The Movie Waffler New Release Review - RAMBO: LAST BLOOD | The Movie Waffler

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New Release Review - RAMBO: LAST BLOOD

rambo last blood review
John Rambo unleashes hell when his niece is kidnapped.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Adrian Grunberg

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Yvette Monreal, Louis Mandylor, Γ“scar Jaenada, Sheila Shah

rambo last blood poster


Much like those of Sylvester Stallone's other iconic character, the Rambo movies have endured a politically schizophrenic arc. John Rambo first appeared on screen in First Blood, a 1982 adaptation of David Morrell's 1972 novel. That movie portrayed Rambo as a Frankenstein's monster created in the lab of the American military, hunted by a torchwielding mob of cops and national guardsmen, and its view of American authority figures was decidedly dim. But then in 1985, the same year that Rocky Balboa evolved from working class hero to star-spangled superman in Rocky IV, John Rambo returned to Vietnam as America embraced a new jingoism under Ronnie Raygun, battling both the yellow devils and the pesky Russkies. The Russophobia was amped up in Rambo III, made at a time when Americans hated Russians so much that they were willing to cheer on the Taliban as Rambo found himself caught up in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. 2008's Rambo drew more accusations of xenophobia, with the Vietnam vet mowing down an uncountable number of faceless Asians. Now Rambo is taking his fight to the Mexicans, yet while this seems like a play to the Trumpian crowd, the film is critical of American foreign policy in a way not seen since the 1982 movie.


rambo last blood review

At the end of the previous movie, Rambo returned to his family home in Arizona. A decade later he seems relatively at peace, though he relies on pills to keep his anger subdued. His newfound calm is owed to the presence of his teenage niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal), whom he has raised since her Mexican father walked out and her mother passed away. When Gabrielle learns the location of her estranged father she defies her uncle's advice and heads south of the border to look up her old man. Turns out she's been lured into a trap and finds herself the latest addition to a sex trafficking racket run by vicious gangsters the Martinez brothers. Rambo heads south and unleashes hell in a quest to rescue Gabrielle.


rambo last blood review

Making all the villains Mexican feels like a case of punching down on the film's part, and there's really no reason why the movie has to take a trip south of the border. Not on the surface at least. What's interesting about Rambo: Last Blood though is how Rambo is his niece's own worst enemy here. Just like the army he was fighting for in Nam, Rambo rushes into battle without a plan, and quickly finds himself out of his depth, ultimately escalating the situation to a degree that might have been avoidable had he not let a rush of blood to his head guide him. In one sequence he barges into a brothel, murdering pimps and johns with a hammer. He orders the 'liberated' prostitutes to leave, but they tell him they have nowhere to go. It's difficult not to read this as an indictment of American military interventionism, but I'm not sure that's intentional on the film's part, as Rambo never seems to reflect on his role in screwing things up. But then I guess America never does either.

[ READ MORE: Interview - Rambo Creator David Morrell ]

If Rambo: Last Blood critiques American gung ho machismo, it also celebrates it in a climax that features levels of bloodshed not seen in a mainstream Hollywood movie since...well since the last Rambo movie. With The Doors' 'Five to One' blasting in the background and evoking the Vietnam era that made him the killer we know, Rambo takes out a small army of machine gun wielding sex traffickers in truly brutal fashion. Pipes are shoved through heads, hearts are torn from ribcages and heads are lopped off (a trick he must have learned from his Taliban mates). Director Adrian Grunberg, whose previous movie, Get the Gringo, didn't win any awards for Mexican representation either, shoots it all in an unshowy but clear manner, allowing us to revel in the insanity of the violence.
rambo last blood review

If the action sequences make it clear just how brittle the human body is, so too does the now battered yet still iconic face of Stallone. With the headband and mullet no longer intact, Rambo could have been indistinguishable from Rocky here, but Stallone makes it clear that the two characters are very different men. As Rocky, Stallone can make grown men weep as he lets out his emotions, but as Rambo there's a melancholy sadness that comes from how tragic his loss of self is. This is a man whose soul was stolen from him as a young man, and the deadness behind Stallone's eyes conveys the sense that Rambo wishes he could feel an emotion other than rage. By the movie's climax his face is held together by stitches, and the Frankenstein analogy of this character has never been more visually explicit. John Rambo is America's monster.

Rambo: Last Blood is in UK/ROI cinemas now.


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