‘Rambo: Last Blood’ Sleepwalks to a Violent Climax 

While the titular character’s trademark compound bow is one of the first images the audience sees in “Rambo: Last Blood,” only eight arrows are fired in the film. It takes some time for the inevitable explosion of violence, that will lead to a vile act of vengeance, to come to fruition in the drawn out, fifth installment of Sylvester Stallone’s PTSD-action franchise. But when the screen lights up there is little enjoyment to be had; instead there is merely a disheartening bloodbath.

We return to our war hero ten years after the events of the previous film, John Rambo (Stallone) seems to have finally found some peace breaking horses and riding them with his “niece” Gabriella (Yvette Monreal) on his massive ranch in Arizona, which he also lives on with her mother, Maria (Academy Award nominee Adriana Barraza). The military vet has also dug a series of tunnels beneath his land, out of deep seated paranoia. Other than to house a small smithing area, they really have no practical purpose save to serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy; Rambo expects war and darkness to follow him home someday.

He spends his time caring for the grounds and crafting practical items at his anvil. When gifting a letter opener that he made for his niece, who will be leaving soon for college, she tells her “Uncle John” that he’s super out of touch with the modern world — nobody mails letters anymore. Gabriella has recently learned the whereabouts of her father in Mexico. Her uncle pleads her not to go, claiming that her father is a terrible person, who abandoned her as a small child, warning that seeing him will only bring pain to her. “People don’t just act bad for no reason,” she naively expresses to him. “I know how black a man’s heart can be,” Rambo warns, “You can’t control what’s out there.”

Gabriella doesn’t listen, of course, and after taking a road trip to Mexico she is dismissed and humiliated by her father, then sold to an underground prostitute ring by the friend who allegedly located her dad’s whereabouts. When Gabriella doesn’t come back Rambo heads to Mexico, discovering that she was taken by the notorious Martinez brothers (Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Oscar Jaenada). With the help of a journalist (Paz Vega) who’s sister was also captured, and later killed by the cartel sex traffickers, Rambo plots a rescue mission, and also revenge. 

That’s pretty much all there is to this Rambo film apart from its expectedly gory climax. It’s basically nothing more than a bare bones “Unforgiven” crossed with “Taken,” the entire conflict revolving around a young woman being sold into slavery, drugged and raped in Mexico, so an American man can save her. The whole idea is lazy, insensitive and overly machismo. One of the villainous Martinez brothers waxes about women having no worth to men, outside their sexual capacity. It’s a dated movie-going experience that offers little enjoyment outside of its laughable awfulness, even walking the line of irredeemable at times, as fas as its moral compass is concerned. The technical craft of the climax is somewhat impressive however and there are a couple of cool kills.

Stallone’s latest, and hopefully last, Rambo film, has the actor looking every bit as worn and weary as the damaged and possibly deranged character himself. Essentially, this Rambo movie sleepwalks through a strange coda: fight terrible acts of violence with more terrible acts of violence. Despite the protagonist’s protective nature, empathy isn’t a word this movie or franchise is concerned with. Viewers prone to get excited watching bad guys fall into a bunch of booby traps and get impaled by nails might give a few claps, but they’re just as likely to check out of the film before Rambo even picks up his hunting bow. 

Rambo: Last Blood” opens Sept. 20 nationwide.