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Fifth time’s not the charm – ‘Rambo: Last Blood’

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Did we really need another Rambo movie?

When the character – played by Sylvester Stallone – first graced movie screens back in 1982’s “First Blood,” John Rambo was a relatively nuanced rendition of a Vietnam veteran struggling to reintegrate into American society upon his return from war. But with each subsequent iteration – “Rambo: First Blood Part II” in 1985, “Rambo III” in 1988 and especially 2008’s “Rambo” – the character became more cartoonish and violent, with increasingly nonsensical plotlines and escalating brutality essentially erasing the complexity displayed in that initial film.

“Rambo: Last Blood” continues in that unfortunate vein. With a disinterested and generic script co-written by Stallone and Matthew Cirulnick and bland direction from Adrian Grunberg, this fifth installment in the series brings nothing new to the table. Instead, it seems to exist solely to give Stallone a chance to flail around in his blood-soaked sandbox; it is visceral in its violence and largely absent of anything resembling real connection.

In “Last Blood,” John Rambo has taken over his late father’s Arizona horse ranch. He spends his days working with the animals and managing the place with the help of his old friend Maria (Adriana Barraza, “Dora and the Lost City of Gold”) and her granddaughter Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal, “Monsoon”). When not training horses, Rambo spends his time maintaining the intricate series of tunnels he’s built beneath the ranch (because of course) or making knives in his makeshift home forge (because OF COURSE).

Gabrielle has lived with her grandmother since her mother’s passing, but she has recently gotten word of her estranged father’s location. Despite Rambo’s admonitions to let it go, she sneaks away to Mexico to track down her dad and find out why he left her and her mother. But when her dad turns out to be a hateful jerk who expresses zero remorse, Gabrielle winds up going to a club at the insistence of her friend Jezel (Fenessa Pineda, TV’s “The Fosters”). While there, she’s drugged and abducted, sold into the servitude of a sex trafficking ring run by the Martinez brothers – fiery Victor (Oscar Jaenada, “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”) and cooler-headed Hugo (Sergio Peris-Menchata, “Life Itself”).

When Rambo discovers that Gabrielle lied to him and went seeking her father, he tracks her movements and finds his way to the Martinez brothers’ compound. He’s vastly outnumbered and winds up getting savagely beaten, left alive by Hugo (over Victor’s strenuous objections) to that Rambo can spend the rest of his life remembering that he failed to save the girl. Rambo is rescued and nursed back to health by an investigative reporter named Carmen Delgado (Paz Vega, TV’s “The OA”), who is surveilling the Martinez brothers for reasons that are … let’s just call them unclear.

From there, things escalate rather quickly. Rambo rampages through a Mexican brothel or two before returning to the ranch. He has baited a trap that will bring the Martinez forces right to him, where he will bring all of his rage (as well as a whole lot of guns and knives and explosives and what have you) to bear on those who have harmed the only family he has left.

“Rambo: Last Blood” is … a lot. It is almost defiantly dumb, its bare-bones narrative existing solely to move us from mumbled Stallone monologue to preparatory montage to explosively violent outburst, rinse and repeat. It feels less like a story and more like a checklist, boxes being ticked with every knife sharpening and grimacing Stallone close-up.

The direction is as uninspired as the script. There are almost as many unnecessary wide shots as there are too-tight looks at Stallone’s immobilized face. We get multiple sequences involving people driving in cars; the same shots in three different places with three different people. It’s visually repetitive in a way that is particularly off-putting. Stallone’s love of montages is in full effect as well – I won’t tell you how many there are exactly, but you better believe there’s more than one.

Here’s as good a spot as any to talk about the violence. The body count isn’t as high as the last installment, but “Last Blood” offers plenty of, well … blood. The violence is so over-the-top as to become absurd; by the time we arrive at the ridiculous climax, I couldn’t help but laugh at the sheer insanity of it all. Between the inundation of gore and the utter disregard for anything resembling realism, laughter was really the only reasonable reaction.

And Stallone’s performance is something to witness. What he clearly believes to be tough-guy steeliness basically reads as though he’s lost the ability to move the inert muscles in his face. His clichéd monologues about the darkness in men’s hearts or whatever are undermined by the fact that he’s borderline unintelligible. And even when you understand the words, you can’t understand the sentiment being expressed, because it’s all nonsensical. I could talk about the other performances, but I won’t, because literally none of it matters.

At this point, all we can do is hope that “Rambo: Last Blood” is true to its title, because no one needs any more of this. Time for Stallone to let Rambo bleed out.

[1 out of 5]

Last modified on Wednesday, 25 September 2019 05:18

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