“Rambo: Last Blood,” a caricature of the franchise
Is “Rambo: Last Blood” really the 27% score that critics would have you believe? Adrian Grunberg’s latest film sees
Grunberg is no stranger to action films. Grunberg directed, “Get the Gringo,” starring Mel Gibson, and has worked as a second unit director in “The Legend of Zorro” and “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.”
However, “Last Blood” does little for both Grunberg’s filmography, and the franchise. It is a very clumsy conclusion to the series with only the final act of the film being any source of true entertainment.
The film follows Rambo 11 years after his return home in the last installment. He now takes care of his late father’s farm in Arizona, which he manages with his is granddaughter, Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal), and friend, Maria (Adriana Barraza).
Gabrielle has been searching for her lost father and gets a tip that he may be residing in Mexico. When Gabrielle travels to Mexico, she is kidnapped by a Mexican cartel enforcer. This prompts Rambo to go to Mexico and get her back--by any means necessary.
The “Rambo” franchise as a whole has had a very mixed relationship with the critics in the past. The first installment, “First Blood” released in 1982 and was met with both critical and financial success.
“Rambo: First Blood Part II” was released in 1985, and although it was a financially successful, it was not as well received by the critics. “Rambo: First Blood Part III” or just simply “Rambo III” in some promotional material released in 1988 had a very mixed political message and has often been regarded as the weakest in the franchise.
2008 saw the return of Stallone as Rambo in the film simply titled, “Rambo.” It sought to bring the franchise back to its gritty roots and certainly took advantage of its R rating.
Stallone was initially not too sure if he wanted to be in another “Rambo” film. The script for “Last Blood” was originally intended for 2008, but was altered to fit the setting in Burma. However, Stallone revised the script to fit with the initial setting of Arizona.
The film’s the short runtime works against its favor. Characters act more like caricatures, specifically Hispanics. With the exception of Rambo’s granddaughter, every Hispanic is just a stereotype.
“Screenwriters Matthew Cirulnick and Stallone adopt the racist view of Mexicans as murderers, drug dealers and rapists devoid of cultural context or exceptions,” Peter Debruge from Variety wrote.
It’s unfair to call the film racist and misogynistic, as Grace Randolph from Beyond The Trailer said, but it is fair to criticize the film’s stereotypes since it is attempting to go for a realistic tone.
As a Hispanic, the film is nowhere near racist, but it does not handle the subject matter of Mexican crime as well as 2015’s “Sicario.”
Now, if the film wanted to be over the top, then maybe the stereotypes could have worked to the film’s favor. The problem stems from the film having an inconsistent tone. The villains are one-dimensional. Past “Rambo” films would present over the top villains, but they were at least memorable.
Nonetheless, Stallone still gives a solid performance. Besides Rocky Balboa, Rambo is a character that Stallone has made his own. The film does not present Rambo as unstoppable killing machine. In fact, some scenes are dedicated to Rambo healing from a major beat down he receives from the villains. It’s a nice change of pace when it seems like almost every current action hero barely gets a scratch.
When the audience is presented with a protagonist that has flaws and can be harmed, it amplifies the audience’s connection with the character.
Lastly, it is unfair to criticize the film’s violence. The film is rated R and is adult entertainment. As mentioned before, the final act presents the only bit of solid entertainment and displays classic 1980s action mixed with grindhouse filmmaking. If you are easily squeamish towards violence, then this is not the film for you.
Ultimately, although it feels more like a “Taken” film than a “Rambo” film, “Last Blood” is nowhere near the 27% that Rotten Tomatoes has labeled it. It is littered with plot contrivances and for some Rambo fans, myself included, it does not feel like the satisfying conclusion we were wanting for this iconic movie character.