, violent and visceral in all the worst ways, reminiscent to the outcry in the UK when Death Wish 2 was released in 1982 such is the putridness and disregard for decency here. Shoving us face-first into the massacres that unfold, director Adrian Grunberg wants us to be as close as possible to the blood vengeance that continues on-screen but there is nothing to enjoy here, nothing to pique your interest other than blood and guts. Sure, this is what the franchise was built on, but at least in the original’s there was at least a backbone of story and character: here, it’s as empty as the desert that surrounds Rambo’s home. At least its runtime is around 85 minutes, but that again begs the question: what was the point?
Scott J.Davis |[rating=1]
action, thriller | USA, 2019 | 15 | 19th September 2019 | Lionsgate Films | Dir.Adrian Grunberg | Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Yvette Monreal, Louis Mandylor