Review: Rambo: Last Blood

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

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PLOT: After years of fighting, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) has finally found peace running his family ranch in Arizona. But, when the girl he considers a daughter is sold into sexual slavery by a Mexican Cartel, he's sent on one last quest for vengeance.

REVIEW: Years ago, Sylvester Stallone briefly flirted with remaking DEATH WISH (which eventually happened with Bruce Willis) and had he gone through with it, the result would have likely been a lot like RAMBO: LAST BLOOD. Starkly different from the rest of the Rambo series, emphasizing bloody vengeance over heroics, this is already proving to be the most divisive entry in the series, albeit one that certainly delivers the carnage expected from the name, even if it’s largely confined to the last act.

In fact, RAMBO: LAST BLOOD feels like it was built around a concept for the climactic action scene, a twenty-minute plus home invasion battle royale that ranks as a bravura piece of action filmmaking for both Stallone and director Adrian Grunberg. The rest of the film, which runs a scant eighty-nine minutes (with credits) is devoted to building up expectations for this big scene, making it doubly satisfying when it does happen.

Still, in some ways it doesn’t quite feel like a RAMBO movie. It’s strange seeing him on new turf, a ranch in Arizona and the streets of Mexico, as he’s such a creature of the jungle. Even in FIRST BLOOD, he’s in survivalist mode, so seeing Rambo tearing around an urban setting is jarring. Yet, Rambo is still Rambo, with him as haunted and cynical as ever.

While it only takes about fifteen minutes for Rambo’s surrogate daughter, Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal,) to take off for Mexico in search of her real father, the relationship between the two is surprisingly affecting, mostly because we’ve had four movies to establish his humanity. It’s nice to see him with a glimmer of hope, even if it’s bound to be snuffed out.

Stallone seems like he was inspired by two of the most popular action flicks of our era, LOGAN and TAKEN. As in LOGAN, Rambo’s age is emphasized, with him popping pills and taking a pretty savage beating at one point, even if he ceremoniously chucks the pills before his big action scene. The TAKEN formula is also used, with the daughter figure being threatened, although Gabrielle is subjected to far more savagery here, so much so that it’s the only time in a Rambo movie I thought Sly might have gone a little too far. He’s never been one to shy away from depicting the darker side of humanity, putting this well in line with the last one, RAMBO, which I believe set a record for on-screen carnage.

Stallone is engaged here, with Rambo an interesting counterpoint to his other iconic role, Rocky. In the CREED movies, we see how Rocky’s flourished in his old age, making him a paragon of hope. By contrast, Rambo’s only more haunted the older he gets, despite a brief respite with Gabrielle and his beloved housekeeper, Maria (Adriana Barraza). This all works well, with composer Brian Tyler working in nods to the Jerry Goldsmith scores that remind us of the darkness still contaminating Rambo’s soul, even if at the moment he seems at peace.

If the movie has any major failing, it’s a similar one to the last entry, where the villains are assembly line. No one in the cartel gets much room for development. They’re just anonymous punks, differentiated by the fact that the main two are bothers, one of whom is wild (Óscar Jaenada) while the other is cooler and collected (Sergio Peris-Menchet). To a degree, they feel unimportant, although both are evil enough that when things come to a head you’re pretty keen to see them suffer (and boy do they ever).

It also seems like it was cut pretty close to the bone in the editing room, with one notable casualty being Paz Vega as a journalist Rambo goes to for help just before the third act, but what exactly she does to help him at this point is never really explained – as if her big moment was cut. A prologue involving Rambo rescuing a family from a flash flood was also cut at the last minute (some reviews are mentioning it), which is a shame as the film lacks a big, heroic moment for the character and might have given his relationship with Maria and Gabrielle more context.

Despite its flaws, I can’t deny that I had a good time with RAMBO: LAST BLOOD. Even if it’s arguably the least of the series, it’s never anything less than serviceable, and the last half hour is a classic piece of over the top action, making it a must-see. There’s a reason Rambo is such an icon, and Stallone still has the character’s pulse down pat. I don’t see any reason why the series has to end here. There are plenty more adventures for Rambo to get caught up in. And if it continues I’ll be first in line.




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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.