Lean, No-Nonsense, and Brutal – “Rambo: Last Blood” book
After John Rambo (played by Sylvester Stallone) saved a group of missionaries and murdered most of the bad guys in Burma, he settled in, found a house with a mailbox with his last name on it, and embraced life. normal. At least, that was the conclusion of Rambo, the 2008 installment that caught up with us late with the squeaky, ultra-violent frankness. Now, after years of staying low and living a normal life, we learn that Rambo lives on a ranch, rides horses, and, more shockingly, has given himself a haircut (at least I guess he l ‘did himself – presumably a barber would have died after putting a blade anywhere near John Rambo). He also wears a cowboy hat and now looks like the Marlboro Man.
One detail that I love: Rambo dug a huge tunnel under his house. It’s so big it could probably fit a metro station. While this subplot is ridiculous, I’d be prepared to watch a prequel where we just see Rambo shoveling dirt, singing, “Old McRambo had a farm, EIEIO.”
After the young woman he helped raise (endearingly played by Yvette Monreal) ignores his warnings and leaves for Mexico to visit her biological father, Rambo sets out to save her … and murders all of them. the tough guys who get in his way. .
While the story is pretty predictable, especially in the setup, it’s well crafted and interpreted with conviction. Simple as they are, Rambo-on-the-ranch’s character-building scenes are strong in establishing how this beefy hero managed to (mostly) quell his killer impulses. Most will attach themselves to this as Stallone leaned over Taken, but it’s actually closer to the kind of movie Charles Bronson would have made 30 years ago (and 30 years before that, John Wayne).
Preliminary reports that the film is the pro-Trump Mexican border wall are false. The character of Rambo has been politicized before, on screen and off (after all, President Reagan named the 1985 sequel in a speech). However, this is not a political film but a tale of revenge and, arguably, a neo-Western. Co-writer Stallone doesn’t paint any of these characters in shades of gray (with the exception of Rambo, whose mental decline is largely ignored but at least referenced in the first half). Here there are the good guys and the bad guys, nothing more.
The action choreography has nothing of the elegance or precision of John Wick’s films, but it’s still better and meaner than the Trilogy taken, with their PG-13 shyness and forced sentimentality. The Fifth Rambo is certainly manipulative and sordid, but he also resembles his namesake: skinny, unadorned, and brutal. It’s often exciting and extremely effective to be exactly what it is: a Rambo movie.
On the negative side, there’s way too much CGI, which is good when we talk about blood (blood coughs came out; digital blood is all the rage) but a dummy fire is too much to swallow. Most of the crucial supporting characters are misused, and the final scenes are howler. About that final twist: The end credits feature scenes from across the franchise, to dark music. Watch young Rambo get his face slit, blow stuff up and outrun a fireball – in lovingly rendered slow-motion clips – is one of the funniest things I’ve seen all year. I appreciate that Stallone caps this like the last chapter but I suspect he ignores how hilarious the last 10 minutes of his movie are.
Yet aside from being an enjoyable revenge tale, there’s one major feat that shouldn’t go unnoticed: At 73, Stallone is still quite convincing, capable, and energetic in the role. As ridiculous and incredibly violent as it is, Stallone gives it a seriousness and credibility that few action movie stars could. While I’m not sure if I’d like to see Keanu Reeves play Wick at the age of 73, there is something to be said for Stallone styling one of his most iconic and controversial characters with a vehicle too. blunt.
While the title provides an appropriate franchise bookend, I would prefer to call it “The Rocky Gory Picture Show”.
Rated R / 89 Min.
Image courtesy IMDB