Rambo: Last Blood review
Sept. 19, 2019
The grizzled warrior dusts off his crossbow to take revenge on sex traffickers in a creaking, cringeworthy fifth instalment
This massively enlarged prostate of a film can only make you wince with its badly acted geronto-ultraviolence, its Trumpian fantasies of Mexican rapists and hilariously insecure US border, and its crass enthusiasm for rape-revenge attacks undertaken by a still-got-it senior dude, 73 years young, on behalf of a sweet teenager. The film, co-written by Sylvester Stallone , imagines this demure young woman having her face slashed by an assailant but the field is left clear for a stag payback showdown; there is no question of her taking her own retributive action.
Stallone’s own impassive face, now like a sculpture created by Picasso out of a Firestone tyre, presides enigmatically over the proceedings and his indistinct line readings would not get him very far in rep. His announcement of “I want you to feel my rage and my hate; I want to rip out your heart!” comes out more like “Ug wuff yuh tahfarr m’range an mayayyht, ug wuff trip ertcha heurr!”
In the likable Creed movies , Stallone had found a way for his legendary boxing champ Rocky Balboa to bow out with humour and humility: as a trainer. But there is no such style in this new Rambo film, the fifth in the franchise, which despite its name may not be the last: over the final credits there is a sentimental greatest-hits montage of Rambo moments over the years, ending with an unexpected present-day shot of John Rambo riding off into the sunset on his horse. Are there more battles still to be won for this great warrior?
Nowadays Rambo is living on an Arizona farmstead in retirement, breeding horses. (There is some show-offy but undeniably impressive horsemanship from Stallone here.) He also weirdly maintains an underground network of survivalist tunnels, in which he broods over his collection of weapons. Not surprisingly, these occasionally cause the old boy anxious flashbacks, resembling as they do the tunnels created by the Viet Cong, whom he fought in Vietnam. He is close to his Mexican housekeeper Maria (Adriana Barraza) and to her orphaned niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal), whom soft-hearted Rambo thinks of as his own kin. But when Gabrielle gets word that her no-account dad, who abandoned the family, is still alive and living in Mexico, she impulsively heads south of the border to find him and winds up being kidnapped as a sex slave by a Mexican cartel. Rambo tools up and saddles up to get her back.
The result is cringemakingly written and clunkily directed, and even the final action sequence runs out of steam after a minute or so. Of course, other dramas are arguably vulnerable to the charge of demonising Mexico, such as the Sicario movies and Nicolas Winding Refn’s TV series Too Old t o Die Young ; but they are thrillers composed with satirical brilliance and icy power. It is the streak of flabby sentimental self-importance that makes Rambo: Last Blood unwatchable. Please, Sly: more Balboa, less Rambo.
Rambo: Last Blood is released on 19 September in Australia and the UK and on 20 September in the US.
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