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‘Rambo: Last Blood’ – Review

‘Rambo: Last Blood’ – Review

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Sylvester Stallone is back and he’s bringing plenty of heavy-hitting action in Rambo: Last Blood, and this is one action film that goes for the jugular.

Rambo (Stallone) travels to Mexico to save his adoptive daughter who has been kidnapped by a Mexican cartel.

If you’re looking for an action movie to pump you up, well you’ll get it with Rambo: Last Blood and trust me when I say that this film doesn’t let up for a moment. Set 11 years after John Rambo’s return to the U.S. this haunted military man has now found some semblance of peace on the plains of Arizona. But when this tranquillity is shattered the beast inside rises up, and Rambo once again returns to war. Taking the reigns of this action cinema legend is director Adrian Grunberg, and he gives the fans what they want here. Rambo: Last Blood is bold and bloody and it seriously amps up its audience.

Returning to his roots once more is Sylvester Stallone as John J. Rambo, and he offers us a change of pace here. For the entire first act of the film, we’re seeing a civilized Rambo, a man who has returned to his families Arizona farmstead and who has managed to shake off the spirit of his wartime trauma and found a sense of meaning as the adoptive father to his niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal). What we see is the archetypal story of the warrior who finds peace after putting down his sword, but when this peace is robbed of him by unexpected violence Rambo must return to the beast that he once was.

While Stallone easily steps back into the extreme action that has come to be a hallmark of the franchise, we get to see a deeper side to the Rambo character. Quiet and stoic, this is a man who puts himself at the edge of danger to protect the innocent, and when he can’t do this it eats at his soul. Stallone’s Rambo has an inherent need to protect things, to safeguard the good and to do the right thing, and when of course there is no recourse for this he’s got to roll up his sleeves and get the job done himself when the need arises for vengeance.

Joining Stallone and aiding him in his quest is Paz Vega as Mexican journalist Carmen Delgado and it’s a different turn for Vega. While audiences have come to know Vega as a scintillating Mexican beauty, here she grunges herself up, and carries a deep sense of trauma as she tries to fight her own battles on the edge of the Mexican border. Sensing the pain that Rambo feels after tragedy strikes his family, Carmen is the one person to offer him support and it is through her that he can get his vengeance. Vega and Stallone create a good interaction between one another and as an audience member it’s good to see her mixing things up on the screen.

Providing the catalyst for Rambo’s revenge is Spaniard Sergio Peris-Mencheta who takes on the menacing role of Mexican cartel leader Hugo Martinez and it’s a role that is all business for Peris-Mencheta. As the big boss on the other side of the border who is mixed up in sex slavery and human trafficking, there is very little that Peris-Mencheta’s Martinez will do to ensure a profit, and this causes him to cross the line with Rambo. Frighteningly menacing, Peris-Mencheta works well in his performance as Martinez and this builds to the epic confrontation between himself and Stallone’s Rambo in the third act. Peris-Mencheta shows talent here and I’m hoping that we’ll see more of him in the Hollywood mainstream going forward.

If there’s a word to describe the action of Rambo: Last Blood then I think gnarly works well. The Rambo films have always worked in the extreme and with each new film, Rambo finds some new and more inventive way to dispatch his enemies. Here this rises to a whole new level and Rambo gets surgical here as he brings out his bowie knife and the gore factor ramps up quickly. As always we see Rambo’s preparation and thinking coming into play, courtesy of his Special Forces background, and Grunberg brings out the character’s Vietnam ‘tunnel rat’ past with an extended and fast-paced action scene set in a series of underground tunnels where Rambo goes to work on the Martinez cartel and butchers the hell out of them!

Thematically and stylistically, Rambo: Last Blood moves away from its war film setting and instead we get a unique Western tone. Assuming a cowboy person as the now Stateside Rambo, Stallone brings out the character’s Native American heritage here, and his knowledge of the land and elements as an expert tracker shows us a different side to him. Stallone’s performance in Rambo: Last Blood is a real throwback to John Wayne, and the film is in keeping with such classic westerns as The Searchers and The Wild Bunch. The film’s archetypal characterizations are also in keeping with classic mythic structures as we see the old warrior rise back up to face the horde and your heart will be palpitating with the action that is unleashed on screen here.

If you like your action heavy and bloody then you’ll be in for a wild ride with Rambo: Last Blood as Stallone puts his final stamp on this action cinema icon.

Image: Roadshow Films