Rambo: Last Blood
At the climax of Rambo: Last Blood, when our hero John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) slices open a foe’s chest and literally rips out his heart, I was close to shouting, “Eat it!” — ideally followed by a triumphant squeal from the noisy toddler one row behind me at the 9:50 p.m. opening night screening.
The fifth Rambo film is so ridiculous and poorly conceived that audience participation seems warranted, though mostly as a means of engaging with the ugly filmmaking and hyper-violent content shepherding the somehow still-standing Vietnam vet’s retrieval of his M.I.A. niece from a Mexican prostitution ring. (Apparently, Miss Bala has its fans.)
Irredeemably shitty on technical, narrative, and dramatic levels, the latest from Adrian Grünberg (Get the Gringo) isn’t filmmaking as much as forehead-smacking dialogue and gratuitous bloodletting that just so happened to be caught on camera.
While there’s some amusement in Rambo’s elaborate prepper montage and these weapons’ usage on his property’s inevitable invaders — especially when he hits “play” on a fitting Doors number while he kills them (not so) softly — it takes a while to get there.
Patiently awaiting basic thrills, viewers must first contend with crude extreme close-ups meant to highlight the emotion and desperation of certain moments, but that wind up amplifying the cast’s and crew’s copious shortcomings.
The easiest target in a barrelful of lethargic fish, marble-mouthed Stallone — God help us if he makes a film with the similarly incomprehensible Nick Nolte — makes arguably his strongest case yet that he should have retired after Cliffhanger. Even when his dialogue can be understood, it’s mostly clichés and isn’t delivered with a hint of investment on the actor’s part.
And yet, there are scattered moments in Last Blood that make one wonder what an imaginative director could do with this tired material, a la Ryan Coogler with Creed. In particular, one can picture a Snorri-cam on Rambo as he approaches his chief antagonist in the aforementioned big showdown — a small stylistic choice that shows Grünberg gives half a damn about what’s being put on screen instead of merely finding the quickest, cheapest way to complete the production.
But that’s not what this series has become, a point driven home extra strong by a closing montage of the saga’s better days, recalling a golden era before Stallone was spinning his wheels and stretching his beloved characters beyond recognition with each new chapter.
His latest autopilot effort may be his worst sequel yet and makes Hobbes & Shaw look like the frontrunner for Best Picture.
Grade: D. Rated R. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande, and Carolina Cinemark