Director: Adrian Grunberg
Starring: Sylvestor Stallone, Yvette Monreal, Paz Vega, Óscar Jaenada, Sergio Peris-Mencheta and Adriana Barraza
The fifth and allegedly final film in a franchise that’s spanned four decades finds Vietnam veteran John Rambo (Stallone) enjoying the peace and tranquillity he’d found at the end of the previous instalment, Rambo. Living on a ranch, with housekeeper Maria (Barraza) and her granddaughter Gabrielle (Monreal) (their connection isn’t explained at all), medication keeps his PTSD at bay although the subterranean labyrinth of tunnels he’s created and occasional flashbacks prove that he still has one or two issues.
John’s utopia is shattered when Gabrielle ignores his warnings about looking for her biological father, heads off across the border into neighbouring Mexico and is promptly kidnapped into the seedy underworld of people trafficking. Naturally, John is a little upset about this and so begins a one-man crusade to bring the baddies, the sadistic Ramirez brothers (Jaenada & Peris-Mencheta), to Rambo’s idea of justice. The bandana might have gone, but he still has a very particular set of skills. Skills that are taken, to the extreme.
At 73, Stallone’s presence is every bit as commanding as it always was. There’s some clever use of light and shadow to symbolise John’s internal struggle of finding balance in a world that so often threatens to tip him into darkness and his paternal relationship with Gabrielle is tender and sincere offering moments of poignancy amidst the mayhem. As Gabrielle, Monreal is excellent in humanising a part that, on a lesser actor’s shoulders, could have ended up spoilt and brattish.
There’s an unexplored sub-plot involving an investigative journalist (Vega) that isn’t really neccessary, the Ramirez brothers and their gang are completely stereotyped, the women are, unfortunately, primarily victims and the whole story is ludicrous and predictable, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t highly entertaining. We know what’s coming, when it’s coming and although it’s a slower build-up than previous Rambo films, the spectacularly brutal finale is a mash-up of Home Alone, Skyfall and Saw as John’s creativity is explored to the max with some of the most bizarre and bloody booby-traps ever seen on film.
The Rambo films have come a long way from the relatively bloodless first chapter back in 1982, for better or worse. It’s unashamedly violent, embraces the absurdity of the revenge thriller and never takes itself too seriously. If you’re willing to accept it for the escapism it’s meant to be, you’ll have a blast. Scratch the surface and look closer, don’t be surprised to see that Rambo’s a load of mumbo-jumbo.
Rambo: Last Blood is in UK cinemas from September 19th.
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Film reviewer for Time and Leisure Magazine, The Movie Waffler and We Are Cult.
Former actor (a regular in The Bill) and voiceover artist with Rhubarb Voices.