Rambo: Last Blood

“I know how black a man’s heart can be…”

It’s been 37 years since we were first introduced to John Rambo (First Blood; 1982)—an emotionally damaged Vietnam War vet who if triggered, had the skills, capacity and inclination to wreak havoc.

Rambo’s back in this fifth and apparently “final” revenge-fantasy-franchise installment. Critics have lambasted the film as racist (anti Mexican) and outrageously gory (pornographically so): and it is. But aren’t all the Rambo films? Isn’t that why audiences went to see them—why it’s a thirty-seven-years-later commodity?

John Rambo, much older now but apparently no less volatile, resides in his dead father’s Norman Rockwell-like house in the countryside of Arizona. He’s been a mentor and father figure to Gabriella (Yvette Monreal) a cantankerous teenager, and he’s also a benign source of employment for Gabriella’s grandmother Maria (Adriana Barraza).

Tranquility is the order of the day: sunshine, sunsets and horses. But Gabriella switches the script when she travels to Mexico to meet her real father, the one that abandoned she and her mother many years ago. Shortly after her arrival Gabriella is drugged, kidnapped, and sold into the sex industry. Her abusers are two notorious brothers: Hugo (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) and Victor (Oscar Jaenada). Oh, and they also turn her into a heroin addict and carve an “X” into her left cheek.

To the rescue, of course is, Rambo. Beheadings, dismemberments, hatchet murders, burnings, bombings, hangings, bludgeonings, impalements, and detailed eviscerations are on high-color-CGI-enhanced flamboyant display. So are the novel tools of the assassination trade: hammers, machetes, meat hooks, drills, projectiles, saws, nail laden planks, grenades, fire-throwing guns, axes, bow and arrows, shot guns, hand guns and machine guns.

Director Adrian Grunberg delivers what fans of the franchise expect (with large concessions to the international market; lengthy dialogue-less scenes and extended sequences with characters speaking in Spanish). And Stallone, at 73, gives it his all: he’s fit, agile and ready to do what he’s supposed to do: entertain.

Payback, apparently, really is a bitch!

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Josiah Howard

Josiah Howard is the author of four books including “Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide” (now in a fourth printing). His writing credits include articles for the American Library of Congress, The New York Times and Readers Digest. A veteran of more than one hundred radio broadcasts, Howard also lectures on cinema and is a frequent guest on entertainment news television.

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