Rambo: Last Blood stars Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, and Sergio Peris-Mencheta and was directed by Adrian Grunberg. It continues the story of John Rambo, once again played by Sylvester Stallone, as he travels to Mexico to rescue his kidnapped niece and exact revenge on those who took her.
Thirty-seven years after the introduction of Rambo and eleven years after the franchise revival, we’ve got the latest installment and possible conclusion to the franchise: Rambo: Last Blood. A name like that suggests a pretty close connection with First Blood and while there are a handful of callbacks to that first film, Last Blood is easily the most divergent film in the franchise. Different doesn’t exactly mean bad in this case, but this movie is a very odd installment that feels like a Rambo movie at points, but leaves you scratching your head for the majority of the film.
We’ve seen John Rambo as a loner since his inception, so it’s really weird and kinda jarring watching him interact with people in a normalish domestic setting. He’s quickly established as Uncle John, though his exact role and connection there is pretty unclear. I guess it really doesn’t matter though cause it’s all just a fairly clunky plot device to get Rambo into the main action of the story. And that’s where things get weird. Cause rather than a jungle warzone, Rambo’s in a modern, urban setting. The setting isn’t the only strange thing about this installment in the franchise though. The story’s also pretty unusual for a Rambo movie. We’re used to the war aspect of the franchise, but that doesn’t exist here.
Instead, we get an incredibly familiar plot that involves a young girl traveling to a foreign country who gets abducted by sex traffickers. So, of course the father figure (with a very particular set of skills) has to come find her. That basic story is nothing new and even the most iconic film of this style, Taken, wasn’t a particularly original story at the time of its release. But the unoriginality of the story isn’t what I take issue with, it’s the fact that Rambo is in the story. It’s just so weird – it’s so unlike any other Rambo film and it’s like they plucked John Rambo out of his franchise and dropped him into an entirely unrelated movie. All that being said, the plot is okay ñ it’s serviceable. There was obviously an attempt to tap into the heavier emotionality of the franchise that we haven’t seen since First Blood. Unfortunately, it comes off fairly sloppy and not nearly as effective as that first movie.
The brief hints at his PTSD with flashbacks and medication he’s taking are dropped really early on and never referenced again and all the sentimental moments have this almost soap opera-y feel to them. Between the extreme close-ups and frequently choppy editing, the style of this movie leaves a lot to be desired. There’s also a lot of melodrama that I think is largely due to the pretty clunky dialogue, but the performances don’t exactly help in those moments either. But, let’s face it: nobody is going to a Rambo movie to be blown away by thoughtful dialogue or the gripping emotionality of the story.
We go for the action. And this movie delivers on that, but not as consistently as you probably expect. Last Blood takes a while to get going. There are brief instances of the Rambo action you want sparsely strewn throughout the first two acts, but it’s mostly set-up. I usually appreciate that in a movie, but unfortunately the story just isn’t compelling enough to warrant the dragged-out nature of the majority of this movie. Luckily, I think action fans will end up leaving the theater satisfied cause the third act is jam-packed with the Rambo action you came to see. This is the first time we get to see him fighting on his own turf, with some time to prepare.
I remember when the first trailer came out and people were jokingly comparing it to Home Alone ñ well, they weren’t exactly wrong. Obviously, the intended reference was to First Blood with the traps that he sets in the forest, but the creative and complex contraptions he designs here are just incredibly entertaining. Unlike in First Blood, Rambo has zero restraint here. He’s brutal in the way that he dispatches his foes. If you thought the throat-rip in 2008’s Rambo was good, just you wait. Compared to the first film, it all does seem a bit out of character for him, but we’ve seen him get progressively more brutal over the course of the franchise and this is really the first Rambo revenge movie we’ve gotten. As satisfying and brutally entertaining as the third act is, I think it’s also a really interesting look at perspective in movies.
Rambo is our hero here, so we’re rooting for him to take down these people and so we view it as this brutal revenge action movie. But, without the context of the rest of the movie or our history with John Rambo, much of that third act could almost be confused with a horror movie. It’s just amazing how perspective can alter how we view a sequence. Rambo: Last Blood is a film of contradictions. It’s a Rambo movie, that doesn’t feel like a Rambo movie. It’s got moments that hark back to the origins of the franchise and others that fundamentally alter established traits of our protagonist. It’s extremely slow to start, but somehow still feels rushed in the way it tells its story. It’s entertaining and satisfying, but also dull and disappointing.
The amount of contradictions here might seem crazy, but it honestly doesn’t surprise me at all. Cause if the Rambo franchise is one thing, it’s consistently inconsistent. Alright, let’s talk about the pros and cons. My biggest pro here has gotta be the third act action. It’s brutal, efficient, and incredibly entertaining. The trap sequence has always been my favorite part of First Blood, so I really appreciated the elongated planning, design, and execution of the trap sequences in this one. Rambo shows no mercy, delivering a very satisfying and bloody conclusion to this film that almost makes you forget how slow the first two acts were. On the con side, this film’s biggest issue is its generic story. The sex trafficking abduction story has been done so many times that it’s lost nearly all of its intrigue for me.
Things go a slightly different route than the typical movie like this, but its exceptionally dragged-out nature makes it somewhat dull to sit through. Plus, it just feels incredibly weird dropping Rambo into a story like this. My second con has gotta be the script. Sure, the story’s overdone, but with decent dialogue and genuine character development, it could’ve still provided a solid foundation to the movie. Unfortunately, it’s very lacking in that department, resulting in a pretty melodramatic and surprisingly shallow story. Now obviously I don’t expect cinematic genius from a Rambo movie, but his character has come so far over such a long period of time that they’ve could’ve explored that in a really interesting way and it’s just disappointing that they didn’t even attempt to.
I’m gonna give Rambo: Last Blood 3 out of 5 paws. It’s an okay movie. As an action film, it takes a long time to get going, but saves itself with a very entertaining third act. As a Rambo movie, it’s just weird. Not as bad as it could’ve been, but not as good as it should’ve been. I would recommend Rambo: Last Blood to fans of the Rambo franchise. It’s a bit different from the other movies, but it has enough of the classic Rambo stuff in it to make it at least moderately interesting. Rambo fans and fans of action movies in general will get a kick out of the third actÖ it’s just a bit of a slog to get there. If you liked Rambo: Last Blood, I’ve gotta recommend Taken. It has an incredibly similar plot, with Liam Neeson subbed in for Stallone, and a bit less brutality. I would also, unsurprisingly, recommend First Blood.
Storywise, it’s very different from Last Blood, but the little throwbacks are kinda cool and it’s really interesting to see how far the character’s come. And if you really liked the traps and trap-planning sequence, definitely check out Home Alone. It’s a bit different in style ñ a holiday family film, but there’s some obvious similarities with the home-turf trap-planning element. I’m only being sorta facetious here cause some of the traps Kevin sets up in Home Alone are pretty brutal. Alright, a couple questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen Rambo: Last Blood? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: What’s a movie that you think feels very out of place in its franchise? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going. Alright, so if you got some enjoyment, insight, or information out of this review, I’d appreciate