The art of filmmaking is a process that takes time and dedication, where skilled artists produce meaningful and poignant pieces of work. Thought and care is a defining role when crafting a film, and the people involved must do their best to release a movie that stands out for its audience. “Rambo: Last Blood,” released Sept. 20, isn’t that film.
This film is the fifth installment in the “Rambo” franchise and is a major departure from the previous films, since it’s more similar to a standard action flick produced by the Cannon Group — a B-movie film company infamous for making generic revenge films — than a war film. The original films are more of a character study of a man damaged by war with a generous amount of classic ‘80s war action on top. “Rambo: Last Blood” stars Sylvester Stallone (“Rocky,” “The Expendables”) as the titular John Rambo. The story takes place 11 years after the end of the last film and follows Rambo’s attempt to save his niece from a gang of human traffickers in Mexico.
Ben: “Rambo” Apologist
The positive aspects of this film are few and far between but, nonetheless, they were certainly there. This movie is not particularly good, but it’s definitely exciting. It’s perfect for renting with some friends and cracking jokes over anything that doesn’t involve gruesome violence, such as the abysmal acting from all the side characters and the terrible shaky cam shots.
The action hits heights of vicerality that are unmatched in the boring modern movie scene. The violence is raw, well-shot and ideal for a night in. There are multiple scenes of brutal dismemberment and gore that rivals a “Saw” film. To the film’s detriment, this violence is almost entirely concentrated at the end of the film, leaving the first 30 minutes or so feeling barren.
The performances are laughably terrible, but Stallone delivers a genuinely powerful performance that made the character more human. He won’t be winning an Oscar for this role, but by the standards of this borderline farce, it seems like something out of a Martin Scorsese picture. John Rambo has never been and will never be a deep character, but he’s certainly passable for what these films try to convey, such as the troubled nature of the character and the desire for peace but need for war. The director’s (Adrian Grunberg) attempts to make him feel like a real person, instead of a generic action man, are certainly appreciated.
The film is oddly refreshing, despite its shortcomings. It’s reminiscent of the days of B-movie gore and violence that did whatever it wanted just for the fun of it. The audience knows it’s in for something special when Rambo interrogates a kidnapper by taking his knife and [redacted] into his [redacted], pulling out the guy’s [redacted] and forcing him to answer or else he’ll [redacted] his [redacted] in half.
The cinematography holds overly long on many shots which really lets everything set in and the mostly practical effects felt weighty and real. Overall, this movie is a throwback to a different era in filmmaking and feels completely unique among all the boring superhero films in theaters nowadays.
Sam: Pretentious “Rambo” Hater
“Rambo: Last Blood” is a concept that has been passed from film series to film series, and this latest iteration simply regurgitates the formula of violence to try and make up for acting so stiff a cardboard cutout of Peter O’Toole could outperform and a story so thin Flat Stanley envies it.
The film follows Rambo as he attempts to topple a Mexican human trafficking ring after his niece is kidnapped. This plotline makes perfect sense because this series was always about the execution of criminal underworlds. It didn’t start off as a fantastic character study about what happens when a man torn by war is thrown into the reality of normal civilian life. None of that actual complex storytelling. Instead, the writers think “bang bang shooty shooty makes a good film and Rambo has big knife and gun.” One lobotomy please.
The camera work is shoddy and amateur, as if the cinematographer Brendan Galvin (“Self/Less,” “Behind Enemy Lines”) was still working to get his bachelor’s degree, with strange zoom-ins and angles that make the characters look stiff. There are scenes that could’ve had impactful emotional moments, but he completely screwed himself over with weird rash decisions. Oh, no, this character is dying, let me have a weird closeup on the truck’s left door frame — that’ll show the importance of this scene.
The only good thing about the film is the last 30 minutes, which is likely where 90 percent of the budget went, considering the other scenes had car sequences that made the “Seinfeld” green screen look photorealistic. The only empathy felt during this entire movie was when Rambo let the horses he raised from birth into the wild, considering all of the human characters make C-Span look like Citizen Kane.
Overall, the movie is a clear excuse to film nonsensical violence. It does accomplish that goal, but only at the expense of everything else the movie could’ve offered. In this age of film, the best way to ensure a profit is a big explosive PG-13 action that’s devoid of any soul.
“Rambo: Last Blood” is one of the most confusing blockbusters to come out in recent times — second only to “Dark Phoenix” (2019) — in its bizarre structure and downright awful writing. However, this film definitely delivers in classic Cannon Group violence that’ll satisfy any appetite for good raw action with a decent budget and effects.
For the utmost viewing pleasure, watch this film by entering the theater 30 minutes late.