Stallone returns with grit and gore in ‘Rambo Last Blood’
Before effects could endear superheroes routinely with advanced super powers, moviegoers cheered other humans empowered with extraordinary strength, and reflexes.
Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin), a cross between an underdog crusader and diversity spreading martial arts guru, dominated the 1970s followed by Sylvester Stallone drawing “First Blood” in the 80s.
Before he took on Rambo, Stallone boxed his way through the mid-70s as underdog Rocky Balboa. As that franchise continued, mercenary John Rambo destroyed an entire battalion of Vietnamese troops, defeated the Russians in Afghanistan and decimated the Burmese military machine. He emerged from battles with little more than a bloody nose in brawling and shooting and stabbing wonders where only the “bad guys” take hits.
Prior to the two mentioned muscle men Gordon Scott (Tarzan) and Steve Reeves (Hercules) played seemingly invincible muscle men. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charles Bronson, Lou Ferrigno, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Bruce Lee have all wielded astronomical strength and a corresponding ability to move faster than everyone else’s fists, bullets or projectiles.
For “Rambo Last Blood,” Stallone’s character has retired to a large cattle ranch where he trains horses and watches over his niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal), who wants to meet her dad who abandoned the family at an early age. On the verge of college, she’s headstrong about at least greeting him. A friend has found him living in nearby Mexico.
As expected, she defies Rambo and mom’s warnings and heads south of the border. Rejected by dad, a little bar hopping places her in the hands of a trafficking cartel.
Give the set designers, production designers and art directors a thumbs up for their transitional imagery once Gabrielle arrives in the dusty, narrow streets and the mixture of occasional ariel glassy architectural pleasantries amidst trash heaps on the verge of collapse. Walking the streets, an unfriendly batch of professional predators watches to lure a youthful ingenue.
When informed of Gabrielle’s plight, Rambo brushes up on his war-time skills vowing: “I’ve lived in a world of death. I’ve watched people I’ve loved die. Some fast with a bullet, some not enough left to bury. All these years I’ve kept my secrets, but the time has come to face my past. And if they come looking for me, they will welcome death. I want revenge. I want them to know that death is coming. And there’s nothing they can do to stop it.”
Rambo’s trip leaves him bloodied and lying in the street. Compare him to Clint Eastwood in “The Mule.”
Action fans will find no surprises and they’ll get their gore as even the last reel drips blood.