RELEASED: September 20th 2019
DISTRIBUTED BY: Lionsgate
DIRECTED BY: Adrian Grunberg
WRITTEN BY: Matt Cirulnick, Dan Gordon & Sylvester Stallone
PRODUCED BY: Avi Lerner, Kevin King Templeton, Yariv Lerner & Les Weldon
MUSIC BY: Brian Tyler
STARRING: Sylvester Stallone, Yvette Monreal, Adriana Barraza, Paz Vega & Sergio Peris-Mencheta
I’ve never seen a Rambo film before. Obviously, I realise that the last one is a weird place to start, but I think this film on its own tells you enough about the character and the franchise to form your opinions on whether you should see the rest (if, like me, you haven’t already).
Last Blood follows John Rambo, a former Vietnam veteran who now lives out on a ranch with his family. But when his niece is kidnapped by sex traffickers in Mexico, Rambo takes it upon himself to rescue her and go to war with the Mexican cartel.
From an actual film-making and storytelling point of view, you’ve seen this movie before. It’s Taken, and the various ‘old man action’ films that followed it. A grisled but capable former soldier has to come out of retirement and fight to save those he loves. There’s nothing new here. Furthermore, the dialogue is often very heavy handed, the cinematography isn’t especially memorable and the acting from some parties is nothing to write home about.
Furthermore, the approach taken with some of the characters doesn’t fly so well in 2019. There’s a female character who, while she does have some agency, essentially becomes the catalyst for the heroes pain, and is reduced, essentially, from a character to a plot-point. The depiction of Mexico (and Mexicans) also, isn’t especially favourable. Out of, lets say, the fifty Mexican people who appear on screen, only one is shown to have an ounce of decency. From the moment the film enters the country, the focus is on the seediness and violence, and if I can be sure of one thing about this movie, it’s that it will definitely not do wonders for Mexico’s tourism.
By all accounts, it’s not a great movie.
HOWEVER, I assume, if you’re going to see this film, like me, you understand to some extent what sort of thing you’ll be getting. As with most movies starring action stars of the seventies, you don’t purchase a ticket expecting high-brow art-house cinema. You go for the gratuitous violence and the over the top action.
Of course, none of that really excuses some of the things I said before, but it’s important to understand that that’s what Last Blood and films like it are all about.
And in that regard it’s fucking amazing.
Sylvester Stallone brings Rambo back to the big screen in a way that (as I was told by my friend who is a big fan of the franchise) is consistent with his character. While the dialogue can be very on the nose, he’s got that weariness necessary for these films down pat. Sometimes, you can’t really understand what he’s saying in his gruff drawl, but the emotion in his face, the pain in his eyes – his is the only performance that really matters in this movie and he nails it.
Not only that, but it often feels like a throwback to eighties action hits. It’s less concerned with making sure everyone’s okay with what’s going on, and more concerned with giving you an explosive thriller, that, once it gets into it, really gets into it.
It’s bloody, visceral and incredibly brutal. People are decapitated, they have their heads shot off, they get stabbed a lot, and are blown up with aplomb. Rambo cycles through a series of pistols, shotguns, rifles, knives, pipes, explosives, an array of deadly traps and even a bow and arrows as he mows through his enemies, who, having been set up to be the absolute worst of the worst, function excellent as cannon fodder for his gratuitous violence.
While there are things to like in the first two acts (and various things to dislike), when it gets to the third act, the movie reminds you why you came – the gloriously bonkers brutality.
So in terms of actual quality, I’d maybe give Last Blood:
But as a over-the-top action movie; one you can sit down with a friend and just really enjoy, it’s fantastic.