This 2019 American action film is directed by Adrian Grunberg as a sequel to 2008s ‘Rambo’ and fifth in the Rambo franchise. It stars Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adriana Barraza, Yvette Monreal, Sergio Peris-Mencheta and Óscar Jaenada.
Living and working in a small Arizona ranch passed on from his late father, war veteran John Rambo (Stallone) lives a peaceful life with old friend Maria (Barraza) and her grand-daughter Gabrielle (Monreal).
Before attending college, Gabrielle sneaks away across the Mexican border to find her father and find out why he left. When Maria finds out Gabrielle is not where she said she would be, Rambo doesn’t waste time in following her.
What he finds destroys all the humanity he has left. A cartel, led by brothers Hugo (Peris-Mencheta) and Victor Martinez (Jaenada), are sex trafficking young girls and Gabrielle is one of them. Rambo takes it upon himself to rescue Gabrielle and prepare for the consequences that follow his brutal actions…
37 years ago, when Sylvester Stallone’s troubled, loner war veteran was harassed by Brian Dennehy’s Sheriff Teasle in ‘First Blood’, John Rambo has been at war with both himself and those in the world who are callous, cruel and down-right evil. Now after fighting for his country, his people and his honour, the only thing left our 73 year old can fight for is all that he left in the world – family. And is there anything more dangerous than a man with everything to lose but nothing to gain? Damn right there is, especially if he’s armed with a Damascus steeled blade, lots of nails and magnesium shards.
The fact that Stallone is now 73 and still so active in front of and behind the camera is superb (what is age but a number), and with hardly any evident stunt doubles and action that gets Stallone front and centre as an older, brutal and fragile man is all the more what lends this film to follow on strong from the previous. He is hurting inside from the outset, and never truly at peace. His face shows a thousand battles won and lost, and he is tormented just like he was when we first met him, although now the only guide in life he has is his own morals. It’s safe to say Stallone has had a few less than successful films recently, the last good one being ‘Creed II’, so it’s brilliant to see him back on form and delivering what he is best at.
‘Rambo: Last Blood’ can be seen as the third in a “core trilogy” of films, with ‘First Blood: Part II’ and ‘Rambo III’ serving as noisy spin-offs. Think ‘One Man vs Russia: A Rambo Story’. What ‘Last Blood’ continues to remind us following ‘First Blood’ and ‘Rambo’ (have I lost you yet?) is that John has done all he can do for the country he loves, witnessing many dark days and nights as well as dark people and crimes. He is a man who fights for the shred of humanity he wants to believe in while never knowing the idea of backing down or retreating. The same man we met 37 years ago is the same man we now see rearing horses, rocking in his chair watching sunsets and being a father figure to a girl he adores as his own.
Yevette Monreal is a beautiful young actress making her big screen debut here. You see the bond she and Rambo share, and there are genuine moments that hit you hard when she falls victim to a very real and very powerful crime addressed here.
While he isn’t fighting corrupt lawmen, army special forces or dictators, he still has new enemies in the form of the nasty Sergio Peris-Mencheta and Óscar Jaenada’s Mexican cartel leaders and their goons. Many critics jump on the political bandwagon and bring President Trump into their reviews of the Mexican themes here, but personally I see nothing ‘Trumped’ about this film. Gone are the days we could have heroes facing off against bad guys from Mexico, Israel, Germany, China, Russia, Africa, even America and England, we accepted it as nothing but entertainment. Now, when ‘Last Blood’ is hinted at being racist or xenophobic for no reason other than it fronts a handful of Mexicans as villains and so this must clearly by Trump propaganda, it beggars belief that John Rambo is flagged up as this. What next? ‘Star Wars’ seen as promoting Trumps “Space Force”?
The supporting cast around Stallone make the film what it is. Those close to him, including a smaller role than expected for Paz Vega, mean something to him and he sees the good they represent in his troubled life, and so will fight for them. Those against him will always suffer the consequences when they cross the line. Sure, the hostile jungle territory is missed and the action themes do follow a little more of a generic route with the bad guys and themes, but this is a world Rambo has always feared and he doesn’t make it through all in one peace; he’s human, not indestructible. He hurts, bleeds and suffers numerous times.
At just over 88 minutes long – keep your 3hr epics to yourself – director Adrian Grunberg (of ‘Edge Of Darkness’ and ‘Apocalypto’ fame) knows how to keep a story tight, paced and to the point. What could be split into three acts, the film starts with peace, then love, then war. And boy, does Rambo bring the war home.
For those who thought the ‘Skyfall’ finale was a sly ‘Home Alone’ homage for adults, you ain’t seen nothing yet. It harkens back to the John Rambo of old who makes best use of his environment and known surroundings. He knows the moves the enemy will make. He hunts them with traps and stealth, picking them off to instil fear and grief in them until one is left standing. He’s the Batman we didn’t know we had until now. And there is enough limbs hacked off, heads exploded, sliced, impaled and burnt to satisfy those amongst cinema audiences who pay good money for their violence. And when it comes to the pay-off, Rambo makes Patrick Swayze’s throat-rip from ‘Road House’ look like Saturday morning kids stuff.
‘Last Blood’ ends with you feeling you’ve seen all that John Rambo can give, and you have been sold nothing but the fragile, bleak and painful journey he’s taken so far. It’s just sold to us in a raw, bloody and brutal fashion – and we would not want Rambo to be anything else BUT that.
Directed by: Adrian Grunberg
Written by: Matthew Cirulnick, Sylvester Stallone, Dan Gordon
Cast: Sylvester Stallone,Paz Vega, Yvette Monreal, Joaquín Cosiom, Louis Mandylor, Óscar Jaenada