There are some film series that evolve and develop over time. They become more mature, better written, and even more complex with each sequel or prequel. The Rambo series has never really evolved in its now five film run, but it has kept the one thing that fans crave: insane violence and over the top action. With this year’s latest addition to the series Rambo: Last Blood, which could very well be the end of the series depending on how it performs, Sylvester Stallone’s infamous character John Rambo turns the violence level up to eleven and delivers one hell of a wild ride.
The film follows a much older and different Rambo who has “retired” to his ranch in rural Arizona with his niece. At first glance, Rambo is living a quiet and peaceful life without the threat of any danger or death nearby. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t ready for trouble as we get to see his series of underground tunnels beneath his property. Along with these complex series of escape routes, Rambo has an impressive and diverse collection of weapons that look as if they could supply a small army. With Rambo’s niece preparing to leave for college, she decides to track down her father who abandoned her and her late mother when she was a child. Against her uncle’s warnings and pleading she takes off to Mexico.
What she finds after reaching Mexico is not what she expects (but most likely what you are already guessing) and the film quickly transforms into a Taken clone. With the only person left that he can call his family, Rambo races to Mexico to find his niece before it’s too late. The minute he arrives in Mexico, the quiet and happy Rambo is dead and the merciless Rambo we all know and love is reborn. Only this time, he has nothing to lose on his journey to get back his loved one.
The remainder of the plot is fairly simple to guess, but I won’t spoil it. With a roughly 90-minute runtime, Rambo: Last Blood doesn’t waste a second as it rushes from story beat to story beat. The plot moves at rapid speed and there are very few prolonged conversations between characters. What audiences will appreciate (and cringe at as everyone in my showing did) is the brutal and graphic violence that Rambo inflicts on his enemies in this film. I was genuinely not expecting the level that this film went to, especially in the final act which can only be described as “Home Alone on steroids”. Director Adrian Grunberg wasn’t afraid to unleash the full potential of Rambo and made sure that he used every modern visual effect to his advantage.
With the runtime being so short, the lack of any real depth to the script was even more noticeable than usual. If you’ve seen even one of the previous Rambo films, you’ll understand this and not be expecting miracles walking into this latest installment. However, if this is your introduction into the franchise you may be confused and disappointed with how little it offers in terms of character exploration or concise plot. There are a lot of action films that can balance having an actual plot and badass action sequences. Others decide to lean into one of these factors and let the other fall to the side. This is definitely the latter, which most likely will not sit well with most critics.
Sylvester Stallone is the reason fans continue to come back for more of these, let’s face it, silly action movies. Although he may not be the greatest actor to grace the screen, Stallone brings a specific style and determination to his performances that makes him remain a staple of film history. Whether it’s 36-year-old Stallone in First Blood or 73-year-old Stallone in Rambo: Last Blood, there’s just something about seeing that same fire and passion in his eyes as he’s breathing life into this badass character.
While Rambo: Last Blood won’t be the best movie you see in 2019, or even in September, it’s definitely worth a watch for nothing more than seeing a fun action movie. It’s a short, ultra-violent, briskly paced film that sprints to the finish and doesn’t care if it tripped a few times. Getting to see John Rambo return to the big screen possibly for the last time is something worth admiring whether you’re a fan of the series or not. Even at 73, Stallone still has stories to tell and badass action do for audiences around the world. And who knows, maybe this won’t be the last time we see Rambo?