The story of John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) begins in First Blood, when a sheriff harasses the returning Vietnam veteran and declares war in his small town. The last time we saw John Rambo, he finally returned to the States to his father’s horse farm. In Rambo: Last Blood, home becomes his final battleground.
Catching up with the Rambos
I love seeing Rambo just living a life. He’s been a tragic hero this whole time. He helps people but he never has a home for himself. Just seeing Rambo maintaining a ranch and tending to horses is meaningful, and when the notes of “A Long Road” by Dan Hill play, they’re still haunting.
Living a peaceful life is still complicated for Rambo. He still has Vietnam flashbacks and he’s taking medication to cope. He explains to his niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal) that he’s just trying to keep a lid on his turmoil every day. That is the price Rambo will always pay for becoming a trained killing machine, but it seems preferable to hiding out in war zones waiting for more violence to find him.
Violence can still find Rambo at home though. Gabrielle wants to go find her father in Mexico. That makes sense as a real issue that could face the daughter of a mixed marriage. Rambo tries to talk her out of it but no one can stop a human being’s curiosity, let alone a teenager’s. He should have just gone with her, but trying to save her from getting hurt only drives her to go in secret.
Rambo has a very particular set of skills
Obviously, Gabrielle goes to Mexico anyway, and even worse than her father proving Rambo right, Gabrielle falls victim to human traffickers. Now if Liam Neeson can find his daughter in Eastern Europe, you know John Rambo can find Gabrielle in Mexico. It’s Rambo in a Taken movie, which is fair because the Taken sequels became Rambo movies. This is an ultra-violent R-rated Taken movie.
The trailers have already revealed the explosive climax on the farm, so it’s obvious that’s where it’s all going to end as soon as Rambo gives the audience a tour of his underground tunnel system in the beginning. Indeed, it ends when the traffickers chase him back to his home, and he’s set up booby traps to pick them off one by one.
The most satisfying ‘Rambo’ yet
It’s funny to think how these movies were always symbols of Hollywood’s gratuitous violence. They were bloody, but blood was the worst they could show in the ‘80s. Well he did shoot a single Vietcong with an exploding arrow tip.
Now there are no limits to the extent of the graphically brutal vengeance Rambo can take on his niece’s tormentors. 2008’s sequel was already exponentially more graphic. Last Blood takes violence so far it almost has to be the last blood because there’s no more blood left. Remember when the most graphic scene in First Blood was when he cleaned his arm wound with his knife?
The violence would be comically graphic, except Rambo takes it completely seriously. He is sincere about violence because it’s his world. The military trained him to be their ultimate weapon. Violence is his language but he’s an artist, so his retaliation is elegantly twisted.
The over the top brutality is utterly satisfying because these human traffickers deserve it. Nothing will undo the pain they’ve caused Gabrielle and so many other women, but Rambo can rid the world of them, and make them hurt as much as possible before they go. It’s a relentlessly savage finale.
A politically incorrect action hero?
This wouldn’t be the first time Rambo was on the wrong side of history. This is a franchise whose hero aided the mujahideen just before they became the bad guys in real life. Mexican stereotyping raises issues in Last Blood.
It didn’t have to be a specifically Mexican trafficking ring. There are, sadly, human traffickers everywhere so it could have been a generic trafficking ring and still dealt with the damage human trafficking does.
I don’t watch the film and blame Mexicans as a whole for all the human trafficking crimes, but I have perspective. I hope all viewers have that perspective. I’d hate for Rambo to do more harm than good. The generic Mexican villains in Last Blood bothered me less than the ones in Peppermint, but I’m not the one who feels the effects of that stereotyping every day.
Saying goodbye, or just ‘See you later’
If this is Stallone’s final time as Rambo, it leaves him in a poignant place. I believe in Stallone and if he can keep up his stamina another few decades I’ll always be ready to catch up with Rambo again. If he doesn’t, and it would truly be the first time he didn’t revisit his franchise, there’s still always talk about prequels. There’s 20 years between 1988 and 2008’s sequels so there’s plenty of room to fill in.