One could well imagine the screening of this movie taking place inside a sold-out arena full of WWE fans, with the “You’ve still got it!” chants rocking the house in the final, brutal third act.
Yes, well, one could also imagine this as a (mean) spiritual cousin to Home Alone, with an aging John J. Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) tackling a home invasion in the bloodiest and most explosive way possible.
Actually, one could imagine quite a bit, as old Han was fond of saying, to serve as the story for this purported finale to the Rambo franchise.
Too bad that what the filmmakers have settled on is kind of … generic.
On and off since 1981, the traumatised Vietnam War veteran has been dishing out punishment and revenge to rednecks, Viet Cong, Soviet military advisers and special forces, Burmese SPDC troops and the like.
Now, he tangles with sex traffickers in a Taken Lite plot line that serves only as the springboard for some pretty extreme violence (though I can’t shake the feeling that, bloody as it is, our local version has been sanitised a little).
The stakes have to be personal in order to warrant the kind of payback meted out in the finale, and the person picked to suffer this time is Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal). She’s the girl Rambo practically raised as his own daughter from the time we saw him take those first hesitant steps towards his father’s home at the end of 2008’s Rambo.
When she sneaks off to Mexico in search of her estranged biological papa and is ensnared by a human trafficking ring, nasty things ensue.
As a setup for vengeance, this whole business is a bit unevenly executed.
Director Adrian Grunberg (Mel Gibson’s Get The Gringo), working from a script co-written by Stallone and Matthew Cirulnick, makes some odd choices that result in a clumsy structure and out-of-character sloppiness for Rambo.
Still, Stallone and Monreal have a nice and easy chemistry that makes you buy into this whole surrogate dad relationship and appreciate the pain that the film’s events bring.
But the villainous traffickers, the Martinez Brothers (Sergio Peris-Mencheta and Oscar Jaenada), are so thinly written as to resemble animated cinema lobby standees. If cinema lobby standees came rigged with blood bags.
As spleen-venting franchise cappers go, I would have been more than happy to see the saga come to a close with the 2008 movie, which ticked all the correct boxes for visceral thrills, nasty bad guys, heroic sacrifices and Rambo’s trademark “war you wouldn’t believe”.
But now we have Last Blood, which is worthy only in its final act. It is content to coast through its first hour purely on the goodwill established by the first four films – and let’s be honest here, not all of them were great to begin with.
Though it must be noted that, whenever Jerry Goldsmith’s rousing score for First Blood was used in the subsequent films, it singlehandedly elevated them well above their actual merits.
Such is also the case here. In the film’s OTT climax, Stallone uses the Goldsmith motif, his own familiarity with the character, some deft editing and stunt work, and our willingness to vicariously buy into this vigorously violent vengeance, to really stoke the furnace.
By the time the obligatory montage of scenes from the entire series plays over the closing credits (with even a mid-credits scene of sorts), we do experience a sense of closure.
It is accompanied by a feeling of loss, too, brought on by the realisation that one of action cinema’s most enduring (38 years, brah) heroes is about to sheathe his rather intimidating knife for good.
At least, until the box-office grosses are tallied, and The Very Last Blood will be spilled.
Rambo; Last Blood
Director: Adrian Grunberg
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Yvette Monreal, Adriana Barraza, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Oscar Jaenada