In a performance paced to provide no theatrical safe space, Sylvester Stallone rides again as John Rambo in Rambo: Last Blood. It’s old school action full of sound and fury — but signifying something. When the underworld of violence makes its clarion call, Rambo answers promptly.
This time, the action-filled plot traces a hard line through the underworld of sex trafficking with urban Mexico serving as the seamy backdrop. Stallone and his collaborators pull no punches in pairing sobering reality alongside Rambo’s fantastical adeptness at controlled mayhem. The concoction proves intoxicating as comic book violence splashes across the screen in ecstatic bursts. Last Blood spares no expense in blood, giblets and brute force.
A sequel not to be missed, the latest Rambo calls to mind how very starkly this hero contrasts with Stallone’s other alter ego, Rocky Balboa. John Rambo cuts a much darker figure. The war-torn hero who journeyed home in First Blood (1982) found he had become a pariah in his home country. Bringing us to the current day, Last Blood demonstrates how the man still struggles to quiet his demons.
Unlike the ascendant Balboa, who finds himself rocketed from humble circumstances into stardom — a slightly tilted mirror image of Stallone’s real-life celebrity — Rambo remains a tribute to unsung heroes.
If you’re planning to wait and catch Last Blood when it comes to your nearest-at-hand streaming service, then you’ll be missing out on a concertlike theatrical exhibition. The sound design in this picture should send you running to a theater fitted with the best acoustics available. Deep, resonant bass notes make the screening a visceral experience that you can feel in every punch. While the digital cinematography can be distracting at times, it seldom pulls you out of the moment.
The 89-minute run time feels more like a brisk half-hour. But in recollection, you’ll surely note that there was not a single moment for tedium in this plot and no fat to trim in this pure cinematic muscle. This means, of course, there is little room for anything but action. Even the Rocky movies set aside significant slivers of time for contemplation and family drama. But that’s not what Rambo is about.
Not so easily ignored, concerns about Stallone’s age play a part as well. He’s definitely getting up there in years and related questions abound. Is the subtitle Last Blood more telling than it seems? Does the prospect of Rambo: Last Blood Part 2 show promise? You’ll have to see it to find out.
4 1/2 stars
Irredeemably shitty on technical, narrative and dramatic levels, the fifth (?!?!) Rambo isn’t filmmaking as much as forehead-smacking dialogue and gratuitous bloodletting that just so happened to be caught on camera.
While there’s some amusement in our hero’s elaborate prepper montage and the Home Alone-like use of his plentiful weaponry on his adversaries, it takes a while to get there.
Patiently awaiting basic thrills, viewers must first contend with crude extreme close-ups meant to highlight the emotion and desperation of certain moments, but which wind up amplifying the cast’s and crew’s copious shortcomings.
The easiest target in a barrelful of lethargic fish, marble-mouthed Stallone makes arguably his strongest case yet that he should have retired after Cliffhanger. Even when his dialogue can be understood, it’s mostly clichés and isn’t delivered with a hint of investment on the actor’s part.
— Edwin Arnaudin