RAMBO LAST BLOOD review. Directed by Adrian Grunberg with Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mecheta, Adrianna Barraza, Yvette Monreal.


Presented as the last chapter in the story of John Rambo, Rambo: Last Blood is perhaps a fitting book end to a film saga almost four decades in the making.

The first four films have over the years presented us with the current flavour of the month Hollywood villains and grown ever more gory and violent. With varying degrees of box office success the films cemented Sylvester Stallone’s reputation as an action hero but also gave us glimpses of his actual acting ability (much more in evidence in films like intriguing Copland or the fun Tango and Cash).

Having polarised commentary around the Vietnam War in the first two films, tackled the Russians in Afghanistan in the third and struggled with the locals in Burma in the fourth, Rambo now tangles with the Mexicans for his fifth outing. In Mexico. Make of that what you will.

However, do not expect any of the actually astute comment on the effects of war and, in particular the Vietnam War, of the first films.

Rambo Last Blood gives us our last great white hope going down to Mexico to fend off a bunch of stereotypes meant to be Mexican people traffickers. There’s an old guy beating up guys half his age in an orgy of blood and broken bones, what more do you want? So, if that idea rocks your boat you are going to love it.

The story is that an aged John Rambo is training horses on the family ranch in Arizona, looking out for Maria (Barraza) and her granddaughter Gabriela (Monreal). He seems to have found a sense of belonging with his adopted family, so when young Gabriela gets trafficked we egg him on to find the young woman and exact some bloody revenge.

While the chemistry between Stallone and Monreal’s characters isn’t exactly about to set the screen on fire, the dragged out first third of the film provides us with enough to go on – he feels this is his family and thus heavily motivated to find her even if it means bringing out the killer lurking beneath the surface.

Second third of the film sees him skulking through some unnamed Mexican favela (which doesn’t look all that realistic because of the light and, well, it was filmed in Tenerife, so…) And, then it is back to home turf in Arizona where Rambo is most at home in the tunnels he has dug out under the ranch. This is when the action really ramps up, but don’t expect the beautiful choreography of the John Wick trilogy.

The murky violence jars against the more emotional dramatic beats the film has tried to cover with the effects of PTSD on the relationship between Rambo and his family, so both concepts just suffer.

Rambo 5 is more a generic, late night revenge action flick than satisfying end for what started out as a complex character. Broken, messed up because of war John Rambo is therefor a perfection example of how storytelling a la Hollywood can take a tortured, very real character and turn him into an emotionless version of himself for the sake of making a buck at the box office.

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What: Rambo: Last Blood review
Rambo Last Blood South Africa release date: 20 September 2019
Rambo Weekend Special review: Theresa Smith reviews
Genre: Action
Running time: 100 minutes
Rating: 18 DLV