Rambo… John. Freaking. Rambo. My love for First Blood knows no bounds, and the sequels are all guilty pleasures that I can watch any day and enjoy. Now we have the final movie; the last blood, and boy was I excited to see my man Rambo one final time! Was it worth the wait? No. But was the movie as bad as the critics are saying? Well...let's talk about it.
Director Adrian Grunberg (Get the Gringo) is tasked to end a legendary series that spans almost 40 years. This is not a small task for any director, let alone someone that is still pretty fresh. While he does his best with the material provided, I don't think Grunberg truly delivers on giving us the big emotional payoff that I was kind of hoping we would get. I know that sounds silly considering it's a Rambo sequel, but I was hoping with the title Last Blood that we'd go back to the original which had that emotional throughline that really worked and made the film a classic. Now, that's not to say I don't like Rambo when he's going around shooting the bad guys, but I was hoping for something more substantial. That being said, Grunberg does end up doing much better when it gets to the action, which is sparse but sprinkled throughout in good measures, and all of it is well shot, directed, and very, very gruesome. Nothing sticks out as amazing, but it's done well and gives Rambo one last good action scene even if not much else.
First Blood is a serious and almost sad depiction of PTSD with the action flavoring that made the series so popular (especially with the later films). Last Blood attempts to give Rambo some of the drama that made the original movie so great but ends up failing to really make you care. Mainly because the movie doesn't focus on him enough. It shifts its attention to his niece and her story and she's nowhere near as compelling as John Rambo. I felt like I was counting down the minutes until he appeared again. When it does focus on him, it ends up being a disappointment because it's just a revenge tale and nothing more. No real redemption or self-reflection or any of the sort. Where the first movie gave you his backstory naturally throughout the story and always focused on him and his plight, this one gives you nothing more than he takes pills because of his PTSD and he wants revenge. That's about it. Well...he also rips people’s collarbones out.
Now, if you want Rambo from Parts 2-4 then this isn't a problem at all! I have a special place in my heart for all Rambo movies (even this one), but it still feels like the movie missed out on closing his story the right way. I was hoping for Logan but what I got is A Good Day to Die Hard. A fun romp with some satisfying and gory action at the end but a shell of its former self. Sad day.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
I'm a huge Stallone fan. I don't care what movie he's in, I'll see it. Escape Plan 2? Sure. Stop or My Mom Will Shoot? I knew I'd hate it, but I still watched it! Why? Stallone. The only right answer to that question (unless you love Estelle Getty I guess). He's 73 years old and can still play an intimidating figure that is completely believable as a war veteran with a particular set of skills (mainly traps). While the emotion isn't there in the script, it sure is conveyed through his actions and his grizzled face which seems to have seen all kinds of atrocities and tragedies. Rambo is a broken man and Stallone knows that and still plays him like he's always played him...perfectly. Now, when it comes to the rest of the cast… they’re pretty forgettable. The villains are two dimensional, the niece character is underdeveloped and kind of annoying, Paz Vega shows up with almost nothing to do, and they all bog down a movie that's barely 80 minutes long to begin with when all we really want to see is Rambo.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The triumphant score of the previous Rambos (including that awesome theme) is used very sparingly in this iteration. It makes sense considering how sparse the action is, so instead, the score is more somber for the first half with small sections where it comes in to enhance the emotional impact or the tension. It works fine for these scenes, but the score and soundtrack really kick in during the last action scene which is much more energetic and triumphant like you'd expect.
Last Blood is a very, very violent film. This, like the last installment, revels in the blood and gore of the action, especially in its last 15 minutes. The intensity of some of the violence is horror movie levels of disturbing (one involving someone's face being cut apart in extremely graphic detail), but a lot of it is practical effects with some CGI blood filled in here and there which didn't bother me as much as it does in some other films. It surprisingly doesn't overindulge in CGI which most action films nowadays do. Real explosions, gruesome kills, bloody makeup, and a gritty look to the world make the visuals stand out.
While it's nowhere near as impactful as First Blood or as action-packed as any of the other sequels, I still had a good amount of fun from Last Blood that at least ended this series on a somewhat satisfying note in the action and violence department. The saga of John Rambo might end on more of a whimper, but at least it didn't end as poorly as some other characters *cough* John McClane *cough*
Please don't make another movie unless you really, really have a story worth telling. I don't know if I can see another person get gruesomely killed by Rambo again.