Reviewed by: Keith Rowe
Crime related to illegal drugs
Vengeance and revenge
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” —1 Peter 3:9
For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge. I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” —Hebrews 10:30
REVENGE, love replaces hatred—former Israeli soldier and an ex-PLO fighter prove peace is possible-but only with Jesus Christ
Sylvester Stallone … Rambo
Paz Vega … Carmen Delgado
Yvette Monreal … Gabrielle
Louis Mandylor … Sheriff
Óscar Jaenada … Victor Martinez
Sheila Shah … Alejandra
Sergio Peris-Mencheta … Hugo Martínez
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Campbell Grobman Films
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“Everyone has one last fight in them.”
“Rambo: Last Blood” is the fifth film in the series and is the continuation of the John Rambo saga that last graced theaters eleven years ago with the generically titled “Rambo.” From the title, it’s clear that this film is intended to be the final in the franchise. However, as we’ve seen many times before, if a studio is prepared to back a sequel, writers have clever ways of bringing back action heroes. “Last Blood” cannily plays off the title of the first film, “First Blood” (1982), and denotes the completion of a cycle.
The movie opens on John Rambo’s (Sylvester Stallone) ranch in Arizona, where he trains horses, sharpens weapons, and changes light bulbs in the subterranean tunnels that he’s burrowed under his property. Though we aren’t really told how they came to know Rambo, college-aged Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal) and her grandmother live in the farmhouse. Rambo has become like a father to Gabrielle, who was abandoned when she was young.
The plot finds some traction when one of Gabrielle’s friends locates her long-lost father. Unfortunately, the reunion with her father ends on a sour note. To clear her head, Gabrielle accompanies her friend to a nightclub. Soon after, she’s drugged and is taken by a group of sex traffickers. When Gabrielle doesn’t return home the next day, Rambo goes in search of Gabrielle’s abductors. Cue the bloodletting.
As can be gleaned from that nutshell overview, the story, by Stallone and Dan Gordon, is fairly predictable and uncomplicated. The movie is also slowly paced…nothing of import happens during the first half hour. The dialog, by Stallone and Matthew Cirulnick, is trite (“Feel my rage, feel my hate!”), but is actually a good fit for the laconic hero.
The direction by Adrian Grunberg is solid during the action scenes, but unimaginative for the bulk of the film. In his defense, “Last Blood” looks like a low budget production—the same half dozen sets/locations are repeatedly reused throughout the movie, i.e. Rambo’s farm/tunnels, the nightclub in Mexico, the stoop of Gabrielle’s father’s house, Gabrielle’s friend’s house, etc.
As would be expected from its R-rating, “Last Blood” has a diverse array of violent acts and objectionable content…
“Last Blood” is a bit deceptive with respect to its action: the first half of the movie is pretty low-key, but the second half is an all-out splatter-fest. Detailing the many grisly deaths in the movie would make this review just as offensive and gratuitous as the movie itself, which I will try to avoid.
Instead, I’ll only underscore a few key instances of the senseless barbarism that inhabits the back half of story as a deterrent to those inclined to see this film. The overblown ending features many people being slaughtered in many different ways. Indeed, Rambo kills the “bad guys” with pretty much anything he can get his hands on, including: knives/machetes, guns/rifles, arrows from a bow, a hammer, a pickax and even an old, rusty pipe. He tosses a grenade at one person, who explodes in a geyser of blood.
During the climatic showdown, Rambo sets a series of booby traps around and below his house in preparation for the arrival of the thugs who kidnapped Gabrielle. Mercenaries fall into spike-pits, trigger wall-mines and trip wires that bring down logs with metal spikes in them, etc. I’m not sure if this makes Rambo more or less humane, but after every instance of a person falling victim to one of his traps, he finishes them off with a hail of bullets. The entire tunnel assault plays out like a more lethal, less light-hearted variation on the well-executed standoff in “Home Alone.”
Although there are many graphic displays in the movie, there are, by my estimation, three excessively gory scenes. As a means of extracting information, Rambo cuts a man with a knife, sticks his finger into the man’s bleeding chest and grabs the end of his broken collar bone. Rambo threatens to break it off if he doesn’t get the information he wants.
In arguably the most shocking tableau in the movie, Mexican police walk into a room and see the bloody corpse of a headless man sitting on his bed. The next scene shows Rambo reaching out the driver’s side window of his pickup truck and dropping the person’s decapitated head onto the asphalt as he drives down an open road. Though, both scenes only last a few seconds, they’re exceedingly heinous.
The final showdown between Rambo and the leader of the gang is protracted and gruesome. Rambo sticks a knife into the man’s chest and then slowly cuts his way down the abdomen. Just when you think the scene can’t possibly get any bloodier, Rambo reaches into the man’s chest and pulls out his beating heart.
Though the movie doesn’t have any sex scenes per se, one of its subplots deals with sex trafficking. In a brothel, we see many scantily-clad women. One woman is beaten as an example to the other women of what not to do with the customers. To infiltrate the sex trafficking ring and rescue Gabrielle, Rambo poses as a potential customer and asks for a “young one,” which implies an underage female.
Early in the movie, we see a young couple making out in one of Rambo’s underground passageways. Later, Gabrielle’s friend asks her if she’s a virgin and then says she was just joking. A man lays a woman down in the passenger seat of his truck and prepares to have his way with her when Rambo intercedes.
Both in the tunnel party early in the movie and during two nightclub scenes in Mexico, we see cups or bottles of beer and glasses of wine or other alcoholic beverages. Gabrielle’s friend admits “I drank too much.” Her bad decision, while inebriated, leads to Gabrielle’s abduction.
Drugs are also present: in one scene we see a man bend over and snort something, but we’re kept from seeing the actual substance. In another scene, we see someone making lines of cocaine. A man puts a drug into a drink and we’re left to assume that this is what incapacitates Gabrielle. Later, we see a needle with drugs being injected into Gabrielle’s forearm.
Even though cursing is never appropriate, the characters in this movie swear even when there’s no motivation to do so. The total breakdown of expletives is staggering. There are at least 20 F-words in the movie. Also, there are a half dozen utterances of s**t. There are 5 instances of b**ch and a couple occurrences of H**l.
For a mindless shoot-‘em-up, “Last Blood” has a significant amount of spiritual content (whether intended or not). One of the movie’s ongoing themes deals with the heart. Gabrielle has a hole in her heart from being orphaned. After suffering a loss, Gabrielle’s grandmother says she feels like her heart’s been cut out. The grief in Rambo’s heart drives him to literally rip out his enemy’s heart.
Gabrielle is driven to find her father despite the fact that he left when she was young. This drives her to disobey her grandmothers’ warning not to seek out her father. Her father proves to be every bit the monster her grandmother described when he tells Gabrielle that he never wanted her and that she never meant anything to him. This unpleasant reunion intensifies Gabrielle’s feelings of abandonment, which leads to her life-altering decision. It’s too bad she forgets about Rambo’s track record of faithfulness as her guardian. Of course, whether she knows it or not, her heavenly Father will never leave or forsake her (Deuteronomy 31:6).
When Rambo sets out to rescue Gabrielle, rather than murder his adversaries (Exodus 20:13), he could use his special forces training to simply incapacitate them. Of course, the recurring theme, and you might even say the structural spine, of these “Rambo” films is revenge. While an “eye for an eye” mentality might feel justified to the aggrieved characters, “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
The theme of change is briefly explored in the movie. Gabrielle wonders if her father could change from the heartless person portrayed by her grandmother. Rambo expresses his doubt, but Gabrielle points out that Rambo himself has changed. Rambo rejects that notion, saying that he’s “just trying to keep a lid on it.” Sadly, when Gabrielle disappears, the lid comes off (as do the gloves) and Rambo reverts to his murderous ways. So can people change? The movie is pessimistic on the subject. The Bible proves otherwise…
What does the Bible mean about being born-again (regeneration)? Answer
To its credit, the film raises awareness of the horrors of sex trafficking. The young women are beaten, abused and treated like animals. One of the captors says of the women, “They have no worth,” and “They’re not people.” Besides being utterly callous and cruel, these statements are patently false. All of God’s creatures have inherent value.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” —Matthew 10:29-31 NKJV
The movie contains a number of Biblical parallels. It’s hard to know if such spiritual salience was included by design or by accident. Here are just a few instances of Christian symbolism in the film:
Gabrielle’s friend sells her out to the sex traffickers (shades of Judas’ betrayal of Christ in Matthew 26:14-16).
Rambo is silent before his enemies, just like Christ remained silent before his accusers (Matthew 27:12). The messianic allegory is extended when Rambo is beaten by a mob and left for dead. His face is swollen and there’s a pool of blood around his head.
Rambo is rescued and given medical attention by a woman he’s never met, Carmen Delgado (Paz Vega). Carmen’s selfless act qualifies her as a Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
Rambo enters the brothel, frees the other girls and rescues Gabrielle. Not only does the scene play out in a similar manner to Bryan Mills’ (Liam Neeson) rescue of his daughter in “Taken” (2009), it also reflects the many times God rescued His people in the Bible (Psalm 107:14).
Rambo shoots an arrow into each of the gang leader’s limbs. The man stands in the shape of an “X.” Though in a different configuration than Christ’s cross, this “X” shaped cross (Crux Decussata, also known as “St. Andrew’s Cross”) was commonly used during Roman crucifixions.
Again, these scenes affirm that the movie has some spiritual relevance, despite its straightforward action movie premise.
Though it has parts of a relevant story (subplots involving sex trafficking, PTSD and abandonment), “Last Blood” never really coalesces into a complete film. The story is also extremely uneven; a slow start gives way to an uber-bloody climax. At just under an hour and a half, “Last Blood” doesn’t overstay its welcome, so that’s a plus.
Though Stallone is a bit stiff at times, he’s ended the franchise on his own terms and even gets to ride off into the sunset. However, this isn’t the send-off this beloved action hero deserved. Now that we’re done with “Last Blood,” it’s time for some new blood (which will come next year in a remake with young actor Tiger Shroff).
The best part of the movie is a series of clips from the earlier Rambo films that play during the end credits.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.