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Rambo Last Blood: John Rambo is Back in Action!

This film was not screened for critics in the Las Vegas Valley.

Rambo: Last Blood (hereafter simply referred to as “Last Blood”) is directed by Adrian Grunberg. The film stars Sylvester Stallone.

After a life of running and fighting, John Rambo has settled down in Arizona, where he lives with his housekeeper and her niece, with the trio sharing a familial bond. When her niece goes missing during a trip to Mexico to search for her biological father and is captured by gangs, it’s up to Rambo to go back into action, doing what he does best.

A little over a decade ago, Sylvester Stallone resurrected his two most iconic characters, Rocky Balboa and John Rambo, following decade-plus absences from the big screen. His attempts to revive Rocky have given us some of the best films in that series in years. The 2008 Rambo film was one of the best in the series, and would have made for a fitting finale and cinematic farewell to everyone’s favorite Green Beret. While I appreciate Stallone bringing the character back for another go-around, the fifth (and what will presumably be the final) Rambo outing comes off as a poorly-paced disappointment, even if it does deliver in the action scenes.

If nothing else, one needs to give the movie credit for Stallone's portrayal of John Rambo. We know this is a man who’s been to hell and back, wanting nothing more than to come back into a world which won’t have him. At this point, he’s finally gotten a sense of consistency and family for the first time in what seems like an eternity, only to see that shattered as well. The bond between him and his surrogate family feels believable and authentic, and provides a nice contrast to the man who simply couldn’t return to the real world years earlier.

While audiences have to wait for a while to get there, the film’s action-packed finale certainly delivers, drawing inspiration from everything from Skyfall to Home Alone. The violence in the movie is the “Hard R” variety, so the squeamish will want to stay home. It certainly rivals the 2008 film for the coveted title of “Most Violent Rambo Film.” There are also some emotional gut punches which will hit the audience hard.

Unfortunately, other elements of the movie don’t fare as well. I appreciate the film attempting to paint John Rambo out to be a more human character, and even giving him a makeshift family of sorts. However, the pacing in the movie’s first act is so bad, I began to wonder if I was watching the right movie (the average person doesn't go to a Rambo film for familial drama). There are times where the movie feels like “Miss Bala with John Rambo as a supporting character.” Definitely not something I want to be thinking when I’m watching a movie which has Mr. Rambo’s name in the title.

And while we’re at it, does every single movie these days need to utilize Mexican drug cartels/gangs as the villains? This has become a cliche. Couldn’t we have gotten a plot that involves any other kind of terror group? To be fair, this film’s screenplay predates many of those more recent Mexican cartel stories (supposedly this was supposed to be the plot of the fourth movie originally), but there’s no reason this element of the plot couldn’t have been changed. It’s also handled lazily here, with characters being introduced and quickly discarded. Even John Rambo, who's supposed to be an ex-Green Beret and a brilliant, deadly fighter, lets himself get cornered in one scene, which a true ex-military man with his fighting experience, would never do. Even the action-packed finale (which we’ve got to wait far too long to get to) feels contrived and driven by plot conveniences which makes no sense.

Rambo should have ended as a franchise at four movies. Last Blood isn’t a horrible movie, but it’s an unnecessary film which doesn’t top its predecessor, and also doesn’t quite recapture the deeper meaning the series once had when it was introduced with First Blood. Poor pacing, overdone plot elements/villains, and one-dimensional supporting characters don’t help things, even if the action in the finale does deliver. Wait for it to hit home video formats.

Rating: Two stars out of four.

DISCLAIMER: All images in this review are the property of their respective holders, including Lionsgate, Millennium Media, Balboa Productions, and Templeton Media. For promotional use only. All rights reserved.

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