By Jason Guyer
Nostalgia can be a wonderful thing in life but in cinema nostalgia has its dark side.
It has been 11 years since we last saw Sylvester Stallone in the role of John James Rambo.
The 2008 film “Rambo” saw him leave Burma to come home by the end of the film.
Now here it is 2019 and we get the latest and probably last installment in the Rambo franchise, “Rambo: Last Blood.”
The film brings John Rambo home — Bowie, Arizona to be precise, and it is here that the Vietnam War veteran John Rambo tries to find peace by raising horses on a ranch.
He lives with Maria Beltran and her granddaughter Gabriella, giving Rambo some semblance of a family as he feels like a father toward the teenage Gabriella.
However, Gabriella chooses to seek out her real father who lives in Mexico. Upon Gabriella’s visit to Mexico, a vicious cartel kidnaps her.
Rambo crosses the border on a bloody and personal quest to rescue her and punish those responsible. This launches the film into the newest version of the patented John Rambo-style fighting and revenge.
There is one huge difference between this film and its predecessors — the brutality. “Rambo: Last Blood” is brutal for brutality’s sake. Brutality is used often in action and horror films but it should never be used to carry a film. This is what “Rambo: Last Blood” tries to do.
The problem is “Rambo: Last Blood” chooses violence over substance. The story evolves in a way that the viewer comes to enjoy the relationship between Rambo and Gabriella.
“Rambo: Last Blood” chooses to take that away as the main plot line and that is okay. The issue is not the main plot line itself, it is what they choose to do with it.
After Gabriella is taken, Rambo rescues her. This obviously gives the film the Rambo experience and sets up a tale of revenge. “The cartel took and hurt my daughter and now they must pay for the harm they have caused my daughter.” Simple and effective.
The film didn’t need to go beyond that. The daughter was drugged and assaulted, do you need more than that for a character to enact revenge?
Personally, I do not for a simple action film. “Rambo” has and always will be an action film franchise.
The audience does not often want more than they bargain for. We all want to see Rambo enact revenge and that is really the point to a Rambo film, but we do not need all that much to set it off. What happens to Gabriella in full is too much and completely unnecessary. The events are brutal and not in action-scene kind of way but in an all-too-real way.
The definition of brutality is savage physical violence; great cruelty. Intense/savage violence or action is good for an action movie but intense cruelty is not.
The characters are put through intense cruelty and it is not necessary to the story, plot line, or the film as a whole.
There are upsides to “Rambo: Last Blood” and that is baseline nostalgia. The audience seeing their favorite characters again is a good thing.
Sylvester Stallone reprising Rambo one last time is a good thing, I just wish the film was better.
Is Stallone’s acting in “Rambo: Last Blood” good? No, but does it have to be?
Stallone is better in the Creed franchise as Rocky Balboa. Rocky was always the better character. Rambo is the simpler character.
Stallone starts to show his age and the action, while fun, is more trap-based and less hand-to-hand or fighting.
The traps are the more fun aspect to Rambo anyway, and in “Rambo: Last Blood,” the traps are the best part.
Just do not let “Rambo: Last Blood” trap you into thinking it is a good film. “Rambo: Last Blood” has its moments, especially in the last 30 minutes, but overall it is tough to watch.
In essence, “Rambo: Last Blood” leaves the Rambo franchise worse off.
Nostalgia may be a driving force in filmmaking these days, and in many ways it should be, but creators should be mindful of their characters.
Creator of John Rambo, David Morrell, was not involved in “Rambo: Last Blood” and maybe he should have been.
Morrell said it best when he told Newsweek, “Instead of being soulful, this new movie lacks one.”
John Rambo’s journey was long and he deserved better because in the end a film without a heart and a soul is just a movie.
“Rambo: Last Blood” is just a movie, and not a very good one.
IRATE SCORE: 1/5
Jason Guyer is an avid moviegoer and works in the graphics department at the Eagle Times. For questions or comments he can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org