Now, I’m not a particularly huge fan of the Rambo franchise, except in one case. I frickin’ love the first movie, ‘First Blood’. ‘First Blood’ is a brilliant action film; it comes highly recommended on my part. Although, the first film’s success might have had something to do with the fact that they largely had to base it on its original book. If you want to know how close it was to the original book, might I recommend watching Dominic Noble’s YouTube video.
This film boasted to be the final movie in the franchise, bringing on new director, Adrian Grunberg, a former second unit and assistant director on several films, including ‘Jack Reacher’, ‘Edge of Darkness’, ‘Legend of Zorro’, ‘Master and Commander’, ‘Apocalypto’; the man’s got his credentials. However, he’s only relatively recently started breaking out on his own as a full-time director, having only directed one feature prior to this movie, ‘Get The Gringo’.
‘Rambo: Last Blood’ has largely been a project that’s been funded through Sylvester Stallone’s production company, Balboa Productions, but it’s also been funded through famous hackhouse, Millenium Pictures. Last time I ended up talking about one of their films, it was ‘Angel Has Fallen’.
So, does ‘Last Blood’ end the Rambo franchise on a good scale? While, as mentioned previously, I’m not a huge fan of the franchise, but the first two films actually do a really good job. This time the plotline concerns an older Rambo (played once again by Sylvester Stallone) almost in retirement, running a ranch and looking after his niece, Gabrielle, played by Yvette Monreal. She, however, crossed the border one night to look for her father. After the encounter doesn’t go so well, she’s taken into slavery by the Martinez brothers, Victor and Hugo, played by Oscar Jaenada and Sergio Peris-Mencheta. Rambo then crosses the border himself to bring her home.
Yeah, despite the fact that the trailers have this idea of ‘It’s-a-Rambo-version-of-Logan’, this much more resembles ‘Taken’ – the entire time I was watching it, I was getting so many flashbacks to ‘Taken’, and that’s not really what I think people are expecting going into a Rambo film. That’s not to say it’s completely unrecognisable, but it’s not exactly what you’d expect. It frankly doesn’t feel like there’s been much character growth for Rambo himself, despite the fact that this film is taking place towards the end of his life. With the exception of a few lines at the beginning, you almost wouldn’t believe that Rambo had had that experience of ‘First Blood’. Anyone who remembers the ending of the first movie will tell you that that experience would have changed a man.
The entire first act of ‘Last Blood’ goes on a little too long, the second act is a bit bloated and the third act just feels like a stereotypical revenge movie. In fact, the entire time it feels like you’re going through the motions. This film oozes being one which was meant to go straight to DVD or even straight to Netflix but was just decided at the last minute to receive a theatrical release, not helped by the fact that Millenium Pictures is on the production company’s financing. This is truly evident through the special effects and the way action scenes are shot; while some of these scenes are actually fairly well done, many if not most of them feel overwhelming. Now let’s talk about the effects. The practical effects are actually fairly decent. There’s some real blood-curdling stuff in this movie, an interrogation during the second act being a particular highlight. But then, it’s very clear the film was on a tight budget because the computer effects are not so good. It’s probably one of the reasons why there’s so many camera cuts during many of the action scenes – they’re trying to cover up the lacklustre effects by quick-cutting the scenes and, as a result, the action doesn’t feel like it flows very well. Many of them are shot rather weirdly and, as I mentioned before, don’t have much of a flow to them. Action directors need to remember this because it’s definitely something that’s becoming forgotten.
That being said, Stallone’s performance definitely doesn’t feel like he’s going through the motions – I get the sense that he really wants to cap off the character. This is boosted by the fact that he’s an executive producer on the film and also has a writing credit, both in the story development and the actual screenplay. However, unlike the recent Creed movies, this is not going to revitalise people’s interest in what is arguably his second most famous character. See, the ‘Creed’ movies offer a sense of progression for Rocky in his twilight years. ‘Rambo: Last Blood’ does not offer that to its character. I almost wish they had ripped off Logan; that probably would have been a more interesting film than the one we got.
The side cast is rather underwhelming; there’s not much to really talk about with them. You barely know anything about the Martinez brothers, and they don’t really feel like they have that much of a presence. Compare that to say, Teeg, from First Blood. Teeg is an excellent adversary for Rambo for several reasons, and as a result plays a great foil to Rambo in those scenes. The Martinez brothers are so underwhelming its unbelievable. To use wrestling terms, they do manage to get their heat in, but it feels like cheap heat. What’s more, this film really does leave me in a weird position that I can’t talk much about to avoid spoilers because, well, it’s a very short film. Like, phenomenally short. It barely misses out at being an hour and a half, coming in at an hour and 29 minutes. But, with its terrible pacing, manages to feel like it’s going on for much longer.
‘Rambo: Last Blood’ is probably technically one of the worst films I’ve seen this year but on a personal level, I don’t want to say it’s incredibly awful but just rather dull and underwhelming. What was sold to us as an examination of a classic action hero turns into a rather dull director video-outing which somehow got a theatrical release. Stallone is desperately trying to give a decent send-off to one of the roles that made him famous, but this film comes off as rather unnecessary. I hope they finally just end this franchise once and for all, I don’t need another one showing up ten years from now.
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