Rambo: Last Blood is bad. But you knew that, didn’t you? No single neuron in your brain actually thought for a second that a Trump-era Rambo film starring a 73-year-old Sylvester Stallone would work. This is a character who has been pushed gradually away from his roots as a tortured Vietnam War vet with an actual emotional core to a mindless big-screen killing machine. The second act of this film starts with him wiggling a goon’s collarbone outside of his skin like a parent playing “this little piggy” with their infant’s toes. That’s everything you need to know.
And so, with that in mind, let’s unpick exactly why this film is so bad. The plot is simple enough. John Rambo is pratting about with horses on a big farm in Arizona with friend Maria (Adriana Barraza) and her granddaughter Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal
). On the eve of her journey to college, Gabrielle tells John she has tracked down her scumbag father in Mexico and wants to visit him. Unfortunately, Mexico is full of “bad hombres” and soon she has been kidnapped by a pair of evil crime lord brothers. The stage is set for bloody vengeance.
Rambo: Last Blood, penned by Stallone and Matthew Cirulnick, is one of the most hateful and xenophobic films of recent years. It relies on the shorthand that Mexico is a cesspit of crime and sex slavery as if every word of Donald Trump’s angry rhetoric over the last few years is gospel truth. Much of the film’s final hour consists of Stallone mercilessly slaying anonymous Mexicans with hammers, knives, guns and all manner of improvised weaponry. Indeed, the third act begins with him assembling various absurd booby traps like Neil Buchanan from Art Attack if he got a little too inspired by the Taken films.
The violence, when it comes, is stunningly weightless. Everything about the movie is so overblown and thick-headed that it’s impossible to care about anything that happens. Even the racism is difficult to get too angry about because the film executes it with such a lack of awareness that it feels like a blundering pratfall rather than an actual act of calculated aggression. It’s a movie so deliriously incompetent that it almost gets away with being a malevolent pile of trash – not a juggernaut, but a clown car.
Without a shred of guile or self-awareness, Adrian Grunberg delivers a punishing 90 minutes of cinema that could easily have been 90 hours. More shocking than the violence or the racism is the tedium. The first Rambo film is a masterclass in taut, tense storytelling that stands as a bona fide action classic, but this is as cumbersome and craggy as its septuagenarian star.
And what a star he is. Stallone lumbers and yells his way through the movie with little or no enthusiasm, in stark contrast to his impressive recent work as his other most memorable character in the Creed films. If Rocky has grown up, Rambo has regressed into a slightly pathetic edgelord adolescent. If he had a Twitter account, it’d have a frog avatar and he would spend most of his time ranting about how the “fake news media” should shut up about climate change while cradling one of his many, many guns.
After the climactic half an hour of hilariously dull bloodshed, the man in the row in front of me turned to his partner and muttered, in perfect deadpan: “his farm’s a bit of a mess”. It’s a better review than I could ever write. Even the original creator of the John Rambo character said he was “embarrassed” to have his name attached to Last Blood, and it’s easy to see why. I’m slightly embarrassed to have even seen it.
Dir: Adrian Grunberg
Scr: Matthew Cirulnick, Sylvester Stallone
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Yvette Monreal, Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Óscar Jaenada, Adriana Barraza, Fenessa Pineda
Prd: Avi Lerner, Yariv Lerner, Steven Paul, Kevin King Templeton, Les Weldon
DOP: Brendan Galvin
Music: Brian Tyler
Run time: 89 mins
Rambo: Last Blood is in UK cinemas now,