Rambo Kills a Lot of Mexicans in the Virtually Unredeemable ‘Last Blood’
So. Many. Dead. Mexicans. The extreme kills in Rambo: Last Blood are old-school ’80s violent, over-the-top throwback-Thursdays homicidal, regressively Reagan-era Rambonian in their bloody excesses. And this time, the casualties are all literally bad hombres from south of the border. According to the latest and purportedly final installment of this tortured and torture-prone action series, Mexicans really are bringing drugs and crime into the U.S. And they are definitely rapists.
RAMBO: LAST BLOOD ★★ (2/5 stars)
Directed by: Adrian Grunberg
Written by: Matt Cirulnick, Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adriana Barraza, Yvette Monreal
Running time: 89 min
A gung-ho anti-wetback screed that even sports a few loving drone shots of the border wall for good measure, Rambo: Last Blood is uncut geriatric xenophobia. Then again, Vietnam War vet and former Green Beret John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) has never really been an open-minded pacifist. And his experiences as a P.O.W. gave him a lifetime’s worth of psychic damage. So this guerilla-warfare-trained killing machine has always been much more comfortable disemboweling people with a footlong sawtooth knife or ramming a tank into an oncoming Soviet helicopter than he has been making new friends.
He’s battled National Guardsmen in the Pacific Northwest, done prison time, gone back to Vietnam to save M.I.A. soldiers, fought alongside the Mujahedeen against the Russians, and helped mercenaries go into Burma to rescue Christian missionaries. But now, bizarrely enough, he’s become a rancher on the Rambo family horse farm in Arizona. Who knew?
He’s traded in his red bandana head wrap and combat pants for a denim tuxedo and leather fringe chaps. Which makes total sense based on nothing. And he, randomly, seems to have a contended life with an old Hispanic woman named Maria (Adriana Barraza) and her comely college-bound granddaughter Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal), who calls Rambo her Uncle John. He’s also dug out an elaborate series of underground tunnels on the property, because I guess he wants a place where he can trigger his PTSD and also forge letter openers out of Damascus steel.
“I need to go to Mexico,” says Gabrielle. “Why do you want to do that?” says Rambo, palpably shuddering. Seems a friend of hers has found the address of Gabrielle’s long-lost father, who abandoned her as a child when her mother was dying of cancer. And now she wants to meet him, face to face, and ask him why he left. Rambo tells her not to. “I know how black a man’s heart can be,” he says. But the virgin teen sneaks off to Sonora anyway, where the bad guys slip her roofies and sell her to a whorehouse. Oops.
So Rambo hops into his Ford F150 to go down Mexico way and save her. Except a nasty Mexican Cartel kicks his ass and carves up his cheek with a knife. Uh-oh: they just drew first blood. And you never want to draw first blood when you’re dealing with Rambo.
Up until this point, Rambo: Last Blood is full of unknown actors delivering awful dialogue mostly in Spanish and confronting each other with family trauma. So you’re forgiven if you think this is just an uncommonly seedy telenovela. Except for Sly and a glaring Paz Vega, there’s very little onscreen charisma from anyone and a surprisingly low body count. Which means that this movie is grindingly dull and virtually unredeemable.
Except when Rambo goes into a skanky brothel with nothing but a hammer and swiftly pummels a half-dozen men right in their gourds. The bloodlust is very lusty in Rambo: Last Blood. And the climactic battle scene, briskly edited, contains lots of grandiose explosions and hilariously deadly booby traps. Rambo even pulls out his trademark archery skills. And, in the heat of the moment, he starts playing a cassette tape (!) with the Doors singing “No One Here Gets Out Alive.” It’s joltingly, wonderfully, bonkers. Think grindhouse Home Alone. Plus: Rambo rips out a man’s beating heart and shows it to him. That is a thing that happens. And I can never really hate a movie that does that.