Sylvester Stallone takes his iconic John Rambo character and places him in what amounts to little more than an ultra-violent MAGA wankathon in Rambo: Last Blood—easily the worst film in the franchise, and one of the worst films in Stallone’s career.
The Rambo movies have been on a slow downhill slide all along, but have always been watchable. First Blood was awesome; Rambo: First Blood Part II was fun and silly; Rambo III was passable action but a little tired; and Rambo (2008) was bit of a drag, albeit with some decent action scenes and carnage.
Alas, Rambo: Last Blood is an abomination in the way all the Charles Bronson Death Wish sequels were terrible: This film does absolutely nothing to merit its existence. As a Rambo/Stallone fan, I wish I could pretend it didn’t happen, but it has, and it is pure dreck. Stallone has said he will continue to play the character if the film is a success. Well, I almost want this piece of crap to be a success so we can get a better swan song for Rambo—because it would be a shame for the saga to end this way.
The film picks up 11 years after the last chapter, with Rambo sporting a clean haircut and a cowboy hat, and him living a peaceful existence on his late father’s farm in Arizona. He rides horses and hangs out with the housekeeper (Adriana Barraza) and her niece, Gabrielle (Yvette Montreal), who has taken to calling Rambo “Uncle John.” Rambo finally has a “normal” existence.
Gabrielle starts talking about going to Mexico to visit her long-disappeared father … and it becomes apparent where things are going: No, she doesn’t have a nice reunion down there; instead, she winds up a sex slave who is addicted to drugs in one weekend. Rambo to the rescue!
It all builds up to a final half-hour in which Rambo finally goes into Rambo mode, fighting a Mexican drug cartel on American soil in the tunnels he conveniently built under his daddy’s farm. He manages to booby-trap the place in the few hours it takes for the cartel to reach him from Mexico. (The Mexicans are fully armed and ready to kill, mind you. Damn that void-of-a-wall Border Patrol!)
Did this have any chance at being good? I don’t think so. At this point in Rambo lore, you could go two routes: Examine Rambo’s incurable PTSD, during which he goes crazy and becomes a vigilante who hunts American, homegrown terrorists and the KKK; or take a plot like that and go the pure camp route, giving us a wall-to-wall experience of Rambo blowing shit up and taking out bad guys—with no attempt at serious exposition.
This one starts with a “Mexico is bad” angle that is very biased and one-dimensional. It tries to be serious about Rambo’s condition, but not really. (We see him popping a lot of prescription pills, but with no explanation.)
David Morrell, author of the original First Blood novel and creator of the John Rambo character, has disavowed this film, calling it “a mess” and “a clumsy exploitation film.” Thank you, Mr. Morrell! At just less than 90 minutes, Last Blood was rumored to have gone through a lot of reshoots and rewrites—so it’s pretty clear Stallone and company really didn’t know what to do with this movie. Need evidence? The preview trailers are full of scenes not in the film. Maybe this one got massacred by preview-screening exit polls and meddling studio dummies? Whatever happened, there’s a persistent stank coming off what wound up onscreen.
At the end of this Trump propaganda reel—excuse me, movie, the sad, familiar Rambo theme starts to play, and they show us a montage of the past movies behind the credits (just like Twilight!). It drove home the fact that this movie didn’t earn the right to associate itself with those past efforts, even with Stallone’s participation. It’s a cinematic disgrace.
Rambo: Last Blood is playing at theaters across the valley.