*. Rambo: Last Blood got a lot of bad press. Some for being a bad movie, but just as much for being politically incorrect. To wit: its depiction of Mexicans was seen as being racially insensitive, even though (and this was part of the problem) in tune with the thoughts of the then president of the United States.
*. I didn’t care about this part of the movie at all. The depiction of Mexico as a country overrun with gang violence was becoming familiar ground anyway. Hadn’t we just been down these mean streets in Sicario? No, my problem with Last Blood is that it just felt so old.
*. Of course Stallone himself is old. Over 70 now, and I was thankful he at least kept his shirt on. Indeed, his character seems more than happy to sit on the front porch in his rocking chair while keeping his armoury oiled in the tunnels he’s dug beneath his farm. Just don’t call him retired. Nothing is over!
*. What I mean by old is the plot. Yes, this is a Rambo movie. The fifth. Would it have been too much to ask for just a breath of something new, some small hint of originality to register? On the evidence, I guess so.
*. Here are the mechanics. Rambo is semi-retired, let’s say, and living on a ranch in Arizona with a woman who is, I guess, a friend? A housekeeper? Not sure. Anyway, she has a granddaughter named Gabriela (I thought she might be Rambo’s niece) who gets into trouble over the border. Specifically she’s kidnapped by a gang and shot full of drugs and used as a prostitute. Rambo tries to rescue her without having much of a plan and gets the shit beaten out of him. Then he goes back with a plan (he uses a hammer to take out the bad guys) and succeeds in rescuing Gabriela. But she dies on the way back home. Bummer.
*. OK, now it’s personal. So he goes back, again, to Mexico and kills the brother of the gang leader. He actually cuts his head off and leaves a note for his sibling, luring him to Arizona. Of course Rambo has rigged his ranch full of booby traps and when the gang arrives he kills them all, finally cutting the heart out of the leader. Then he rides off into the sunset. No, really. That’s what he does.
*. I know it sounds really cliched and formulaic, but it actually plays even worse than it sounds. There are shots of Rambo sharpening his knife on a stone and all the other cool stuff the hero does when he’s getting ready. The bad guys are killed by all the traps in the most perfunctory ways you can imagine. Or maybe I’ll admit the magnesium shotgun shells looked cool. I don’t know what the point of them was, but they looked cool. But the rest is just routine CGI splatter. Even the finale manages to be both hyperbolic and anticlimactic at the same time.
*. They even give us the cliché of the tough hero doing a slow cool walk through the disco. How many times has that been done? Did Stallone actually start it with that scene in Nighthawks where he’s looking for Rutger Hauer? And he’s still doing the same thing forty years later. I guess if these sorts of things work you just keep doing them over and over again.
*. No point saying anything more. Not a movie that made me angry, but one that shows a complete absence of imagination. The Rocky franchise had managed to reinvent itself around this same time so I guess there were some grounds for hope. But they literally didn’t have a single fresh idea to bring to the table. Just let it go.