Directed By Adrian Grunberg
Starring – Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Yvette Monreal
The Plot – Almost four decades after they drew first blood, Sylvester Stallone is back as one of the greatest action heroes of all time, John Rambo. Now, Rambo must confront his past and unearth his ruthless combat skills to exact revenge in a final mission. A deadly journey of vengeance, the film marks the last chapter of the legendary series.
Rated R for strong graphic violence, grisly images, drug use and adult language
– Vicious violence. For anyone like myself looking to shut off their mind for a couple of hours, and just indulge in John Rambo’s devilish delight of macabre, look no further than “Last Blood”. As a send-off to the character credited with some of the most brutal and impactful deaths in all of cinema history, this movie adds to his already triple digit kill count, spiking us with a series of blunt force trauma’s that are calculated and realized through a set-up that I viewed as an R-rated “Home Alone”. Are some of the impacts silly? Sure, but the force and rumble of a man hell-bent on revenge is felt thoroughly throughout a series of violent visual sight gags that combine creativity and menace accordingly, and make this a must-see for anyone wondering if age has calmed this weapon of mass destruction who constantly brings the pain.
– Breezy pacing. “Last Blood” clocks in at a mere 84 minutes, but its pacing never feels stilted or even rushed because of the movements of the script that keeps its audience engaged. Slight deviations from the conventional direction of revenge flicks is highly valued here, as the aftermath of this terrifying group that Rambo is trailing really get the better of him for the entire first half of this film, leading to an uncertain second half that could’ve easily went either way. This also further establishes the setting as the very deadly unpredictable element that Rambo alludes to early on in the first act. When the final confrontation is set-up, I was floored to realize that there was only twenty minutes left in the film, and a barrage of baddies left to dispose of, which further elaborated that the best parts were still to come. As far as easy sits go, “Last Blood” would easily be in my top ten films of 2019. There’s little waste to remove, an evolution in plot that rises because of spontaneity, and a thirst for vengeance that really helps you empathize even more with the title protagonist.
– Weathered Rambo. Age and decades of physical and psychological trauma have finally caught up to John, and the movie’s desire to humble him with a cloud of vulnerability firmly kept me invested to the beats of the character, where this level of permanence adds further emphasis on the impact of the previous films. In particular, there’s a scene early on where Rambo has horrific flashbacks of his time in the armed forces, leaving this shell of a once unstoppable man further fleshed-out for the sake of cinematic urgency. If this character was unstoppable one hundred percent of the time, it would eventually get boring, and lead to a series of redundancy in the conflict and resolution, but Grunberg’s decision to level the playing field is one that pays off immensely not only for the relatability of the character, but also in the weight of the antagonists, which may be the match that we’ve all been waiting for with regards to Rambo.
– Sly fox. Even at the age of 73, Sylvester Stallone continues to rivet us with a variety of complexities in his performances, that prove he isn’t sleeping through another sequel. In distinguishing the personalities between Rocky Balboa and John Rambo, the latter doesn’t possess a soft-spoken nature, nor does his bumbling demeanor with words overcome his thought process. Instead, Rambo is stern in speech, heavy in his movements, and persistent of a facial scowl that renders him constantly intimidating. This comparison would be easy to overlook, especially at such an age, but Stallone’s method as an actor to divide them in ways that is clearly evident once you see them on-screen for five minutes, deems age as nothing more than a meaningless number. As far as performances go, Stallone gives his all to this fifth installment, painting a blank canvas with a combination of love, confidence, and especially unlimited rage, that allows us to colorfully interpret just what about this character has been endearing to audiences for nearly forty years. It’s the most depth that we’ve seen from Rambo’s personality in the entire series, and makes me wish we could’ve seen maybe one more film where this weathered Rambo is present.
– Audible senses. While most of the production value for this film flounders the opportunity in conjuring up something equally as riveting as the violence factor, the sound mixing for the film, as well as one soundtrack decision kept us firmly engulfed in the heat of the element. In my opinion, I heard a lot of lettuce slicing when it came to the articulation of the brunt brutality, and this is made even more convincing with a capturing microphone that definitely pushed the impact to eleven when registering what is being depicted on screen. As for the song, The Doors’ “Five To One”, which is my favorite from the band, is featured in a way that emits the dread and doom of a certain character’s disposition fruitfully. It’s the only song used in the film, but it makes me want to see it included in past Rambo films to see how it measures up to the inevitability in those movies.
– Stay for the credits. Similar to what “Rocky V” did with the entire series up to that point, we are treated with a timely-edited, vibrantly emotional goodbye to the character through a series of still-frame photography that captures pivotal moments throughout the entire series. What’s truly compelling is this overwhelming sense of nostalgia that I definitely never expected from a Rambo movie, but made even more effective between the shape-shifting nature of Stallone’s appearance, as well as the slight deviated familiarity of the “First Blood” theme playing us off. It left me anxious to return to past installments to relive all of my favorite memorable lines of dialogue and gory kills that made Rambo a mainstay in the action genre, and finished us off with that air of melodramatic permanence that firmly establishes that this is the end. Amazing put together sequence, and definitely worthy of you spending a few more minutes in your seat to appreciate the history of the character.
– Poor production. This is definitely the biggest fault with the integrity of the picture, as the complete cinematography of this film made for some underwhelming decisions that highlighted the cheap production value of the film. Horrendous A.D.R deposits in character mouths, lifeless green-screen effects during driving sequences, overly anxious editing, which creates a machine-gun effect of rough transitions that do zero favors in depicting what is transpiring, and a framing device which feels a bit too close for the elaborate nature of what is taking place. There were scenes in this movie where I could’ve easily seen this feeling like a Stallone sequel like “Escape Plan 2 or 3”, where it is relegated to a straight to video release
. The one positive is that it will easily make back its studio investment, but the negative is that such a miniscule investment leaves a lot of artistic integrity on the table, which could’ve better articulated the variety in locations, which should feel worlds further away than what they actually do.
– Storytelling over substance. One common critique with Rambo movies is that there isn’t enough exposition and down time to tell a story outside of the velocity in rampage that decorates the films. This was something that screenwriters Matthew Cirulnick and Stallone have addressed, but it’s something that once again leaves the sides viciously uneven, this time in favor of storyline development that limits the intense action sequences. This may be the most difficult sell for hardcore audiences of past Rambo movies, as they are asked to remain patient before the bloodshed starts to drop, and while I myself appreciate the attempt to realize the characters and story a bit more, it does bring forth a long-winded first act that takes a few minutes too long to set the pieces in motion. When you really think about it, there are two parts in this film where we get Rambo being Rambo. Everything else is movement around him.
– Final conflict problems. I mentioned earlier that the inevitable conflict of this movie is brought to light with “Home Alone” style planning that adds an element of humor to the ferociousness of violence that is knocking on this film’s door, but what needs to be mentioned is how the majority of these scenes are misdirected to take away some of the vulgarity with Rambo’s revenge. Particularly, it’s in the way that this sequence rushes through to the finish line to dispose of a barrage of bodies that are nothing more than inflation for the count. It leaves the elements of tension and surprise on the side, as we speed through these kills without ever truly having much time to enjoy them. In addition to this, the rushed demeanor also stretches logic a bit too often, as Rambo moves throughout this large setting frequently, feeling like a supernatural being who is able to pop up whenever he and gravity deem it acceptable. For my money, I could’ve used a bit more patience with these scenes, especially considering these are therapeutic scenes for the audience to release in.
– More of the same. This is another depiction of a foreign country with nothing but negative indentations in its rendering. It seems strange that so many films in the same franchise up to this point have featured foreign antagonists, and especially considering sex trafficking, a major subplot in the film, an American setting would’ve proven that nowhere in this world is safe from the terror that we as people face every day. On top of this, the Mexican antagonists themselves are completely one-dimensional, and lack anything of substance to make them stand out as anything but eventual victims. This is differing from the past when you consider that the Rambo series has been privy to some memorable, even if over-the-top, villains that have played mental chess with the titular character. It highlights my biggest problem with the Rambo franchise, in that they feel like deceptive American propaganda. This one more than any, as the characters must travel to another country before bad things can find them.
My Grade: 6/10 or C