The Pale Horse Rides Again: Our Review of ‘Rambo: Last Blood’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - September 20, 2019
The Pale Horse Rides Again: Our Review of ‘Rambo: Last Blood’

You can’t run from your demons, no matter how hard you try…

Rambo: Last Blood on one end works as a blood soaked tale of revenge that sees an old man unable to hide from the violence that made who is today.  However with clunky execution and plot holes you could drive a truck through it’s at best an uneven ending to an iconic action franchise.  Not with a bang but with an oddly placed whimper.

John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) now settled into a quiet life on his family ranch with only a niece; Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal) to look out for who is getting ready to go off to college.   However, Gabrielle feels compelled to track down her estranged father who left her when she was a child to find some answers to her life before she heads out into the world.  It goes horribly wrong as she’s abducted and sold into sex slavery.  Rambo heads into Mexico after in hot pursuit, but run afoul of the cartels and is left for dead.  Now with the help of an investigative journalist (Paz Vega), John Rambo is set down a path of revenge like we’ve never seen before and all the demons that he’s been trying to keep a lid on these past few years are about to be let out.

Ultimately this is the case of a solid premise to continue the story of John Rambo, but it’s filled with such clumsy execution and delivery that we can’t help hope it’s the last one.

To say that director Adrian Grunberg might have a problem directing his way out of a wet paper bag is probably an accurate statement.  A career first and second unit director, his only previous feature effort was Get The Gringo back in 2012 and quite frankly the less said about that film the better.

Rambo: Last Blood is ugly…and not always intentionally so.  Shots are out of focus, the editing is sloppy and it feels like it’s stumbling towards the finish line trying to do a bunch of fancy shots for the sake of emotional gravitas which just don’t go anywhere.

The script has promise with a strong and believable premise of this war machine just quietly trying to do right by his loved ones, but it’s full of holes.  OK, he has a niece and her dad (who we find out is Mexican) left them when her Mom got sick, was that Rambo’s sister?  Or was he just looking after the place after we see him arrive home at the end of the 4th film.

The pacing is pretty uneven with it all kind of hurriedly coming to an end.  The set pieces are pretty solid and it ramps up the violence to a believable level.  He was pissed before, sure…but now it’s about family and he’s REALLY angry and out for blood now, as the gore filled moments get much more personal this time out.

Sadly the most interesting angle of Rambo having to deal with PTSD gets dropped pretty quickly and while it’s not hard to buy the character considering everything that happens around him, it just doesn’t go anywhere worthwhile.  Sure the action set pieces are pretty good (especially at the end) but it just could have unfolded a hell of a lot better than it did.

Stallone is working his ass off here in the title role and while he’s always been pretty good at ideas and concepts as a screenwriter (he co-wrote this one) dialogue has never been his strong suit and there’s not much going on that helps him in that department.

The balance of the ensemble just has nothing for him to work with as actors are either shoe horned into generic bad guy roles or just don’t have the screen experience to carry the rest of the narrative.  The only other somewhat recognizable name is Paz Vega is shoehorned into a very underdeveloped plot point character that barely needed to exist other then picking him up out of a crime ridden back alley.

This film has 26 producers in various forms, and if that doesn’t throw up some red flags, quite frankly I don’t know what will this movie just didn’t know which way was up for most of the shoot.

Ultimately I have to respect the premise behind Rambo: Last Blood but this film might have actually been better if Stallone had decided to direct.  Too much of the overall narrative is dedicated to getting the character to his big spectacular action blowout, rather than giving us a little nuance behind the tortured soul that is this weapon of war having to be unleashed in order to get some vengeance against those who did him wrong.

This may or may not be the final installment in this character’s story, but it’s the first time that we’re actually hoping it is.

John Rambo is a hero of another time and it’s ok to remember him as such because while the reasoning for his rampage of revenge is a valid one, we don’t get the emotional connection to the character of having to channel his inherent world view and its lack of psychological and spiritual peace.  It’s just him unleashing his special brand of justice but it plays too much like Taken or an above average Death Wish sequel then what it teases that it could have been.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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