“I don’t have money, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills,” and with this iconic line, Liam Neeson proved that a guy in his fifties could be a bankable action hero badass, pulling off two sequels with varying degrees of success, but the question is, “Can a seventy-three-year-old Sylvester Stallone resurrect one of his most iconic characters and truly prove that action heroes aren’t just for the John Wicks of the world?”
With the two Creed films, Stallone gave us a nice revisit of his other iconic character, that of heavyweight boxer Rocky Balboa, but in those films, he never stepped into the ring to fight — instead, he passed the torch to the son of Apollo Creed. Yet, with Rambo: Last Blood we have Stallone wading into a massive bloodbath of carnage and extreme violence. There will be no passing of the torch with this series.
The fourth Rambo film ended with our hero returning to the family farm, presumably to hang up his spurs, and this entry takes place eleven years later, where we find that he has a kind of adopted family: his housekeeper Maria (Adriana Barraza) and her 18-year-old granddaughter, Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal), who has become like a daughter to Rambo. The story finally gets going when Gabrielle decides to track down her deadbeat dad, who beat her mother and left when she died of cancer, but Rambo is against this because he knows her father was a soulless villain and any meeting will, at best, end in tears. Needless to say, Gabrielle ignores Rambo’s warnings and takes off for a trip south of the border to confront dear ol’ dad, and she soon finds herself captured by sex traffickers. As one would have expected. Rambo takes it upon himself to bring her home, and unfortunately, he fails to call his Expendables pals and wanders into cartel territory with no plan and just a knife and a prayer as backup.
A young girl in a foreign land taken by sex traffickers, who then has her “father” come to the rescue, may seem a little familiar and that’s because we all saw Liam Neeson in Taken. This is the key problem with Rambo: Last Blood, as it never really feels like a Rambo film. It doesn’t have the brooding anti-establishment of the original First Blood, nor does it have the over-the-top superhero action of the first two sequels; it just comes across as a Taken rip-off with some really extreme moments of violence added to spice things up. Eventually, the movie brings the fight back home, with the cartel in a motorcade of evil heading for the Rambo homestead, and what follows could basically be called an R-rated version of Home Alone, as Rambo has set up numerous — and boy, do I mean numerous — booby-traps to take out the convoy of killers. The problem here is the villains of Rambo: Last Blood are not only two-dimensional nothings, but they never seem to be much of a threat to our hero — aside from him losing in his first encounter with them, because he briefly became a moron, they are nothing more than exploding meat sacks — and when they step into his underground labyrinth of death, it doesn’t even come close to being suspenseful.
On the plus side, Stallone gives us a somewhat more verbose version of John Rambo, who in the past mostly got one major monologue per movie, and when the ultra-violence kicks in, it is something to behold. When the film’s 89-minute run-time finally draws to a close, however, I was left rather cold; it didn’t seem like the proper ending to this franchise, and then during the end credits, director Adrian Grunberg had the audacity to give us footage from the previous four films in the franchise. I’m guessing this was a final reminder that we’d been watching a Rambo film even though aside from Stallone, a knife, and a bow and arrow, it can only charitably be called a Rambo movie. This was not the final chapter I was looking for; instead of us getting a satisfying last installment in the story of John Rambo, we got a film that was equal parts Taken, Home Alone and Death Wish 2. Fans of ultra-violence may get a kick out of Rambo: Last Blood, but those who actually liked David Morrell’s character may want to give this one a pass.
Rambo: Last Blood (2019)
Movie Rank - 5/10
I’m not intrinsically against septuagenarian action heroes – though I actively dread the thought of the fifth upcoming Indiana Jones movie – and at seventy-three Stallone could certainly kick my ass, but Rambo: Last Blood just doesn’t feel like a Rambo film, and that makes me a little sad.