Sylvester Stallone and his “Rambo” franchise are one of the most iconic action star and franchise pairings in Hollywood history. The machismo of the character paired with Stallone's action star persona is often considered along the same lines as Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Terminator” and Sigourney Weaver in “Alien.”
The first film in the “Rambo” series, “First Blood,” based on a novel by David Morrell of the same name, is an interesting character study of a Vietnam War veteran who is severely mistreated for being a drifter upon his arrival in a small town. He is driven out of the town, hunted by abusive policemen and forced to use his survival skills to stay one step ahead of those who would do him harm. It has intense action sequences, but the underlying messages about the mistreatment of veterans and the effects war can have on someone are what make that film as memorable as it is.
Now, nearly forty years later, the fifth entry in this series, “Rambo: Last Blood” is such a drastic departure from where it began, even the original book’s author is ashamed to have his name associated with it.
“Rambo: Last Blood” is a boring, predictable, overly gruesome and lazy entry in a franchise that should’ve died long ago.
The plot in the film follows the titular John Rambo as he travels to Mexico to save a young woman named Gabrielle who he’s basically taken in as his daughter. She travels to Mexico to find her real father, but a friend of hers sells her into a sex trafficking ring. When Rambo finds the men who kidnapped her, he proceeds to enact his expectedly gruesome revenge.
“Last Blood” does such a poor job at developing its characters and plot that it could pass for just about any other generic action movie. If Stallone’s character wasn’t named John Rambo, there would basically be no way to tell that this is a “Rambo” film.
The idea of Rambo suffering from post-traumatic stress, which was introduced in the first film, is almost entirely abandoned in this film. There’s one extremely brief flash back to him in the Vietnam War, and a couple times where he talks about how he’s seen the darkness of man’s heart, but none of this is actually found in his character. He’s basically just a brick of a man that walks around killing people and speaking in Stallone’s iconic gravelly voice.
Stallone is fine in the movie, but he also wasn’t asked to do much other than be menacing.The man is 73 years old, yet it is entirely believable when he literally breaks someone’s collar bone with his bare hands. This is because Stallone is extremely intimidating in the role. It's apparent that he could win a hand-to-hand fight with almost anyone.
Pretty much everything else about this film is garbage.
The plot doesn’t deviate from exactly what you think it is going to be. Rambo goes to Mexico, kills a lot of people, goes home, people come to kill him, but then he ends up killing them too. That’s it. That’s the whole movie.
It isn’t just the story that’s lazy, but also the way the film was made.
There is an absurd amount of handheld shots in this film. This means that they shot much of the movie while holding the camera rather than using a dolly to steady their shots. It was incredibly distracting, especially during close-up shots of characters talking, which happens a lot. The camera is just shaking the whole time, which makes it difficult to focus on what’s happening.
In addition to that, “Last Blood” features some of the silliest zooms I’ve ever seen in a feature film. Multiple times, the camera will show a character from far away and then quickly zoom in on them. There’s really no reason for it, other than to be “dramatic” I guess, but it ends up being laughable. What makes it worse is that these zooms aren’t a consistent speed. The camera starts to zoom in, but it’s really choppy. It’s quick, then it comes to a near stop before it continues suddenly. It’s almost as if the person holding the camera hadn’t held a camera before the day they were shooting this film.
The computer effects in the film are just as bad.
There are a lot of shots of characters driving a car, and in almost every one of them, it is painfully obvious that it was filmed on a green screen. It’s almost the same quality of what you’d expect from a TV sitcom such as “The Big Bang Theory.” Beyond that, even basic things such as explosions and dust in the air are blatantly just composited onto the screen.
“Rambo: Last Blood” might be the worst movie I’ve seen this year, and I could easily rant about it for hours because there’s so much to dislike.
It reminds me of a spin-off book of some major franchise you find in the sale section of a bookstore. You know, those books that are technically part of a series but have nothing to do with the actual movies or shows. They’re pretty much just fan-fiction novels that are printed by whoever is in charge of the franchise’s merchandising. If one of those novels somehow got adapted into a film, it wouldn’t be all that different from “Rambo: Last Blood.”
Stallone is a talented guy. He wrote “Rocky,” and there was an argument to be made for him to win an Oscar for his performance in “Creed” in 2015. With that being said though, he needs to move on from this franchise, and utilize his talents with material that is actually enjoyable.