REVIEW: ‘Rambo: Last Blood’

Since making his way home at the end of 2008’s RAMBO, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) has been able to live peacefully in Arizona with a new family he’s found for himself. His adoptive niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal) travels to Mexico to reconnect with her estranged father and is abducted by a gang of sex traffickers, forcing John back into action.

The title RAMBO: Last Blood implies that this will be the final installment in the series, but the finished film doesn’t quite feel like a grand finale. The 2008 film served that perfectly, with the titular hero finishing one last mission and finally returning to his father’s ranch, never before having a place to call home. The unfortunate truth of this newest film is that it feels a bit tacked on and unnecessary. The first act feels like a scrapped sequel to the Taken franchise and is a slow build. Still, the movie is by no means terrible.

Stallone is great in his second most famous role, Monreal is likable as Gabrielle, and her grandmother is played decently by Adrianna Barraza. The character Carmen (Paz Vega) acts as a sort of aid in Rambo’s efforts, but she lacks personality and I would have liked to see her make a bigger impact. All the antagonists are easy to hate, a tribute to their actors’ talents. Oscar Jaenada and Sergio Peris-Mencheta, in particular, are excellent as their ringleaders; the guys you love to hate. However, the script treats them all as generic bad guys with no redemptive traits. Purely evil villains can be enjoyable, but this trope doesn’t always work in a story so set in reality.

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Even with the early flaws, the movie kept my attention and the end of the second act gives us a turn that genuinely surprised and touched me. From that point on, I was sucked in and ready to see Rambo take these guys down. The third act is the real highlight and is worth the admission price in itself. Rambo goes to work with a series of traps; “Home Alone, Rambo style,” as my friend put it. Fair warning: this sequence (along with a few earlier moments) is gruesome and may not be for everyone. But if you made it through the last film in the series, you’ll have no problems here.

Ultimately, RAMBO: Last Blood is an unnecessary sequel with an occasionally weak script, but it delivers in the final act. While the CREED films breathed new life into Rocky Balboa, this one doesn’t really manage the same for John Rambo. The story did tug at my heart at some points but it’s the spectacle of action and all the actors’ performances that really earn my recommendation. I do think 2008’s RAMBO should have remained the final entry, but this one is still worth a big screen viewing.