Rambo: Last Blood Review
Lean, efficient and brutal, this is likely the weakest of Rambo series, but at 73, Stallone still deserves some respect, literally levelling the playing field against multiple opponents half his age.With the last three films now set a decade apart, it has been slow progress getting another Rambo entry out of the gate, but it goes some way to show Stallone's investment in the franchise and the character; unwilling to compromise for a lesser script in favour of a faster turnaround (c.f. Escape Plan 2 and Escape Plan 3).
Of course, that's not to say that compromises haven't been made, with Last Blood clearly shot on a budget (much more evidently than 2008's Rambo where Stallone, on strong directorial form, wisely made the most of the Thailand location to disguise any similar limitations) and now limited a little bit by just what even the chiselled-out-of-solid-granite Stallone can actually still do in his seventies.
Last Blood affords Stallone some visceral brutality, finally bringing the character home for the first time in almost four decades, only to find himself in a very different kind of hell
Director Adrian Grunberg takes the helm this time out, and he's not a bad choice - particularly given the Mexico location - with experience handling one of Mel Gibson's best features since his exile, the distant Payback cousin, Get the Gringo (aka How I Spent My Summer Vacation), which worked on an even tighter budget to still deliver style and punch where it counts. Last Blood similarly captures a textured, seedy side to Mexico (or Bulgaria, dressed up surprisingly well), and affords Stallone some visceral brutality, finally bringing the character home for the first time in almost four decades, only to find himself in a very different kind of hell.
The story sees John Rambo living a quiet, happy life on his old family farm, wiling away his time riding horses, forging blades, and building expansive tunnels under the vast acreage (both will come in handy). He lives on the property with one of the ladies who worked his late father's ranch, and with her teenage granddaughter Gabrielle, whose ill-advised dip across the border into Mexico triggers full combat mode in the ex-Green Beret, and brings the blood and violence all the way back home.
Nobody should be expecting a miracle here. Stallone's 73. In amazing shape, but still 73. And funding for the long-gestating project was clearly limited. So, much like the last one, where Stallone revealed that he actually used the over-the-top violence and gore to disguise some of the budget limitations, Last Blood eventually descends into utter carnage, hoping that this will be enough to satiate fans of the franchise who are looking for one last fix.
The result of doing this is something of a more jarring ride than before, however, building with surprising elegance and beauty in its scenes on the ranch (perhaps not wholly unlike the setup to the previous film, Rambo, which similarly book-ended the brutality) and establishing this older father-figure who is evidently protective of his young 'niece', but then losing its footing somewhat in the middle act, where scenes of rescue get complicated, and the path to a violent finale gets similarly muddied. It's still an efficient feature, never outstaying its welcome, and it could be argued that the middle act choices are at least moderately surprising, but perhaps there's a little finesse missing, particularly when first blood is drawn.
There's something to be said for seeing Rambo back in action, and Last Blood pushes a simple 6/10 score up a notch just on pure rage alone
There're some supporting faces in here - from Adriana Barraza (Award Nominated in Babel, and recently in Dora and the Lost City of Gold) to Paz Vega (Spanglish, more recently in The OA) - but it's clearly Stallone's baby and he's the one who gets you through to the finish line. He's as convincing training horses and working the ranch as he is laying claymore mines and hacking limbs off, and he really looks like he is made of pure steel, particularly when the finale takes him back to Killing Machine mode (NB. stick around for a stunning Rambo montage over the credits and a stinger at the end of it).
Fans should rightfully moderate expectations in respect of this being a worthy follow-up to 2008's Rambo but, with that said, Stallone still deserves his due for turning in such a committed, brutal and raw performance at his age. There's something to be said for seeing his Rambo back in action, and Last Blood pushes a simple 6/10 score up a notch just on pure rage alone.
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