Over the last 37 years, the Rambo franchise has cemented itself in film history as a staple of 80’s action.
Because the films deal with distinct topics such as post-traumatic stress, prisoners of war and citizen rebellion, people revere the Rambo films as classics, despite not being of the highest quality. "Rambo: Last Blood" largely ignores most of the saga’s history, as its primary interest lies in watching its lead go on a ruthless and violent killing spree. The film, directed by Adrian Grunberg and written by Slyvester Stallone, is a colossal mess due to poor writing and character development, as it instead opts to set up a generic action film, rather than closing the door on one of Hollywood’s most famous action heroes.
After finally returning to the states and retiring to his family’s farm, John Rambo is suddenly pulled back into conflict when a family friend travels to Mexico and is immediately kidnapped by the cartel. While going down to Mexico to bring her back, Rambo draws the attention of the cartel leader, who wants him dead. Now, Rambo must defend his “family” and home, dead set on drawing last blood.
One of the most significant factors that hurts the film is the fact that the plot severely disconnects the movie from the rest of the franchise. The movie begins with Rambo living with a family at his ranch, without giving any prior explanation to who these people are. While some quick comments provide a bit of history as to what happened in the past 10 years since Rambo was last seen, this certainly isn’t enough to fill in major plot holes.
The film also severely lacks an overall theme or message, something which the prior films are notorious for. Instead of delving more into Rambo’s history or giving a more in-depth explanation as to why he kills, the film chooses instead to set up a story that allows him to go on a killing spree. The filmmakers’ only justification for the massacre is by trying to convince the audience that these are bad people who deserve to die.
With the filmmakers choosing to present their antagonist in the most maniacal way possible, this inadvertently creates the film’s biggest problem with the movie representing characters as nothing more than a stereotype. Despite maybe one or two defining characteristics, these characters can be summarized with an adjective in front of their title. This lack of depth is not only a problem that plagues the antagonist but also one that extends to the characters that aid Rambo on his journey. It results in some roles being reduced to mere plot devices, as their only purpose is to push the story to the next action set piece.
Moreover, the filmmakers are aware of this, as much of the movie is rushed to get to the major action scene that the advertisers have promoted in all of the film’s marketing. However, despite every problem that plagues the rest of the film, there is an odd sense of satisfaction to see Rambo go on this murderous rampage. The action here is overtly violent to the point of ridiculousness, as each kill attempts to outdo the one that came before. The film clearly understands its senseless violence, as it fully indulges in fiction, removing any sense of reality from the last act of the film. It’s a scene that could’ve been a lot longer, but one that had the entire theater laughing and relishing in what was being shown.
"Rambo: Last Blood" understands that it is an irrational film and fully indulges in it. The film itself becomes a stereotype for small action films, unable to differ from any other action-rampage movie that came before it. Despite its minimal substance, the film is strangely gratifying with its lead going on a murderous killing spree. Those willing to indulge themselves in bloodthirsty action won’t be disappointed — as long as they don’t expect anything else.