The Rambo franchise as a whole is a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. I’ve always had a soft spot for them, but truthfully, no film after the first can be called anything above ‘average’ with our best critical hats on.
While the fourth instalment (which, by the way, came out 11 years ago, I know, I feel old too) was a step up on the third, that’s hardly high praise, as a film of Sylvester Stallone reading fan mail would be a step up from Rambo 3.
I have in the past said that Sly has only ever been good in the Rocky franchise, and while I stand by that point, he has always been enjoyable, if a bit bland, in this role too, but like with Rocky, he just won’t let the character die, a draw-back which I’m sure will come up again as this review goes on.
John Rambo (Stallone) has stepped away from his mercenary life to live a peaceful existence of farming with an adopted family. All this is changed however when his adopted niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal) is abducted in Mexico after searching for his father, prompting Rambo to mount a rescue.
There’s certainly a different feel to the franchise this time around, I’ll say that right out of the gate. I think Sly May have watched Logan a few times over the past few years as several aspects of the film borrow heavily from it; like the aesthetics and the once-unbeatable protagonist ravaged by age.
However, it’s not as well put together as Logan, in a development that should come as no shock to anyone with pattern recognition. The film has a breakneck pace, barely taking the time to register important plot developments to give them significant gravitas. There are moments in the film designed to heighten the emotional investment the audience has, which works for a while, but the goodwill starts to drain in retrospect as the plot whizzes by without a second thought.
This is most evident by the film’s conclusion; now, obviously I am not going to detail the ending here, as I keep my reviews spoiler-free, so I’ll leave it at saying the films narrative was building towards a final payoff that doesn’t happen, leaving the audience without the sense of closure the story sorely needed, and as a result, it just falls flat, limping to an inconclusive end that just makes us feel like we’ve wasted our time.
Other than that, I can describe the film as adequate, if a little redundant. The acting is fine, Stallone isn’t at the top of his game, which just really goes to prove my point about Rocky, the cinematography and direction seek to give the film a separate identity to its predecessors, but don’t stick to their guns often enough for my liking, and the series trademark brutal violence borders on the psychotic.
All of this comes together in an odd little package, one that is not without its moments, but failing to leave a lasting impression, we’ve seen much better on many occasions, I don’t think it’s an improvement on the last film in the series, but I wouldn’t call it a bad film either. I can see some of its themes and plot developments being controversial, but that’s par for the course in this day and age.
In conclusion, Rambo: Last Blood makes me quite sad, in a way. Stallone’s heyday has come and gone and he seems to be the only one who doesn’t know that. While his other iconic character has developed in modern instalments, Rambo has regressed, he hasn’t changed with age, and there’s a point where you have to think that a man in his 70’s running around with a longbow racking up the body count is just a little bit ridiculous. By no means is it a bad film, but I’m not sure it has much reason to exist.