Rambo: Last Blood (2019)
An unnecessary new addition to the saga that came full circle in the previous instalment, Rambo: Last Blood is the fifth & possibly final outing for Sylvester Stallone in one of his signature roles that catapulted him to the top of the 80s action hero scene, made his war-veteran character a cultural icon, and cultivated a strong fan following around the globe. Echoing Unforgiven & Logan on the surface yet completely hollow from within, it is also the first sequel in the series that never for once feels like a Rambo film.
Set a decade after the events that transpired in the last film, Last Blood finds John Rambo living a quiet, peaceful life at his deceased father’s horse ranch which he manages with a housekeeper & her granddaughter, whom he looks upon as his adopted daughter. Things take a devastating turn when she is abducted by enforcers of a Mexican drug cartel, thus prompting Rambo to cross the border in order to bring her home. But when he faces the full might of the ruthless gang, it takes the lid off the vengeful warrior within him.
Co-written by Stallone himself and directed by Adrian Grunberg, my main gripe with this latest entry is that it neither adds anything of value or significance to the Rambo lore nor fits in with other instalments to be truly considered as a part of the franchise. In addition to that, the story the script packs in is extremely generic, barely functioning & absolutely unbecoming of what John Rambo is all about. One can replace Rambo with someone else and it won’t make one bit of a difference in the overall experience, and that is a problem.
Now I’m well aware that people don’t dive into a Rambo film for storytelling mastery but explosive, entertaining action yet Last Blood doesn’t unleash the unapologetically vicious & violent carnage until the third act. The final stand that eventually surfaces still fails to live up to the hype, and is marred by haphazard camerawork & poor lighting. Where the previous chapter bathed in unflinchingly brutal, graphic & harrowing display of viscera, vengeance & violence that was glorious to watch, this one has barbaric but brief snippets that do not reach the same heights.
There is an attempt to dig into the character’s mellow side to examine his tormented soul but the lazy writing & substandard direction prevent the film from capturing it with the psychological lens. We care about Rambo in this sequel due to our past affection for him. The other characters don’t even matter. The dialogues are terrible for the most part. And the gritty approach adds zero weight to the whole journey. Sylvester Stallone manages to hold his ground but it is evident that he’s getting too old & weary for the role, and should have retired the character in the previous instalment, which did conclude his journey on a definitive note.
On an overall scale, Rambo: Last Blood neither has the emotional intensity of First Blood nor the magnificent bloodbath of the last chapter, and is the weakest film in the series so far. It follows the same path as Taken and incorporates the Home Alone finale dialled to hard R-rated extremity that still isn’t for the easily distressed. Fans of the franchise won’t mind the narrative shortcomings since the plot is always on the move and the film gives them exactly what they came looking for in the final showdown. But there is no denying that it is an inferior, ineffectual & ill-advised sequel that the saga was better without. An underwhelming coda, Last Blood fails to finish Rambo’s final stand on a memorable note.