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In Theaters: RAMBO: LAST BLOOD (2019)

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RAMBO: LAST BLOOD
(US/China/Sweden - 2019)

Directed by Adrian Grunberg. Written by Matt Cirulnick and Sylvester Stallone. Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Oscar Jaenada, Adriana Barraza, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Yvette Monreal, Pascasio Lopez, Marco de la O, Fenessa Pineda. (R, 89 mins)

When Sylvester Stallone resurrected his second-most iconic character after a 20-year break with 2008's RAMBO, nobody expected the ferocious and relentlessly over-the-top gorefest that he delivered. Packed with endless stabbings, slashings, eye gougings, throat rippings, decapitations, dismemberments, disembowelings, heads blown off, arrows through the skull, and virtually every other ultra-violent way to be killed, RAMBO was a kick in the balls that felt like Stallone had perhaps spent some prep time binge-watching a stack of '80s Italian splatter epics with his Eurocult superfan son and Grindhouse Releasing co-founder Sage, who would die unexpectedly in 2012. RAMBO ended with the title character returning to the family ranch in Arizona after slaughtering half of Burma in a quest to rescue some abducted American missionaries, and RAMBO: LAST BLOOD picks up a decade later, with Rambo living a quiet life raising both horses and his 17-year-old niece Gabriella (Yvette Monreal), after her mom--Rambo's sister--succumbed to cancer ten years earlier. Also living with them is beloved housekeeper Maria (BABEL Oscar-nominee Adriana Barraza), who took care of Rambo's late father and is like a grandmother to Gabriella. Everything is going well until headstrong but naive Gabriella, against Rambo's and Maria's wishes, goes to Mexico alone in search of her deadbeat father (Marco de la O), looking for answers as to why he abandoned her after her mother died.





Meeting up with Gizelle (Fenessa Pineda), a friend who now lives in the area, Gabriella knocks on her father's door and is cruelly rejected, which leads to the two girls going to a nearby club where Gabriella is roofied and taken to the stronghold of the Martinez brothers--Victor (Oscar Jaenada) and Hugo (Sergio Peris-Mencheta)--powerful crime bosses who run a lucrative sex and human trafficking ring. Rambo makes his way south of the border and is unprepared for the beatdown he gets from the Martinez brothers, with Hugo promising to make Gabriella's life a living hell and unwisely letting Rambo live so he can think about it every day. Rambo is nursed back to health by Carmen Delgado (Paz Vega), a journalist who's been tracking the Martinez brothers after they killed her sister three years earlier. Undeterred--and with a fresh "X" carved into his face by Victor--Rambo stages a daring rescue of Gabriella, who's been beaten and hooked on heroin by Martinez goons, and heads back to the Rambo homestead, where he prepares for an inevitable showdown.


Using the tried-and-true "this time it's personal" approach, the script owes more to TAKEN than to anything conceived by author David Morrell, whose 1972 novel First Blood was the basis of the 1982 film that started the franchise (and who's gone on the record as hating this new film) or by the Rambo that Stallone played back in the '80s (in its earliest stages, this fifth RAMBO was conceived with a sci-fi/horror angle, with Rambo helping track a PREDATOR-type alien creature, an idea that was wisely shitcanned). It all leads to a graphically gory tribute to HOME ALONE, as Rambo sets up a ton of Rube Goldberg-ian booby traps around the ranch and in a series of tunnels he's spent years constructing under the property as he leaves no kill method unutilized in his annihilation of the Martinez crew. It's cartoonish in the extreme, and its depiction of Mexico--portrayed here by Bulgaria--is straight out of a Donald Trump fever dream, a MAGA doomsday scenario complete with a shithole shantytown where a wholesome, virginal American girl is in immediate and constant danger and everyone who hasn't already joined a migrant caravan is a leering, lip-smacking rapist, a drug dealer, a corrupt cop, or a whore, and not even a close friend can be trusted (Gizelle sells Gabriella out to the sex traffickers, and even steals her bracelet which, of course, Rambo notices). Even in the glory days of '80s action movies, there was almost always a decidedly right-wing slant to these kinds of things, but it certainly has an added dimension in today's more aggressively partisan climate knowing that this scenario is the kind of bloodbath revenge fantasy that seems specifically designed to make Lou Dobbs come.


Nevertheless, it moves so briskly and Stallone is still so good at what he does that it's entertaining if you just accept it for the garbage exploitation movie that it is, headlined by a 73-year-old living legend methodically killing an endless parade of scuzzy shitbags in the most ridiculously blood-splattered ways imaginable, making this as close as we're likely to get to a DEATH WISH 3-level experience at a multiplex in 2019. Running just under an hour and a half and with the closing credits rolling at 79 minutes, RAMBO: LAST BLOOD does feel like it's been cut to the bone, especially with Vega's character, who just vanishes from the film after she agrees to help Rambo some more (also, marvel at how Rambo somehow manages to make it back across the border offscreen with what we must assume was no hassle even though there's a strung-out teenage girl in the passenger seat of his truck). Reports have already surfaced that the overseas version runs another 12 minutes and has an opening sequence where Rambo rescues a pair of stranded hikers caught in a storm. This prologue--likely to turn up on the eventual Blu-ray--was cut shortly before the North American release and obviously explains why Louis Mandylor is still in the credits as the sheriff but nowhere to be found in the film.




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