Sunday, 10 November 2019

Rambo: Last Blood ★★☆☆☆

In the latest in a long line of films that nobody asked for, Sylvester Stallone explodes back onto the big screen in the supposedly final film of one of his most iconic franchises. 11 years since Sly since wielded the knife, Rambo: Last Blood follows the eponymous hero as he embarks on a journey to Mexico to save his niece who has been kidnapped by a barbaric cartel. As he struggles to make peace with the many demons of his past (ie. all the shit he did in parts 1-4), Rambo must reawaken the killing machine in him one last time as he lays waste to an endless parade of faceless goons.

Firstly – and most importantly for you, Rambo fans – Last Blood is wall-to-wall carnage that more than lives up to its 18 BBFC ratings. The gore on display here is grisly, gut-wrenching and downright uncomfortable to watch at times, making for a viewing experience that isn’t fun or exciting but actually pretty disturbing. While a bit of over-the-top gore onscreen can sometimes make for a humorously over-the-top and fun cinema experience, here it is just downright distressing. When the tone of the film is so serious and dark, the violence of this level does not seem fun or exciting. The squeamish among you be warned – this one is visceral. 

Furthermore, the film is pretty backwards in its stereotypical depiction of Mexico – and for that matter, all Hispanics and Latinos – as being nothing but violence, crime and drugs. The broad stereotyping here is something that should’ve died out in the cinema a long time ago and to see someone like Stallone who should know better reinforcing these stereotypes is hard to swallow. The xenophobia here is extremely dated and jarring, occasionally even crowbarring in some ‘white saviour’ tropes for good measure. Hell, Stallone’s ego needs a good polish every now and then.

On a narrative level, Last Blood doesn’t exactly venture into new territory. Despite attempts at soul-searching and existential introduction to the film through a montage of Rambo living quietly on his ranch, Stallone can’t quite muster up the acting chops to make the character feel even remotely three-dimensional. As with any of his recent films, we’re very aware we’re just watching Sylvester Stallone – who he is playing is totally irrelevant. It could be Rambo, Rocky or the Expendables’ Barney Ross – it’s all the same…

But at the end of the day, this is a bloody Rambo film isn’t it, so I don’t think the average audience is going to give a shit about cultural togetherness and they certainly aren’t going to be offended by violence. And on the grounds of a Rambo film, I suppose it succeeds. It’s hard to criticise it too much for being exactly what it says on the tin. It just so happens that the tin says ‘shit’.

You know exactly what you’re getting with a Rambo film and while the franchise has not even remotely begun to move with the times, long-time fans of the knife-wielding one-man-army are surely going to be delighted with this disturbingly over-the-top gorefest that hopefully does mark the end for the franchise. But hey, I wouldn’t count on it. This is Sylvester Stallone after all, who has already expressed interest in returning to the role again in the near future. God, help us all.

Sam Love

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