REVIEW: 'Rambo: Last Blood' is a decent but long outing for Stallone's character

Marcus Goh
Contributor
PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

The last Rambo movie, simply titled Rambo, came out 11 years ago. The movie before that was Rambo III, in 1988. While it’s fun to see Sylvester Stallone back in action as war veteran John Rambo, it’s also a stark reminder that it's been a long time since we saw him in action. Rambo: Last Blood tries to create a strong emotional motivation for Rambo's actions, but the pacing suffers as a result.

If you’d like a recap of all the previous Rambo movies before watching Rambo: Last Bloodclick here.

The movie centres on the title character, who has traded away his violent past for a peaceful life on a farm with his loved ones. But when tragedy strikes, it's up to Rambo to save his niece from vicious Mexican gangsters. As unwilling as Rambo is to embrace the soldier within, it may be the only way for him to protect those he cares about — as well as to find true peace.

Rambo: Last Blood starts slow — really, really slow. There's a little bit of action here and there, but it takes a good 40 minutes before we actually see Rambo get all fired up to lay waste to his enemies. Yes, it gives us context and tries to create the emotional stakes that spur Rambo into action later on. However, it tries so hard to tug at your heartstrings that it backfires, and you don't quite care as much about his niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal) and her monumentally inane decisions later on.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

While it's understandable that the movie wants to take its time to set the scene and establish that Rambo now lives a quiet life upon a farm, it doesn't work. The audience knows that Rambo will spring into action as the iconic soldier later on, and he clearly revels in it, so there's no tension between his idyllic farm life and his warrior ways. Clearly, Rambo is just suppressing whatever murderous impulses lie within. And it's not a spoiler to state that he goes into full-on killing mode later on (motivated, of course, by circumstances), because that's what you're watching a Rambo film for, right?

The action sequences, however, are a gory adrenaline rush. Visceral deaths abound, and you can feel the catharsis that Rambo gets out of his actions. It's such a stark difference from "farmhand Rambo" that it almost seems like two different movies, which sort of drives home the point that Rambo wanted to just mind his own business before the events of the the film. There are also preparatory montages where Rambo gets ready to battle his foes, which psych you up for the fights to come.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

However, it has to be said that Rambo has clearly outgrown his role as an action hero. You wince in pain when you see Rambo getting hurt, because you're not sure if a man of his age can withstand such wounds. It does raise the excitement of the fights a notch — will Rambo even survive his (presumably) final encounter, especially with the kinds of injuries he's sustained? You're never in doubt of his victory, but you do fear for his life.

The music also gets overdramatic at times, since he's no longer fighting other military men, but civilians instead. Also, it doesn't quite fit the visuals, since Sylvester Stallone no longer looks quite as impressive as he used to (he is, after all, 73). The film relies more on your knowledge and memory of what Rambo used to be, rather than what he currently is, to convey the sense of grandeur and awe that it so desperately wants.

Nevertheless, you do feel for Rambo at the end. The action scenes do satisfy (although there could have been more), and there is a sense of closure to the character's journey, that this is where he wants to be. Better pacing and more violence would have worked in the film's favour. All in all, given Stallone's age, this was a decent but long (and possibly, final) outing for Rambo.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? No.

Score: 3.5/5

Secret ending? No, but there is a tribute to Rambo over the credits.

Running time: 100 minutes

Rambo is an American action movie that is the fifth in the Rambo film franchise.

It is directed by Adrian Grunberg and written by Sylvester Stallone, with screenplay credits for Matt Cirulnick and story credits and Dan Gordon. It stars Sylvester Stallone (John Rambo), Paz Vega (Carmen Delgado), Sergio Peris-Mencheta (Hugo Martinez), Adriana Barraza (Maria Beltran), and Yvette Monreal (Gabrielle). It is rated M-18.

Rambo: Last Blood opens in cinemas:
- 19 September, 2019 (Singapore)
- 20 September, 2019 (Philippines)

Marcus Goh is a television scriptwriter who writes for “Crimewatch”, as well as popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Code of Law”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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