The Rambo series has been around for a while now. Debuting in 1982 with Rambo: First Blood and sticking around for 3 sequels, Rambo is one of the most iconic action franchises out there. So in this age of sequels, remakes and reboots, it was only a matter of time before the veteran was pulled out of retirement for another, supposedly final, installment. Does it live up to the other movies? I can say with utmost certainty that it tries.
Rambo: Last Blood focuses on the veteran settling down on a farm with his niece, Gabriella, and his friend Maria (played by Yvette Monreal and Adrina Barraza respectively). While his niece goes to find her father, she’s kidnapped by the Mexican cartel, leading Rambo to come out of retirement and take them on. Based on this brief description, you’d think that the movie’s filled to the brim with action. Rambo’s taking on drug lords, shooting up the place. But, surprisingly, there’s not a lot of that.
Rambo: Last Blood plays it surprisingly tame in terms of action. In this ninety-minute movie, it felt like there were fifteen minutes of action. And all at the end. So if you’re coming to this expecting shootouts aplenty, you’re not going to get it. I interviewed a fellow member of the Papyrus, Deb Cuningham, who put it as “For a Rambo movie, it doesn’t feel like Rambo until the very end.” Now, when it gets to the action, it’s the bloody splatter-fest that people are expecting. But again, this isn’t for a while. This Rambo is the only one since First Blood that wants to tell a story first and foremost.
So how is the story? It’s… an action movie story. Someone important to the main character gets kidnapped, the main character has to get them back and there’s bloodshed along the way. This movie adds one twist to the formula, that I won’t spoil here, but otherwise, it goes how you would expect. For a regular action movie, this would be fine. Mainly because the action would make up for it. Comparatively, the John Wick series isn’t known for twists and turns; rather for having great action. But this isn’t John Wick, or even Rambo 2 or 3. Last Blood wants to be more. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, it could’ve been handled better.
Is this movie terrible? No, and I don’t think it deserves the critical lashing it’s receiving. There are positives to this movie. When the action gets going it’s well done, but surprisingly, the highlight of the movie is Rambo himself, Sylvester Stallone. He really delivers in terms of the acting in this movie, both when he needs to be the military monster, and shockingly when he has to play the loving uncle. The Italian stallion flexes his acting chops here, and it’s admirable. Especially considering most people see Stallone as just a deep voice and one-liners.
Now the big question: Will this be the last Rambo movie? The ending certainly builds it like that, and Sylvester is getting up there in terms of age, currently seventy-three. A reminder that Rambo has been going since the early eighties, even before that if you count the novel the first film was based on. Would this be the best note for the series to go out on? In my opinion, no. I feel this is the weakest Rambo out of all of them I’ve seen, though general audiences think three is the weakest. But in another way, I can see that this movie is really trying to make it seem like the end of Rambo. The end credits even show an Avengers: Endgame style montage of the preceding films, which did choke me up admittedly. And in that way, I can see this as the finale.
If this truly is goodbye to Rambo, then I thank Sly Stallone and all his compatriots for putting together this series. And while incredibly flawed in my eyes, I can see what they were trying to do with this movie, and I do respect that.
Rambo: Last Blood is playing at the Globe Theater in Greenville, IL and currently holds a 28% on Rotten Tomatoes.