Oh how far we have come from the 1982 classic Rambo: First Blood, where a Vietnam war vetran is terrorised by a police force for simply being in the town. Human, emotional and, importantly, coherent, there was a dignity to the film and its protagonist that has completely fallen by the wayside in this flabby and totally unnecessary addition.
Living in Arizona, Rambo now breeds horses on a farm, and for whatever reason has also dug out an extensive network of tunnels underneath his residence, which appear to frequently trigger flashbacks from his time in Vietnam. He lives with his Mexican housekeeper and her daughter, whom he views as his own. This sets the scene for the key narrative arc, as when the daughter finds the location of her real father across the border, she makes the impromptu decision to head to Mexico to find him, where she is then kidnapped and used as a sex slave. Rambo goes to find her, and seek revenge against those who did it.
All things considered, it is a fairly basic plot, with more than a couple of similarities to Taken. However, given Sylvester Stallone is now 73 years old, rather than asking you to suspend your disbelief at his heroics, Last Blood demands that you expel it entirely. Not only does he fail the criteria of looking like an action hero, he fails to deliver any of the quips – or really any of the dialogue at all – in a coherent fashion. His delivery is so growling and mumbling that you will struggle to really pick out what he’s saying. That’s only compounded by the few – sudden and unexpected – moments of clarity, which makes it sound like it was dubbed in post production, even though I’m sure it wasn’t. That said, you really didn’t really need the dialogue. If you have watched more than a handful of action films you could easily preempt the exceptionally stilted, clichéd lines.
Last Blood plays heavily into the violence, with some exceptionally visceral and graphic scenes that start to step into the uncomfortable. Again, I remind you that Stallone is 73-years-old, and to see him lead a one man assault on a brothel with a hammer, or infiltrate a heavily armed house with just a knife, is more than a little bit insulting to the viewer.
There are people saying that Rambo: Last Blood deliberately plays into the racist generalisation that Mexicans are criminals and rapists. While it certainly fails to offer any compelling Mexican characters, and the antagonist is about as deep an eggcup, I think that’s probably more the result of abysmal writing rather than deliberate malice.
Women are equally underserved in the film. They all lacked any agency, and simply react to whatever the males in the film are doing. Even Paz Vega, who played the journalist who saved Rambo after his attack, did nothing beyond provide some convenient if clunky exposition. Despite Rambo repeatedly asking for her help, we crucially never see any of her efforts on-screen.
Perhaps most cynical was the decision to have the credits accompanied by clips from the previous – far better – Rambo films. Was this an attempt to erase our memories of the last 90 minutes, or have audiences leaving with the warm embrace of nostalgia?
I could go on about how ugly some of the shots were, how the climactic final showdown overstayed its welcome, or how the audience in my cinema were openly laughing and mocking the film as they watched it, but to do so would take more effort than this film deserves.
It is actively bad, and despite all of the violence, the most gruesome kill this film delivers is the murder of its franchise.