A Film Review by Tim Riley


RAMBO: LAST BLOOD” (Rated R) Early in his career, Sylvester Stallone had many uncredited minor roles in a variety of films. In Woody Allen’s comedy “Bananas,” he played a thug who terrorized riders on a New York subway. Maybe this was the start to his film career as a tough guy.

Notably, Stallone is known for two successful franchise roles, the most significant and enduring being that of underdog boxer Rocky Balboa in the “Rocky” films. The other, of course, is the role of former Green Beret soldier John Rambo.

The fifth and possibly last installment, given the film’s title, of the “Rambo” franchise is “Rambo: Last Blood,” a brutal revenge story that is likely to be panned by many critics repulsed by anything remotely tuned to a “Death Wish” fantasy.

It will be interesting to find out if general audiences will be more approving of Rambo’s last stand, and my guess is that it will be more thumbs-up than down for the geriatric Stallone fully engaged once again as a killing machine.

At the end of the Rambo’s adventures in Burma in 2008’s “Rambo,” he returned to the United States and was seen walking down a dusty path to a horse ranch and past a rusted mailbox inscribed with his family name.

Eleven years later in “Last Blood,” Rambo has settled down on the family’s sprawling ranch in Arizona, where he’s found sanctuary and a sense of belonging, sharing his home with his adoptive family, Maria Beltran (Adriana Barraza) and her granddaughter Gabriela (Yvette Monreal).

A Vietnam veteran, Rambo is still afflicted with PTSD for which he pops pills on a regular basis. What’s more he’s better equipped that a small nation with an arsenal of firearms, swords, knives, claymore mines and even homemade weapons.

To the teenaged Gabriela soon to depart for college, Rambo has been a father figure that she calls Uncle John as she was abandoned by her father when she was little after her mother died of cancer.

From old friend Gizelle (Fenessa Pineda) in Mexico, Gabriela learns that her biological dad is living south of the border. Eager to find out why he left his family, Gabriela insists that she must learn the truth.

Knowing that the father was abusive and uncaring, Maria and Rambo try to dissuade Gabriela from a foolhardy venture but to no avail. Leaving the ranch in defiance, Gabriela travels across the border.

The reunion with the father ends in harsh rejection, and the next morning, when Gabriela doesn’t return home, a primal instinct kicks in for Rambo. Naturally, he sets out to find Gabriela, vowing to Maria he will not return without her.

The worst fears are realized when Rambo learns that Gabriela had been kidnapped from a nightclub and drugged by really bad guys that are part of a cartel running a sex trafficking operation that places young women into a prostitution ring.

In his first encounter with the bad guys in Mexico, Rambo suffers a beating so vicious that he’s left for dead, with ringleader Victor Martinez (Oscar Jaenada) carving a scar into his face.

Rescued by crusading journalist Carmen (Paz Vega), Rambo ends up in her care for several days until his wounds heal. As expected, he exacts revenge in a killing spree and saves a badly damaged Gabriela from a prostitution parlor.

The journalist, who fears for her safety from the vicious cartel that she’s investigating, had good reason to help Rambo. Her sister had been kidnapped and murdered by the same gang.

Leaving behind a pointed message for Victor’s brother Hugo (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) who runs the cartel, Rambo heads back to the ranch to prepare for the all-out war that will inevitably come to his door.

As we know from the beginning, Rambo’s expansive ranch property features an elaborate series of underground tunnels that are most likely in place as a reminder of wartime in Vietnam.

Elaborate planning is undertaken to prepare for the army of heavily-armed thugs of the Martinez cartel. Rambo booby traps his property with everything from mines and shotgun triggers to the type of terrifying traps and devices used by the Vietcong.

The grisly mayhem and graphic violence that comes when the bloodthirsty Hugo and his henchmen stage the siege on the ranch is an epic, vengeance-fueled showdown that is fast-paced, brutal and extremely grisly.

We know from the past that Rambo has well-honed survival skills such that a couple of dozen vicious hombres are no match for a guy pushed to bring retribution, suffering and death to those who have caused pain.

Rambo: Last Blood” allows the war hero to seek revenge that is entirely predictable. Watching him prepare every deadly trap is to know exactly what is in store for those foolish enough to fight on his turf.

Any doubt about the outcome of Rambo’s battle indicates a lack of familiarity with the deadly skills this warrior has employed going back to “First Blood,” the original installment.