Rambo: Last Stand
2019, Lionsgate Films
Despite the brutal beating this movie is taking with critics (and let’s be honest– critics have always hated Stallone movies with the exception of Rocky which everyone universally loves), I was excited to see Rambo: Last Stand. Sylvester Stallone is my favorite actor (really!) and I’ve always loved the Rambo movies and character.
Having missed out on opening weekend, I went to a Wednesday 5:20PM showing for this movie where it was just me and three other dudes. I was hoping to have the theater to myself! Unfortunately, one of the guys sat in from of me and chose to check his phone every 10 minutes or so and another kept going in and out of the theater with about the same frequency, but I digress…
What’s interesting to me about this movie is not the bashing it’s getting from the critics, I expect that, but that David Morrell, the author of the book First Blood (of which the original movie was based upon) has essentially disowned this movie and character. Morrell took to Twitter to knock the film and state that he felt “dehumanized” and “degraded” having watched this latest entry into the franchise. I think that’s a lot of hyperbole, but to each their own.
Morrell thinks Last Blood got the character completely wrong (I somewhat agree with this) and that the movie was too violent. The violence is often at the center of debate when I see reviews and discussions online. Yes, this movie is very violent. It is downright gory. Rambo is not just mowing people down with a machine gun in this movie from a distance. He is in their face stabbing and mutilating them with his trusty knife and a variety of other sharp objects. With this film, I’ve read comparisons of John Rambo to Michael Myers from Halloween or Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th. Okay, this isn’t a horror movie, but yeah… it’s very graphic and creatively violent like horror movies can be.
Other complaints I have seen from critics are about the politics of this movie, I this is why I think so many movie reviewers seem to passionately HATE this movie. I think we live in a hyper-sensitive era when it comes to politics. There are extreme divisions in America and in the world right now. People are really sensitive to things and can look for something that maybe isn’t really there and get irrationally offended by what they are perceiving others to be doing or saying. We are often suspicious of an “agenda” or message from something or someone nowadays. I fall victim to this myself, but I just don’t see that happening in Rambo: Last Stand. Americans are very emotional and passionate when it comes to borders right now (no matter which side you are on, no pun intended), so to see this macho white guy running across the border to take on Mexican sex traffickers because the Mexican authorities “don’t do shit”, according to John Rambo, is going to rile people up. Some will be offended, some will be cheering.
But keep in mind, the film’s basic plot was ironed out and publicly mentioned by Stallone himself as far back as 2008 as a potential sequel to that year’s Rambo, way before Trump and border walls and Mexico became hot debated daily topics. ‘Rambo goes to Mexico to save a girl’ was always the idea behind a fifth Rambo movie. Well, Stallone did briefly mention Rambo V being about him and a team of commandos going after some genetically-modified wolf creature, but online Rambo fans rightfully pushed back on him for that and Stallone thankfully relented and quickly announced the ‘go to Mexico to save the girl’ idea. Seriously, WTF was he thinking, wanting to take Rambo into a sci-fi/horror direction?
Anyway… to say Rambo: Last Blood is a “Trumpian fantasy”, as I read one review call it, is not accurate.
Now, how do I feel about that movie? It was decent. It is flawed and it is not what I would have liked to have seen from what I hope is the final Rambo movie, but it’s fine. If you’re a Stallone/Rambo fan, you need to see it. If you’re an action movie junkie, you should probably see it. Anyone else will probably not like this movie. If you liked the 2008 movie a lot, I think you’ll enjoy this one. For myself, the 2008 film didn’t feel like Rambo and neither does Last Blood, honestly. Both movies are gritty and violent, and while violence is obviously a part of Rambo movies, these last two entries really embrace it and go all in to the extreme.
It’s sad to see the character of John Rambo go from someone who is haunted by his past, wants to be left alone, wants to find solitude & peace and seeks a life without war & violence to a complete psycho that accepts that he is a murder monster machine, but I guess anything other than over-the-top violence from a 73-year-old Sylvester Stallone might be a tough sell to a movie studio and possibly to a portion of movie goers as well. Myself, I’d love to have seen a film more in tone with First Blood where he just wants to be left alone but is dragged into one more war one last time while still fighting his own personal war within. And apparently that was kind of the idea at one point many years ago with a very early script, but the studio insisted on what the movie became.
So, like I said, the movie is fine. I don’t love it, but it isn’t terrible. It’s certainly better than recent releases like Escape Plan 2 and Escape Plan 3. I haven’t seen Backtrace yet, but that looks pretty awful as well! Rambo: Last Blood is not how I wanted to see the series come to an end (and PLEASE let it be the end, Sly), but the movie is fine as a low-budget and very violent revenge flick.