"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Rambo: Last Blood

You remember Rambo, John J. Vietnam vet, Green Beret, POW camp survivor, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. In ’81, as a homeless drifter, he waged a one-man guerrilla war against the police department of Hope, Washington, wounding several officers, killing police dogs, blowing up buildings and causing one officer to die from falling out of a helicopter. But they let him out of prison for a secret POW rescue mission. Though he earned a presidential pardon, he decided to live in Thailand, living off odd jobs such as stickfighter, temple-builder, snake-catcher or river guide, with occasional missions to help the Mujahideen in Afghanistan or rescue missionaries in Myanmar. But eventually he came home to his dad’s place in Arizona.

It doesn’t seem like it, but that movie was 11 years ago. Rambo has short hair now, wears cowboy hats and runs his (now deceased) dad’s horse ranch. He lives with a woman named Maria (Adriana Barraza, AMORES PERROS, DRAG ME TO HELL), who I guess the photos on the wall indicate was his parents’ maid, and her granddaughter Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal from the El Rey show Matador), who calls him Uncle John and who he says he thinks of as his daughter.

But Gabrielle gets a call from her friend Jezel (Fenessa Pineda, The Fosters), who found her biological father (Marco de la O, who played El Chapo in a show on Netflix) in Mexico, and Gabrielle wants to go there to confront him for abandoning her and her late mother (who I don’t think was Rambo’s sister?). Uncle John and Maria tell her she can’t go because it’s dangerous and that guy is a piece of shit. She goes and gets abducted and forced into prostitution. And Uncle John has to go TAKEN.

So, like a normal action hero, he asks around, threatens some people, gets some names. It almost immediately feels like he’s crossing a line when he threatens Jezel – a teenage girl! – with his giant knife. Then they try to justify it, but it feels kinda like when the Toxic Avenger killed that old lady and it turned out she ran a white slavery ring. I mean, it’s implied that he knew her when she was a little girl.

We see a woman in a bar watching him, and she starts to follow him. Holy shit! It’s Kat! From the cartoon!

Nah, it’s crusading journalist Carmen Delgado (Paz Vega, ACTS OF VENGEANCE). Sorry to say that Turbo, General Warhawk, Sergeant Havoc, Gripper and Mad Dog aren’t in it either. Not even in the end credits montage of the whole Rambo story. HUGE missed opportunity there.

In each of the other Rambo sequels, we get our first glimpse of Stallone and there’s no mistaking it – that’s not Rocky, that’s not Marion Cobretti, that’s not the guy from RHINESTONE, that’s definitely fuckin Rambo. In this one there’s little in Stallone’s appearance or performance specific to that character, and he’s just living in a humble farm house, so to make it clear it’s him they have to pan across a wall of old photos where he does look like Rambo, plus a rack of rifles, and a ridiculous number of long, sharp knives of the type he prefers.

He seems like a pretty regular laid back guy now and he’s real good with the horses and with Gabrielle, but there is one odd thing about him: he built a huge series of tunnels under the ranch. He goes down there to forge knives. Sure, it can give him flashbacks (in the form of historical Vietnam era file footage with scan lines), but I guess maybe he likes it down there? It’s kind of his secret place, except he lets Gabrielle go down there and, in an act of supreme chill, allows her to have a graduation party down there. I thought one of her friends was gonna be in a cartel or something, like in THE MULE, but the party ends up not being relevant. Just the fact that he has tunnels.

Wouldn’t it be funny if they set up these tunnels and then the climax took place in Mexico? Well, don’t worry. He’ll be back. Eventually. He does some searching, some confronting, some losing. Things get dark. He gets pushed too far. etc. He uses the knives and the bows. There’s a setting up booby traps montage. There’s a total fuckin massacre.

Maybe a strong writer/director or writer-director combo could’ve done something artful with this, but that’s not the case here. Director Adrian Grunberg normally works as an assistant director, except in the case of this and the better Mel Gibson movie GET THE GRINGO. I’m tempted to connect some dots there, but I don’t know. The screenplay is credited to Stallone & Matthew Cirulnick (PAID IN FULL). IMDb says story by Stallone & Dan Gordon (TANK, GOTCHA!, Highway to Heaven, pilots for Sidekicks and Highlander: The Series, PASSENGER 57, SURF NINJAS, WYATT EARP, MURDER IN THE FIRST, THE HURRICANE).

Normally I would joke that they failed to pay off the detail we learned in FIRST BLOOD that he was trained “to eat things that’ll make a billygoat puke.” Like, what if before the cartel guys beat him down they tried to humiliate him by forcing him to eat something disgusting, but it didn’t bother him at all? That would show them. But the thing is, in this one I can genuinely complain that he doesn’t even wear a headband! I get it, not everybody keeps the same hair style their whole life, but the man is clearly sweating, we can see it. It’s gonna get in his eyes. Put the headband on.

There’s a part where he tells Gabrielle that people don’t change, and she says, “You changed!” And he responds with one of the better, more Rambo lines, but I was distracted because does that mean she’s aware of the Hope, Washington Rampage of 1981? Or did she mean “You changed! You got a haircut, started wearing shirts all the time, talk much more and more articulately, apparently are into Doors covers”?

(At one point he plays a rock ‘n roll cassette tape over the loudspeaker to terrorize his foes. I’m not sure there’s any logical explanation for it, but apparently it ties in to the opening hiker rescue sequence that was cut out of the American release for unknown reasons.)

One part I got a chuckle from is when a bad guy assures his pals, “This old gringo is nothing”— moments after said old gringo triggered a giant wall of fire that blew up several SUVs. This after going to Mexico by himself and murdering several cartel members, even (SPOILER) beheading one of their leaders. Still, this guy thinks he’s no problem because he’s just some old guy. Your ageism is gonna do you in, buddy.

I enjoyed it best when it was at its most ridiculous. The last 15 minutes or so do a good job of being so PUNISHER: WAR ZONE extreme you can’t really dismiss it as an experience in tasteless violence. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he acts like Jason Voorhees at the end. And even before that there’s a bit involving a severed head that seemed like something out of a MANIAC COP. There’s a part where he drops two guys into a tiger pit, running them through with several long spikes, then sprays them with machine gun fire. So I certainly got more holy shit laughs and winces than I get out of the standard okay Liam Neeson joint. I like that by the end they stopped pretending this guy isn’t a total fuckin psychopath. My first thought when the credits rolled was “Well, I guess you shouldn’t let a guy out after he goes on a rampage and causes a guy to fall out of a helicopter.”

But the earlier, more reasonable part doesn’t feel worthy of being a RAMBO movie. It doesn’t have the wide angles and scenery. Unless you count a ranch and some roads. It doesn’t really use the trope of “here we have Rambo living in another far-flung place, doing another unusual job,” unless you count living on his dad’s ranch being good at making horses spin around. And I kind of like the idea of a different type of Rambo movie, where this character is put into a different subgenre of action. But it needs to feel like it actually is Rambo, and not just a generic Stallone performance. I didn’t love RAMBO (the fourth one) the way so many of you do – it felt to me like they forgot to have a third act – but Stallone was excellent in it, deeply inhabiting the character. It felt like he put so much care not only into creating the tree trunk physique of an aging Rambo, but of projecting his inner life through his big sad eyes, responding to people with few words, if any.

LAST BLOOD does not take that same care, so I wondered what David Morrell, author of the book First Blood, thought about this sequel. He has a commentary track on the RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II dvd and wrote the novelizations of 2 and 3, so he has a sense of humor about what became of the character from his angry little anti-war thriller. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, he feels betrayed by this one, saying on Twitter that he “hated” and was “embarrassed” by it. He told Newsweek, “I felt degraded and dehumanized after I left the theater. Instead of being soulful, this new movie lacks one. I felt I was less a human being for having seen it, and today that’s an unfortunate message.”

Not being the creator of Rambo I can take it less personally, and I can’t deny getting a certain kick out of the deranged wrongness of the thing. But it didn’t have to be this way.

There have been many Rambo sequels that almost happened over the years. People always talk about the one where he was gonna fight a monster. I read somewhere that Stallone’s script for the enjoyable Jason Statham movie HOMEFRONT, though based on a book by Chuck Logan, was originally planned as a Rambo sequel. And I don’t know if it’s that same one, or a different one, but there were reports of a RAMBO 4 that would’ve had him living peacefully until white supremacists kidnap his family.

Think about that. Rambo can only re-fight the Vietnam War so many times. Stallone needed to find a villain that’s relevant to today, in the period when that one particular asshole is in the White House. He had already considered a story where he goes up against white supremacists. Nah. Why not just do the “dangerous Mexican criminals are coming over the border to get us” route.

It could obviously be worse. The only people in Rambo’s life, including the literally-virginal surrogate daughter he’s trying to save, are Hispanic, and often speak to him in subtitled Spanish. And there’s the journalist in Mexico who saves his life. That’s cover, but it’s better than nothing. You can decide whether or not it makes up for the overhead shot of a border wall where our side is fine and the other side is just piles of garbage and filth everywhere.

(Later, for plot convenience, there’s a spot where it’s a barb wire fence that he just drives over and heads home.)

Of course, the sequels long ago turned FIRST BLOOD’s anti-war icon into right wing militaristic propaganda, so this isn’t a sudden right turn. But it’s too bad. SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO and PEPPERMINT already pushed these buttons more entertainingly, and MISS BALA tried it too. I wonder if Stallone knows it was the cowardly choice? Now he’s talking up a ROCKY 7 where he trains an undocumented immigrant. Consciousness of guilt.

There’s one scene that I think transcends the rest of the movie. It’s when Rambo storms a whorehouse looking for Gabrielle. He just bursts in and starts going room to room, bashing each male he comes across with a hammer and telling the captive young women to leave. But none of them do as he says. Every one of them says, “No puedo.” It’s not that simple. This is helping nothing.

Too bad we’ll never see the better movie that scene hints at. The title LAST BLOOD sounds like this was designed as the final chapter. The movie itself doesn’t seem that way, but its lack of quality will likely fulfill the prophecy. R.I.P. John Rambo, you crazy gross-things-eating sonofabitch.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 23rd, 2019 at 12:55 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

63 Responses to “Rambo: Last Blood”

  1. I’m Team I Liked This One. Should we expect better? Maybe. But most movies do not have this one’s climax so most movies are clearly inferior.

  2. I also feel this movie is more of what I wanted out of Eli Roth’s DEATH WISH or at least what we all assumed it would be and probably would have preferred. We all figured he’s make the morally corrupt disgusting movie but the young edgelord couldn’t or just didn’t. Old Man Stallone gave us the thrills that make you feel more than a little bad for enjoying it.

    Glad you mentioned the cartoon. The scene where Stallone is talking about having some of the best friends he’s ever had, I figure that means he was talking about his team from the cartoon. That’s what I choose to believe and it’s a shame the show was not represented in the montage at the end.

  3. I saw a rough cut of the film back in early May at a test screening, and I am very taken aback by how much they cut out or altered. I am going to list all the changes here, but if you haven’t seen it yet, come back to this later for the scoop. Also, it should be noted that friends from different countries have been telling me that these missing scenes were in the version they saw in the theater. Apparently, Australia and Germany retained quite a bit of the deleted stuff, but not everything.

    SIGNIFICANT CHANGES:

    1. The original cut had a 10-minute sequence that opened the film, which is completely gone now. The sequence opens at night during a terrible storm. Two hikers – a male and a female – are on a mountain, stranded and separated from each other. Park rangers have given up on rescuing them, and Rambo with a poncho and hat rides up on his horse to attempt a rescue. He encounters the husband, who rejects his help because he won’t leave his wife behind. Rambo leaves him in frustration and eventually finds the woman, who accepts his help. A flash flood is about to happen, and Rambo tethers his horse in a canyon crevice and puts the woman on his horse, saving her just as the flood washes all over the place. Afterwards, Rambo and the woman on his horse come down the mountain or ravine, finding that the rangers have pulled the woman’s husband’s dead body from the muck. The woman is loaded onto an ambulance, and the rangers ask their sheriff who was the guy who saved the lady. He goes, “That’s John; he helps out sometimes.” Rambo is pissed that he could only save the woman. This is important because it parallels in irony the events that happen later.

    2. There’s a scene missing now where Rambo is relaxing after he puts on a record in his cave – he listens to “Riders on the Storm” by The Doors and reads a book / writes in a journal. (If I recall correctly, he narrates what he’s writing.) I really liked this scene, and I don’t understand why it’s gone.

    3. When Rambo is interrogating the friend who betrayed his surrogate daughter in her kitchen, he slams the knife on her table and he says something like, “You can help me, or you can die right now. Your call.” This dialogue is gone, and it’s weird why. It was a clear callback to RAMBO 4.

    4. As I recall, we see the moment after Gabrielle is raped for the last time. If I recall correctly, we see the guy zipping up his pants, and then Rambo sees him BUT LETS HIM LEAVE. I can understand why this was cut out. It bothered me that Rambo would just let this guy walk away.

    5. There’s a scene when the cartel invites a bunch of cops to rape all the girls. The cops seem happy about it. That’s gone.

    6. There’s an important scene now gone where Rambo gifts his housekeeper Maria with the deed to his ranch. In this theatrical version, she is holding the deed when he sends her off, but they never say or indicate what she’s holding. It’s her ranch now, not Rambo’s.

    7. When Rambo has shot the lead cartel guy with four of his arrows, he tries shooting him a fifth time as he draws closer, but he doesn’t have the strength. The arrow lopsidedly falls to to the ground, indicating that Rambo is very severely wounded. That’s gone. I’m glad it is, because it was hard seeing Rambo so weak.

    8. The last shot of the movie ends with the pan out and fade on Rambo on the chair, and his voice over sort of made it seem like that was the end of him. This final cut threw in the montage of the previous films and showed him on his horse in the last shot before the end credits.

    This new version released in the USA definitely felt like a compromised and way-too-tight version. I can’t say I “liked” either version: This is not the RAMBO I wanted in any way, shape, or form. More thought needed to be put into it, and definitely a bigger budget. I would have preferred no RAMBO 5 over this one. Some fellow Rambo fans are loving it because it’s “savage,” but that’s just the icing on what should’ve been a well balanced meal. This movie is malnourished.

  4. Did LAST BLOOD really only cost 5 mil less than RAMBO? Makes me appreciate Stallone the director even more! RAMBO is well-shot and filled with legitimately impressive action filmmaking. LAST BLOOD felt like a very bland DTV movie from a first time director with no ideas.

  5. Mr Moore, the version i saw here in Singapore had most of the deleted scenes you described above. Only 6 and 7 were missing (I think).

  6. Interesting how in the book First Blood as opposed to the movie, Rambo straight up murders a lot of people including a lot just doing their job and Trautman has to put him down, it’s quite a different story in many respects.

    I got this link from a comment in the AV Club review. The shootout at the end might have been inspired by a real life event.

    Mexican Marines Reconstruct the Death of Don Alejo Garza

    When Mexican Marines arrived at the San Jose Ranch, 15 kilometers from Victoria, Tamaulipas, the scene was bleak: The austere main house w...

  7. Don Winslow did a fictional depiction of this incident in his book “The Cartel”.

  8. I’m just sad that this bleak fucking ending is now how Rambo’s story ends. (SPOILERS AHEAD) The last movie ended with a bit of hope that Rambo could find some peace in this life. Now we know that his happy family life was torn away and he’s just going to be sad and miserable until the day he dies. It’s not like they can even fix that with a sequel. He had to watch his sex slave daughter die from a heroin overdose in his arms. That’s not something that you get over.

    I would have liked this movie more if it was just a different character. Just a generic old man action movie hero like a Taken or an Equalizer or a Sean Penn. Instead they diminished the legacy of one of the most well known iconic action movie heroes. Sigh…. Who’s ready to watch the new Terminator?!

  9. I don’t think the Terminator film series is a good example if we’re worried about the phenomenon of franchise decay. I don’t want to see Stallone wreck yet another franchise by going on too long in the part.

  10. This was a firm step down from the 2008 RAMBO, which I kinda love for it’s merciless overkill. The first half felt DTV with blatant green screen in the driving scenes and dialogue like “I can’t believe I’m going to college.” That said, there were stylish flourishes in the second half that really surprised me. Rambo’s raid on the brother’s house is shot like he’s a slasher, and ends with him dropping the head out the window like he’s in HIGH TENSION. The hammer rescue in the brothel felt like a corrective to YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE’s pretentious staging of a similar set piece, but actually satisfying. What is wild is to see Stallone unable to put this character to rest, mortally wounding him in the finale but then having the shot of him riding off on his horse at the end of the montage. He can’t just let it go! I’ve seen a lot of talk about how political this movie is or isn’t, but I don’t think it has much to actually say about anything to really be that offensive. The Mexican villains are only there because Mexico is close to Arizona. If Rambo had retired to Montana, he’d be fighting some Canadian slavers instead.

  11. This general reaction is disappointing to here. I had thought of seeing it theatrically, but now I’ll wait for Redbox and do so with very modest expectations. Commenting in one of these other threads (CREED II, I think), I was noting how Stallone’s desire to stay visible and relevant can lead him to make some questionable choices. Not that he hasn’t always had his share of mediocre stuff and misfires, but I feel that particularly now, his judgment is a little off with some of this stuff. Basically, after RAMBO IV and starting with whole EXPENDABLES series. When he went back to Rocky and Rambo in the late aughts, the idea seemed iffy at best, but he auteured that shit, had the vision, fought for the vision, made it happen, and I found both films very compelling even if they were a bit cheesy or self-indulgent. After that, I feel like he has mostly just been milking these brands or high-concept team-up films that are every bit as much about nostalgia as the RAMBO and ROCKY/CREED sequels: Raging Bull and Rocky in one movie, duking it out (GRUDGE MATCH); finally, Sly and Arnold share top billing in an action film (ESCAPE PLAN), all the great action stars of the 80s and 90s in one film (EXPENDABLES).

    The CREED films have been a pleasant exception to the rule, but I credit a lot of that to the moderating influence of Coogler, Jordan, including Coogler’s influence on the selection of the director for II and their investment in Jordan/Creed as a African American man coming into his own and wrestling with his own issues of identity. CREED II is pretty instructive in this regard, because you see about a 50/50 mix of Coogler’s influence (serving as something of a narrative and tonal reboot) but also much more of Stallone’s influence in developing the story for II. And you even saw from the early social media stuff around CREED II’s development, where Stallone was in high-concept nostalgia event mode with the Drago/Creed/Rocky angle.

    What I’m saying is that CREED II seems like about the best we can hope for in terms of moderating forces guiding and Stallone’s current creative instincts which seem to be all about squeezing blood from the same old franchises or from other high-concept “brand synergy” hooks (Raging Bull and Rocky, Sly and Arnold, the ultimate royal rumble of 80s/90s heros). He is a fine, underrated actor and seems to be doing fine financially, and we’re in the so-called golden age of television, so, surely there are opportunities for him to take some creative risks that don’t just cater to his ego. He’s playing it too safe, looking for the familiar ego strokes and hacky elevator pitch angles.

  12. “hear,” not “here”

    Also, while we’re on the subject of thoroughly depressing franchise/nostalgia-milking, that new TERMINATOR movie couldn’t look more limp and generic. Completely lacking in personality or a reason to exist. 1 and 2 are unimpeachable classics, but after that we are so many shitty and/or lazy and/or why? sequels and alternate timelines down the rabbit hole that I need more than this. Even the potentially compelling elements, like having Linda Hamilton back, feel more gimmicky than anything else. “These new terminators can do new things and/or are kind of a mashup of earlier Terminators you love,” “Arnold and Sarah Connor together again at last,” “We thought we stopped judgment day, but turns out we just — insert stupid time travel logic here — ‘d it, but now we will stop it, by gum.” Snoozetown.

  13. There’s so many potentially interesting ideas in the Terminator Franchise that the movies haven’t touched, instead going down the same route again and again.

    The comics and TV show did though by looking at such things as why Skynet did what it did (it is a program performing exactly as intended so what does that say about the people who programmed it?) and also about teaching machines ethics and a better way.

    There was a comic book sequel to Terminator: Salvation called The Last Battle by J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5 fame and it’s really very good.

    First two issues here legally for free.

    Read Two Shocking Issues Of Terminator: The Last Battle Right Here!

    The human resistance dealt a major blow to Skynet in the 2009 movie Terminator Salvation, but the war wasn't over. The saga continues in Dark Horse's sequel series The Last Battle, written by J. Michael Straczynski, where John Connor leads a desperate final battle in which he may pay the ultimate price. Spoilers ahead!

  14. My favorite comic book explanation for why Skynet is that way is, of course, that Terminators went back in time and stole Robocop’s head to use as a crucial CPU component.

  15. I loved it. I’ve always wanted to see Rambo come home and he finally did. Of course I knew something bad had to happen so that was the action. And this is exponentially more graphic than 2008 which is insane if you think about that.

    I sort of love Stallone for that epilogue. He can’t even stand to leave it ambiguous whether Rambo lives or dies. A 50/50 chance is too much for him so he’s gotta confirm he’s coming back. Never stop Stalloning, Sly.

    Sly stopped taking risks after Copland. He got acclaim for that but not a lot of money. So he came back with Get Carter and Driven. I’ll take Escape Plan and Expendables over that.

  16. Full disclosure I asked Stallone about that last shot. He says it may be in Rambo’s head, or he still goes and dies in the woods.i don’t buy it. Rambo never dies.

    https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/stallone-explains-the-final-scene-in-rambo-last-blood.html/

  17. “Liked it for what it was, could have been better” for me. Was anyone else rather confused about who Gabrielle was in relation to Rambo? They never show her mother (unless she was briefly in that pan across the photos and I missed it) and with her calling him “Uncle John”, I ended up assuming that her mother was Rambo’s sister. This was strengthened by her being buried next to a grave marked “Helga Rambo”. But apparently there’s no biological relation at all, it seems. Which in some way is better because Rambo’s love for her is less obligatory, but it seemed like a logical way to root Rambo more to the Ranch. Though thinking on it now, given John’s age, his sister having a daughter that young seems unlikely unless said sister was born much, much later than he was, which isn’t impossible.

  18. “Sly stopped taking risks after Copland.”

    Well, he played multiple roles as the villain and his holograms in a kids movie and you might count ROCKY BALBOA as risk, considering how ROCKY sequels were pretty much used as cheap popculture comedy punchlines and most only remember the parts with the larger-than-life villains (3 & 4), so the more serious back to the roots approach could’ve backfired a lot. Shit, I even remember how my teacher (!) was laughing about the premise of “A computer simulation predicted that Rocky could beat the current champ!” and the whole class was laughing with him!

  19. I would even say that the first EXPENDABLES was a risk, because the kind of 80s action that he promised in throwback form (although not really delivered) was another thing that was by that time ridiculed by the public. Good for him that nostalgia won in that case.

  20. I guess I’m somewhere in the middle on this. I didn’t mind it, but I was very aware that it wasn’t in any way an appropriate finale to the series, or even an addition really. This review touched on the bit I found most shockingly shoddy; Rambo’s nam flashbacks consisting of stock footage and sampled Presidential speeches! From the only guy who went back to war there in 1985!

    I’d like to see him tackle POE now.

  21. I’m of two minds on this one. I completely get why people would not like it but I also pretty much did enjoy it myself overall. I don’t think it’s a top 3 Rambo movie but I do feel it does have some of the most memorable displays of violence in the entire series.

    Like I’d say RAMBO III is a better movie in many ways but I also know I’ll end up rewatching LAST BLOOD more than I do that one.

    I also feel it’s the one that has suceeded most in humanizing Rambo again for me after he had iconically become Green Beret Superman for the better part of the last 30 yrs and pretty much my entire life.

    My favorite parts of the latter sequels to FIRST BLOOD was seeing John readjusting to just being a man again. Whether it’s building structures in thailand to help out monks or giving river tours across Myanmar I just like seeing him get back to simple tasks and get his mind away from his dark nature.

    So I greatly enjoyed Rambo on a ranch just raising horses and spending time with the only family he has left. Seeing Rambo the family man reminded me that at the end of the day there is genuinely good man who just would like to enjoy his peace and not be bothered in there.

    Also contrary to others aesthetics didn’t take me out of the thing. This did not feel like I was watching Ray Tango or something. I still sensed the weight of pain on this man’s shoulders like I always did with Rambo. Also the eyes were still distant drifting around like a hitchiker walking through washington and getting harrassed by a cop. That’s also a key Rambo element to me. More than the headband.

    This is the most phoned in Rambo performance from Sly since the late 80s but it still FELT like Rambo to me and did contain some of the most emotionally resonant moments I’ve spent with the character. When Stallone actually cares to be there you see this shit.

    With that said I think it was very tone deaf to set most of it in Mexico. It wasn’t neccessary. Guess what? human trafficking is a major issue in Arizona and a lot of the culprits there ARE Mexican gangsters. So there was no real point and it made the movie lose a modicum of cred after it had sold men on some groundedness early on.

    Seeing Rambo cross the border twice with no kinda blowback whatsoever once with a dying girl riding shotgun and the other with weapons was distracting as fuck. I also totally understand why some would read into it as President Twitter rhetoric regrgartion. I wouldn’t say itcs a unfair criticism either even if I do feel too many do force their political agendas when interpreting fiction for no reason.

    These borders are so unguarded and abandoned anybody and anything could just bounce back and forth with impunity.
    That’s bogus. The SICARIOs also kinda hollywoodize that concept but did do a much leveled take on how that could actually go down more than once. They should’ve gotten more inspiration from that or even this very director’s GET THE GRINGO.

    I also felt it was a major creative mistake to allow the “lost her virginity to violent rape” beacon of innocence in Rambo’s life to tragically die in Rambo’s arms. On the one hand because of my attachment to the character all these years and seeing how his niece made him glow earlier in the movie I was totally ready to see him rain down a hellish wrath on whoemever whereever. On the other hand as RJ stated there was something really painful of being told Rambo would NEVER find true harmony in life.

    After how well off part RAMBO had left him and seeing how that evolved in the first act of this one it was insanely cynical and a bit too much to add “lost daughter figure to a violent drug overdose I myself allowed to happen due to my own impulsiveness”. How much medication are they gonna prescribe him? They just turned up his PTSD to super saiyan levels for no real goddamn reason. That was very foul.

    I would’ve preferred this one to have stuck to the cliche of “he brings her back but still strikes back and the cartel come back for the both of them”. We could’ve even seen HER more harden and putting some of the self defense skills Uncle John would teach her to test. We missed out on a father/daughter training montage and Rambo relacing his boots right along with his niece. FUCK YOU MILLENIUM MEDIA!

    Another creative letdown was the comeuppance of that Victor guy not being properly paid off. We always see Rambo deliver the big payback to the most obnoxious villain in the whole thing. This time it happens off camera. After the great setup with this asshole not just branding Rambo but also his kin on top of drugging her senseless. Big mistake especially after the majestically great hammer time sequence.

    With that said the TAKEN starring Michael Myers factor really did charm me. I never asked for a RAMBO 5 let alone a Rambo revenge picture but his brutality in this shit made me glad I still got one. That was no Doors cover by the way. That was the real deal. One of the best parts of my screening and one where I genuninely laughed was seeing some old white guy on one side of the auditorium clap along to the song at the same time some middle aged asian guy on the other side did the same.

    It was cool to see Rambo rocking out to the classics with lots of heavy metal in tow. Those last 15 minutes were fucking magical. Like Vern I freaking howled when he gunned down the impaled guys. Like damn guy. Then you remember he once 50 caled someone at close range.

    As far as the end goes. As Fred kinda alluded to I did kinda read it as this: the montage is life flashing before his eyes and him getting up from the chair and riding off on horseback was his way of walking towards the light. Bringing poetic poignancy to the name LAST BLOOD. But this is indeed Stallone. So I’m sure it definitely is literal leaving the door open for one more rode and you know what? I can’t say I wouldn’t be there for that one too.

    This is a much better part 5 to one of our beloved iconic 80s action franchises than TERMINATOR: GENESYS and YIPPEE KAI YAY MOTHER RUSSIA ever were. In that sense the Stallion has his buddies beat. It may not be what it should’ve been but for what it was I honestly thought it would be much worse. Especially after all the internet jibber jabber about it this past weekend. If you’re a genuine fan of the franchise I’d say it’s at least worth a matinee showing. If not. Then you probably could skip it and just watch FIRST BLOOD again.

    I had a Rambo lunchbox & thermos back in kindergarten while everyone else had Transformer or Thunder Cats. I know where I stand.

  22. I did mean to say that there were some touches I genuinely liked. Fully recognisable as Rambo or not (not for the most part I will concede) I feel like this is the first film to consistently show him as a disturbed individual since Part 1. I’m feel a lot of the violence that is being taken as cathartic or triumphant isn’t meant to be taken that way.

  23. I didn’t this movie too much. It really didn’t even feel like a Rambo movie. I mean, does Rambo have more dialogue in the first 30 minutes of this movie than all of Rambo 4? There is very little going on here with Rambo’s character that relates back to anything that happened in the other four movies.

    I was kind of floored when I saw Rambo 4. Vern, I know you aren’t a huge fan, but I remember seeing that and kind of being floored at how good the action was and how violent it was.

    I was thinking that he was like Jason in the Friday the 13th remake at the end there, running around his tunnels and coming up with inventive kills. I guess I am not the only one. The gore in Rambo 4 seemed realistic. When a person gets blown apart by a land mine, you are supposed to see flying limbs and guts. The gore in this one almost seemed like they were going for laughs.

    I like trap setting montages. I really do. But I felt like this one was a little too long and gave away a bit of the surprises.

    SPOILER

    I have to say, I didn’t realize until the end that the guy that Rambo kills off-screen in the shower was one of the cartel brothers. So much so that when Rambo went Mola Ram on the one brother, I was thinking there was another half hour of movie left.

  24. Scenes 4, 6 and 7 from David J. Moore’s list were missing in Europe, and the movie ended with the montage. The other scenes were intact. Imdb lists that the non-American version is 11 minutes longer, but I don’t think so. A couple of minutes, perhaps.

  25. JeffG-

    I’m with you on the SPOILER thing. I thought the character had just disappeared after the “This is your fuck-up! Handle it!” scene.

  26. I’d say 11 minutes makes sense Roger because that flood scene alone is about 8 minutes. I’m actually stunned they left out that cold open in America. It was easily the most expensive scene in the movie and it was kinda nice to see the movie open on Rambo being heroic in a non-violent way. Also it facilitated the hard smash to the cheesy title card which I always enjoy.

  27. I enjoyed GET CARTER and think it’s underrated. Michael Caine, Stallone, Mickey Rourke, Alan Cumming — a weird set of dyads and strange set piece/scenery-chewing opportunities that works pretty well for me on the whole. I don’t remember DRIVEN. COP LAND, my thoughts are well-documented. I love it.

    In my view, the high-concept coasting on sentiment and nostalgia is what makes most of the things he’s done starting with ROCKY BALBOA safe and largely rehashy/backward-looking. Which is not to say it’s all been crap. I love BALBOA, CREED 1 and 2, RAMBO IV. It’s not that it can’t ever work, though I think it often does not, and even when it does, the common thread is an attempt to look to some past property or brand or to some high-concept nostalgia wank that will appeal to an audience. Basically, the JJ Abrams model. It can be competent and satisfying, and it can even add flourishes of originality, but there is something like a craven or creatively bankrupt element where either you lack either the vision or will to strike out and pursue something really new. You can contrast that with Clint Eastwood, who hasn’t done a sequel in how long and has done some pretty varied stuff. Or you can contrast it with the Bill Hader show BARRY, which is a sharp left-turn from what he did on SNL. Or much of what Nic Cage does, which is variable in quality but has some pretty terrific highs (e.g., MANDY) and is seldom boring or safe.

    Of course, it is absolutely Sly’s prerogative to do whatever the hell he wants career-wise (hell, he can retire if he wants, he’s earned it). But when you hear him talk about film ideas and when you observe his choices, he seems to consistently fall back to whatever worked in the past in a fan servicey kind of way. The alternative choices of folks like Clint, Hader, and Cage show that you don’t have to do that. There are any number of outlets to do interesting stuff. Yeah, you may take a pay cut for it. You may be the standout supporting role vs. top-billed. It may be streaming or DTV instead of theatrical. But you can’t tell me the stuff’s not there. If he’s really just jacked to keep doing Rocky and Rambo, then, so be it, but seems kinda thirsty is all.

  28. For me, what makes the ROCKY movies and the CREED sequels more than just nostalgia cash-ins is that Rocky, as a character, is given some emotional space to breathe and grow and change. Obviously that nostalgia element is there a little bit, but the later movies are also about the idea of moving on gracefully, grappling with your own legacy both good and bad, helping to give the next generation the best of what you had, just continuing to figure out life as you go through it. I think that’s a more interesting and sustainable cinematic story than the cycle of violence just endlessly consuming Rambo’s life. It feels more like a natural evolution than just a rehash.

  29. That’s absolute fair. I don’t disagree with any of that. I’m personally okay with RAMBO going in a nihilistic or morally ambiguous or more hhopefull and redemptive direction. I think there’s a bit more flexibility with RAMBO, because he’s always been presented as damaged, and IV really leaned into the notion of him being morally ambiguous and the world being morally ambivalent. Rocky’s world is one of greater moral clarity and simplicity.

    It’s admittedly a broad brush I’m painting with as far as the nostalgia angle, but I’m trying to pan back and see the big theme. In reality, it’s going to be a bit more fuzzy than that. It seems like we agree that ROCKY and CREED does try to add new depth and explore new challenges for Rocky as he goes through different phases of life, and then the Adonis element further adds to that and complicates, with both parallel callback stuff and some subversive new stuff. It also seems like we agree that these are generally pretty well done. It seems like we also agree that there’s a strong nostalgia element that powers these more recent entries. No Rocky-featuring film of the last 15 years is succeeding entirely on its own steam: The films garner our interest and goodwill, and individual arcs or scenes derive much of their emotional impact and meaning, because we know and care about the Rocky world and Rocky history.

    My point in all of this is not that all 2006-present Stallone films are (equally) bad or (wholly) unoriginal, only but just that Stallone seems more focused on fan service and/or going back to familiar wells (and that’s not just evident from the films themselves but the way he talks about them) than he is about doing something really different. I would be fine to see him continue doing a mediocre-to-good CREED/ROCKY or RAMBO joint every couple years but would also like to see him do something fresher, like those other guys I mentioned have done. Once again, I’m just speaking as a fan and a pundit. COP LAND and GET CARTER are examples of different and more complex characters that still play to his range and bring something a little different to the table. He seems to respond a lot to audience positive feedback and trying to get more of it. I don’t think that’s what a true auteur does, and I think Stallone has an auteur or risk-taker in there that he’s stopped trusting or valuing the way a Cage or an Eastwood or hell, even an Adam Sandler (sometimes!) does.

  30. There is an earlier draft written by Cirulnik alone, and it has the missing bits of action and character development that were changed either because they never found the budget for the scenes or Sly’s Ego.

    It opens with Carmen and her sister getting thrown into a van in the mid of the day. Carmen manages to escape and falls out of the car, her sister doesn’t. The scene sets the tone nicely.

    Rambo has a PTSD episode at night, where he sees enemy crawling over the ranch. Then we see that he can’t live a normal life. Almost kills couple of assholes in the bar that were bothering him.

    Entire piece has a message. No did is left unpunished. Lots of casualties.

    Rambo did not just walked into a trap in Mexico to get beat up. There was a game of hide and seek. Then when he got jumped, he still managed to kill people like a savage dog before getting overwhelmed.

    Than, there was a huge submarine scene where he saves Gabrielle from, and only then she dies. Whorehouse sequence was after, and was there so Rambo could steal arsenal for the last battle and Carmen watched him going inside the room after room emerging bloodier each time. Then they would gather evidence and save the girl, so Carmen has the material to work with and make a difference.

    Oh, also Carmen and Rambo do team up in action when they raid a villa set in the forest. That is how they find out that Gabriella and others will be smuggled into Asia.

  31. What I like about both Stallone’s Rambo and Rocky characters is the absence of any irony, in an age where everything in pop culture is hipster ironic. Not to say irony is never aimed at or referred to by culture towards them, but it’s cool that Stallone puts them out there without any fear of it.

    Just watched FIRST BLOOD for the first time in a long time. What stood out was Rambo’s extreme response to being cornered, even making me sympathize a bit more with the cops. Not so much Teasle, the redneck prick, that guy is ignorant of his prejudice the same way Rambo is of his war wounds. But it really highlighted his PTSD, and gives a good argument for why he shouldn’t be free to roam the country.

    What makes it a classic though is how Stallone humanizes him in the early scenes, and later during the Nothing Is Over speech. Subsequently in Rambo’s 2 – 4 that humanity is no longer present, just the dark warrior. The Jason/stalker comparisons seem pretty accurate to me. Unlike Rocky, Rambo doesn’t gain self-awareness over his lifetime, which makes him so much more tragic, and less cartoonish unlike the irony crowd would have you think.

  32. Great observations. I tried to go back and revisit FIRST BLOOD about a year ago, and for whatever reason, I found it to be kind of a slog to revisit, even though there were still elements I appreciated. I think a lot of that rounds back to your point, which is that FIRST BLOOD’s version of RAMBO is quite different from the subsequent mythology and iconography, so, when you (I) go back to FIRST BLOOD, you’re like, “Wait a minute, this guy is just some wild-eyed drifter, where’s Rambo?”

    RAMBO IV held up very well upon revisit, for various reasons. One thing I liked was that it reflected a good mix of the damaged, unromantic, and ludicrously heroic superman shades of the character that emerged across the other films. Yes, he’s an unstoppable preternatural badass, but he’s also going to be fairly reluctant and cynical about what he’s doing, and once the switch flips, there is nothing romantic or uplifting about it. It’s gross, ugly, and hellish. It’s easily the second best if not best film in the series (though I must confess to never seeing III).

    It seemed like this one was a great opportunity to bring things somewhat full circle in terms of RAMBO being back in the states, but wiser and more seasoned and able to make a go at forming some human connections and building a little life for himself vs. being a private island. I’m not sure I would have wanted to see him go after white supremacists, because that feels to me like too much the opposite of what they ended up doing but still with the somewhat on the nose element. What I might have gone for was him taking down a group of corrupt cops practicing police brutality or something, which would also be topical but would have also circled back to the theme from part I. Oh, well.

  33. I just wish Stallone had of waited until now to make D-TOX, and reworked it so Rambo could have finally gone to a survivors group out in the middle of nowhere to deal with his trauma. Except two of the guys are Chris Mulkey and David Caruso (in disguise), who have had their own trauma since being impaled and shot at by Rambo in the forest 40 years ago. One by one the group are murdered, until Rambo (ah shit I think I’m crossing the line into irony…).

    But still, the cycle of violence and all that stuff.

  34. Skani:

    “What I might have gone for was him taking down a group of corrupt cops practicing police brutality or something, which would also be topical but would have also circled back to the theme from part I.”

    One of the earliest rumored plots for Rambo 4 was similar to what you describe here, and would’ve essentially been Rambo’s version of Magnum Force. It was inspired by the Oklahoma City bombing and involved Rambo encountering a group of disgruntled army vets who were engaging in domestic terrorism on US soil.

    I’m reminded of that idea whenever I revisit Rambo 2008 as it always feels like the franchise has skipped too far ahead and omitted a key part of the story in-between installments. Namely, how the character wound up turning his back on the world again. It would make perfect sense as a direct sequel to Rambo 2, but the entire premise of Rambo 3 was about the character coming to grips with both his past and his violent nature. By the end of that film, you could argue that we’re finally getting a glimpse of the John Rambo who had lots of friends and enjoyed fighting side by side with them in combat. As he drives away with Trautman at the end, there’s good reason to believe Rambo is finally going home.

    Much has been made of Last Blood not feeling like a Rambo movie, but I’d say it’s very much a companion piece to Rambo 2008. You could flip the order of those two entries and the overall narrative would work even better, as Last Blood begins with the character having been at peace for years only to end with him back in “fuck the world” mode.

    I will say the longer international cut should be regarded as the true version of the film though, and it’s a shame Lionsgate chose to eliminate that entire opening sequence. Not only does it establish where Rambo’s head is at, but also provides more context for his relationship with both Maria and the underground hideout.

  35. Interesting Look.

  36. I guess this is dividing may Sly fams, I was hoping something more like First Blood but don’t think Sly wants to go down that route anymore.
    I’ve enjoyed Rocky Balboa, Rambo 4 and the 2 Creed films and find the Expendable trilogy enjoyable but for me his best film and character performance has to be in Bullet In The Head and that was mainly down to Walter Hill. Such a shame Sly hasn’t worked with many top Action directors like Arnie has, can you imagine him collaborating with John Mctiernan or Paul Verhoeven or even giving DTV directors like Peter Hyams and Isaac Fiorentine a shot?

  37. Why is John McTiernan still in Director’s Jail?

  38. About Gabrielle’s relationship to Rambo. One of my editors needed me to confirm the relation because it wasn’t in any official synopsis or press materials. I asked Lionsgate and it took them DAYS to respond. Nobody knew this very basic plot element.

    Finally they replied that gabrielle’s Grandma was a ranchhand on Rambo’s farm. He took them in when the mom died and the dad left and they became like family. I wonder if they went all the way up to Stallone for that or if some executive just made it up.

  39. The version i saw here in Asia backs up that story.

  40. The version i saw here in Asia backs up that story.

  41. Felix-I think John McTiernan is still in Director Jail because he only fairly recently got out of *actual* jail for wiretapping and lying to the FBI about it. Also BASIC wasn’t very good.

  42. Finnish cinema owner Finnkino now lists it as 101 min., so 12 min. longer than the American version. I didn’t happen to look at my watch, so I can’t confirm. It didn’t feel that long, but you can’t argue with numbers. English BBFC lists it as 89 min., so the UK apparently got the American version…

  43. I work at a movie theater in Europe and the length of the DCP we have is 1:40:35. Scenes 4, 6 & 7 from that rough cut list are missing here. What a weird choice to omit the opening scene over there in the US.
    Regarding the film, I’d say it’s my least favorite Rambo, but still quite liked it. Of course was impressed that they somehow made the ending even more violent than in the fourth one. Also enjoyed the fact that the character went so OTT with the kills, like this was finally it, the straw that broke the PTSD camels back. Like Stallone said, there’s no going back after you literally rip a dudes heart out, Rambo pretty much lost it. So I see this as the bleak ending Rambo always had coming since First Blood.

    Ps. Long time lurker (since 04 or something I think), first time posting, took a good 15 years to do so, so hey you guys!

  44. I sort of had the opposite reaction to Vern, in terms of what parts of the movie work and what parts don’t. I agree with most everyone here, it seems, that the entire film itself could be different and oh so much better in any number of ways. That white supremacist angle could have been good, and I love the idea of John J. taking on a militia or something homegrown. But this is the Rambo we get (and maybe deserve?). Anyway, I knew everyone was calling this the worst movie of the year and so on going in, so expectations were low, but I also have a soft spot for this series. FIRST BLOOD is an all-time fav and the sequels I find to be mostly dumb fun. My late dad loved Rambo so maybe that plays into my fond feelings. That being said, RAMBO is my least favourite, mostly because the finale is so pathetic: “Let’s just put Stallone on a .50 cal and have him mow down everyone in sight for 10 minutes.”

    So, LAST BLOOD turned out to be pretty entertaining for what it is, even if it could have been so much more if rebuilt from the ground up like a ’65 Mustang named Maybelline. I liked the new setting, the new haircut, the new stakes (a family). It was a nice twist to see Rambo get the shit kicked out of him, seeing him finally get in over his head. Is this all couched in a thick layer of xenophobia? Sure, but with a movie like this, with just how little cultural relevancy this series has now, I had a hard time getting angry about it. If others are, I fully get it. BUT the finale, again, really ruined the thing. Vern’s Jason comparison was the first thing that came to my mind too, especially the terrible remake that introduces the tunnels aspect. I get that the finale is supposed to harken back and be the inverse to the chase in the first film, where Rambo has to construct booby traps to save his skin. But that’s the important part, it was to save his skin. He was outnumbered, in unknown terrain, injured, psychotic, desperate. There were, you know, stakes! There are none here. He’s on home turf, has the upper hand from the get go and dispatches with 95% of the henchman while barely breaking a sweat. Then he gets shot a couple times to add some easy drama, but by then all the air had been taken out of the thing. Much like the Friday 13th movies, the finale was all about “good kills” and nothing about tension or drama.

    Anyway, my final thoughts were I enjoyed much of it for what it is, wished it had been something else entirely and, barring that, wished they had come up with a better way to end the damn thing. Hell, I would have rathered a finale in Mexico even. All said, my ranking of Rambo ends up: 1,3,2,5,4

  45. Thanks for posting, Beat!

  46. Jake, thanks for sharing. I did not know the thing about that other discarded plot idea, and I think I mentioned I’ve never seen part III (based mostly on its meh reputation), but now you’re making me think I should give it another look.

  47. hassan, you are right about BULLET TO THE HEAD. I didn’t love it, but I liked it, and I appreciate the throwbacky quality (in the sense of it being a theatrically released potboiler buddy-cop type of film that stood on its own vs. being a reboot or franchise and being directed by Walter Hill). I honestly think I liked GET CARTER better (I know I’m way in the contrarian minority on that one), but I enjoyed BULLET enough and liked what it was doing. It is also one of the few exceptions to my “Since the mid-aughts, Sly is all about the nostalgia angle” thesis, which I still think holds as a very solid if imperfect generalization. The other is this BACKTRACE DTV joint, which I’ve heard is very bad and can’t bring myself to watch.^^^ I don’t understand why he would rather spend his non-ROCKY/RAMBO/EXPENDABLES time doing ESCAPE PLAN sequels and things like BACKTRACE when there’s gotta be some Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu or HBO (limited) series money or the chance to play a supporting role in some kind of indie drama or something? Could he really not get a supporting role in a Tarantino film? Maybe I’m off here.

    ^^^I fold “ESCAPE PLAN” sequels into my “nostalgia” thesis, because they are sequels to the first and only non-ensemble “Sly and Arnold together as a team sharing top-billing” nostalgia play, and the fact that they are some cheap-ass DTV joints shows how little stand-alone brand value the “ESCAPE PLAN FRANCHISE” has when you don’t have both Sly and Arnold in the mix.

  48. I would love to have seen Walter Hill or John Mctiernan given a good crack at the Rambo mythos

  49. I just saw it in Australia. Compared to Davids listing of what was in the rough cut, we definitely had the extended opening (1), the girls being given to be raped by cops (5) and Rambo on the porch fading out and then the montage of all the previous Rambo films (8).
    All these things really added to the film and it would have been a shame to cut them for the US release.

    I thought this was one of the better films in the franchise with the most deep character development. I think most of the criticism is unwarranted and based over current politics, people whining about Mexican cartel being the bad guys (oh how could you, when bad man Trump is in office?).
    If you find yourself hating a story narrative you would have liked 5 years ago, because of current media hysteria, you need to come up for air and get a life.

  50. Yohan, it’s different for you if you’re Australian. But as an American, acknowledging the context of the movie is not reacting to “current media hysteria.” It’s recognizing that a racist authoritarian regime is currently violating human rights in our name and justifying it with the same myths that movies like this play off of. Stallone didn’t make LAST BLOOD in a magical phantom zone separate from the political context in which we exist. He and his collaborators are intentionally engaging with or exploiting current events in an attempt to capture the zeitgeist. I love action movies including dumb ones but that doesn’t mean I have to be some nihilist who doesn’t care about what they are saying, intentionally or otherwise. I have always been and always will be interested in the subtext and context of movies, including DTV Seagal movies, so obviously I’m the wrong guy to go to if you want a RAMBO review free of elephants in rooms.

    But also the politics are not at all the movie’s biggest problem.

  51. Definitely agree that the movie has bigger problems than the politics.

    But the main thing that bothered me about the Mexico stuff was this exchange:

    Niece: I need to go to Mexico.
    Rambo: Why would you want to go there? That place is dangerous.

    It implies that ALL of Mexico is dangerous and should be avoided and made me think Sly was in ‘any publicity is good publicity’ mode. He probably could have avoided *most* of the controversy if he had changed ‘Mexico’ to [insert specific area in Mexico here] or [insert some nickname for a fictionalized dangerous area in Mexico here].

  52. I don’t think it matters at all where you’re from. You always recognize right wing propaganda.

  53. “Rambo Fan Fiction written by a 10-year old MAGA kid who only saw the end of the last one” sounds like a harsh description – but it’s the best way to sum this movie up and I just don’t understand how this came from the mind of Stallone after the comparatively thoughtful and mature script for Creed II. This is a dumb, gross exploitation flick that has the thinnest script I’ve seen in a theatrical release in years. It looks ugly and cheap and is in no way a fitting end to an iconic character who defined a genre. But….i kinda loved it?

    As in, I saw this with a bunch of dudes and a bunch of beers and a raucous crowd and everyone ate it up. From the first scene where a teenage girl casually walks into a bunch of tunnels to say hey to Rambo as he forges a giant knife (with absolutely no context given to the audience to understand what the hell is happening) to the *SPOILER* long, unbroken shot of Rambo carving a dude’s heart out that had to have been played for laughs (I think?), this movie is a blast. It’s the movie Machete or Planet Terror tried to be – a schlocky bad taste gore fest that feels like an unearthed DTV or foreign movie. Either way it shouldn’t be in theaters which is why it was so fun to watch in theaters. Bonus points for an 80-ish minute runtime – thank you for sparing us a subplot of an honorable Mexican cop/DEA agent investigating the cartel murders who lets Rambo go at the end. This movie has no time for that shit.

    *ALSO SPOILER* I’m actually kinda shocked they killed the girl. I mean, I should have seen it coming but I didn’t think they’d go that route, especially since she was easily the best thing going for the movie and IF Rambo dies at the end, it’s pretty darn depressing like RJ said. It’d be like Logan if X23 died halfway through which nobody wants.

  54. I think people try too hard to make things political sometimes. This is just a dumb action movie with some particularly bad Mexicans as the villains. I don’t think they were Mexican because of any political agenda, I think it was just the most narratively convenient way to set up a Home Alone remake with Rambo as Kevin McAllister. And the result is pretty glorious.

    To me, this one is on par with all the other Rambos. I actually never saw any of them growing up and binged them all about a year ago. So I don’t have any particular attachment to the previous entries and, to be honest, none of them are all that great. They’re all pretty enjoyable but I’m not in any hurry to see any of them again.

  55. Stallone doesn’t live in an underground bunker with no TV, radio or internet. He knows what’s going on in the country. Even if somehow he didn’t, the political context still exists, and is part of the movie, as with any movie. George Romero didn’t try to make a statement by casting Duane Jones in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, but he still made a statement.

  56. I’m just saying, I don’t think this movie is in any way a reaction to or reflection of the current political climate. I could be wrong, but I don’t see it. Like, this exact same movie could have been made 15 years ago or 15 years from now. Stallone might have some bad political opinions and might be a fan of your scumbag president, but I don’t think anyone would get that just from watching this movie. I mean, it’s basically CLOSE RANGE with more traps and blood and less spin kicks.

  57. You’re right, but when you make a movie about “right on the other side of the border is a dangerous throbbing mass of criminality planning to rape our virgin daughters and then come after us” now it has a different meaning than it would’ve 15 years ago. Like, if TAKEN had been made at a time when leaders were trying to rile up their base around propaganda about your daughters being kidnapped by European sex traffickers it would’ve been different. But also, of course, it’s easier to have a sense of humor about the politics of the earlier Rambo movies (or INVASION U.S.A. or whatever) years later. So I’m sure that will be the case here too.

  58. I see both sides of the argument – I mean Wikipedia says Stallone thought about making “Rambo saves a young girl from The Cartels” the plot of Rambo 4 (I swear I heard the idea of “Rambo and Brian Dennehy vs. The Cartels” since like, the early 2000’s), so it’s obviously been an idea kicking around his head since way before Trump became President (probably before there was even The Apprentice). That being said, it’s not like he had to stick with this idea – I often say people are unfairly harsh about True Lies having Middle Eastern terrorists before that entered the zeitgeist, but it’s also not like they would have kept those villains if they made True Lies post-9/11.

    But even if Stallone had to stick with Mexicans as his villains, there’s definitely more nuanced ways he could have done it – both Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen had good-guy Asians and good-guy Arabs and white bad guys. (Yes, I know I earlier praised Last Blood’s extremely bare-bones plot as refreshing and I also can’t believe I just used the “…Has Fallen” series as an example of nuance and restraint). Those movies also didn’t go out of their way to make the bad guys’ homeland feel like a giant cesspool of danger and corruption (like the exchange wadew mentioned). There’s a weird nastiness to the one-dimensional portrayal of both Gizelle (the turncoat friend) and the shitty dad character, especially when coupled with Rambo and Maria’s speeches about how they’re both horrible people and people don’t change (and they’re right!) The movie also distrusts Mexican authorities so much that not only do they not involve the Mexican police (which you can expect in a movie like this), Rambo and Carmen both apparently don’t trust Mexican hospitals (which might have come in handy when your niece is OD’ing from heroin)

    On the other hand – I think it’s fairly safe to say the Burmese villains in Rambo 4 were portrayed just as subhuman as the villains here. They were also cartoonishly gross and rapey, and we were expected to cheer for their squishy deaths just the same. And back then most people took it as “Stallone is casting a light on the problems in Myanmar!” instead of “Whoa, Stallone is racist!”. However, we also now have an asshole in office who feels like he’s “casting a light on the problems in Mexico” a couple of times a day on Twitter and people are walking into Walmarts specifically to shoot Mexicans, so yeah, you can’t really make that comparison.

    All I know is even though everyone hates the term “guilty pleasure” now, Last Blood is totally a guilty pleasure. It’s wrongheaded and irresponsible and not particularly well-written or made, but I had a great time watching it.

  59. I have always hated the term guilty pleasure. I do feel it’s apt with this one. This would’ve been one of the greatest canon films ever if it had not become so cynically dark for no reason by act 3.

    Also narrative wise there was absolutely no reason the entire movie couldn’t have taken place in Arizona with those same villains. To say that it looks like they just wanted to be provocative and rock the boat wouldn’t seem far off especially cause Sly does damn well know that controversy sells.

    It’ll be interesting to see where are a RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PT VI: RAMBO III – I: NEXT BLOOD would go. You know he’d have to really explore mental health issues after the added trauma to a character already beyond traumatized this movie left us with. Would Stallone’s approach seem just as insensitive or would he really try to understand that it is something all of us have been through because we’re human and really go for a grounded and humane take on it?

    One thing I do know. If ever an EXPENDABLES 4 is ever fast tracked they need to keep this same brutality and give is some unexpected deaths. That would be the best take away from this one for Stallone.

  60. I’ve been quiet on this one because, while I enjoyed the incredibly mean-spirited violence in the moment, it did leave a bad taste in my mouth that has made me unsure of where I stand on it. In a vacuum, it’s a serviceable revenge movie with an admirably nasty finale. In this particular time and in this particular place, though, it’s borderline unconscionable. I thought I could keep the politics and the face-shredding separate but I cannot deny that I’d have enjoyed the film WAAAAAAY more if Stallone hadn’t decided that what Mexicans really needed right now was to be kicked while they’re down. Maybe it’s no different than 50 million other action movies with faceless Mexican villains, but my country wasn’t locking Mexican children in cages when those other movies came out. Maybe in a perfect world, you should be allowed to have villains of any kind at any time. After all, there ARE villains of every kind at just about every time. But this is far from a perfect world, and while I will defend any filmmaker’s right to make their own goddamn movie about any goddamn subject they goddamn please, I can’t say I’m not judging a filmmaker who chooses to make THIS goddamn movie about THIS goddamn subject at THIS goddamn time. There’s a world of villainy out there just screaming out for Rambo’s attention and THIS is what they go with? That says something. It’s like when I see a car with a pro-guns bumper sticker on it. I’m like “Really? Everything going on in the world right now and THAT’S what gets you on your soapbox?”

    Also, Rambo was kind of an idiot in this one. Trautman would be rolling over in his grave if he saw the lack of tactical competence Johnny Boy displayed in his initial confrontation with the gang. He totally got that girl killed. It makes the ultimate revenge less cathartic knowing that this all could have been avoided if he’d just done ten minutes of recon and not walked right into a trap with his ID out like a rube.

  61. Also the title is appropriately nonlinear for this series but I think THE RAMBO would have been the most 2019 title they could have gone with.

  62. I wonder what the consensus would be if Rambo went after white nationalists or the KKK or other non ethnic groups that threatened him, his way of life and the people he deeply cares about?

  63. I also wonder if everyone would feel differently about a thing if that thing were completely different than the thing it is. Like, would everyone still think THE GODFATHER was such a great movie if it was about pizza delivery guys instead of mafioso? Would metalheads still feel the same about Metallica if they played gypsy folk music instead of heavy metal? Would the Mona Lisa still be so famous if it was a child’s drawing of a farting raccoon instead of an enigmatic portrait by a master artist? Would people still think World War II was so righteous if the Allies bombed baby pandas instead of Nazis? And if they didn’t, wouldn’t that show their hypocrisy? This is a very fruitful and not disingenuous at all line of inquiry.

    (I was hesitant to post this but then I figured fuck it. Some rhetorical gambits need to be nipped in the bud before they spread. If hassan didn’t intend his comment to be the bad-faith shit-starter I took it to be, then I apologize for going scorched earth on him.)

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