Well it has been nearly 40 years since First Blood, and strangely it doesn’t feel anywhere near that. I suppose the first outing of John Rambo, is such a well known film, that people probably mis-remember when they actually watched the darn thing. It has been shown on TV so often, and the home video explosion resulted in people watching First Blood at home, but as time passes by it feels as if they watched it at the movies. It’s the same thing with Rocky. On you go, when did Rocky get released, have a quick think. I will tell you at the end of this review.
So we have established that First Blood arrived to massive reaction on it’s first release, and spawned a few sequels that upped the ante as far as the action and body count went. Happily for this chapter in the story, we see John at his home in Arizona, inherited from his dad, where he rears horses and looks after his friend Maria and her granddaughter Gabrielle. They are his family, so when Gabrielle announces she wants to look for her father who abandoned her as a child, John is against the idea. Of course she disobeys him, gets the relevant info from nasty pal Jezel and winds up in Mexico, and in terrible trouble that leads John to go after her. Things escalate out of control, and John wages war on the drug dealing traffickers that he encounters leading to the films explosive final act.
If the plot sounds straight forward, let me tell you, it is. This is the most matter of fact film that I have watched all year. From the very first scene we are given everything we need to know about the type of film this is. From there it all spills out like the guts of one of John’s victims and as events unfold, you know exactly where the film is going. And that’s exactly what the audience for this film want. The Rambo films are pretty much based around the character of John Rambo, so if we see him in any other way it will only be a disappointment.
There may have been a temptation to do something different with this film, maybe tweak the format and present a new facet of Rambo, present a more subdued film, examine the effects of previous films on John’s fragile psyche and examine how he copes in a society that will never understand him, and vice versa. Nah, forget that, we want Old man Stallone, on a blood crazed vendetta, proving even at his age, he knows how to deliver the goods. There is gore, violence, horror, stabbing, shooting, breaking and beating galore, and the 18 certificate lets you know that’s what’s going to go down, and despite what you think of this approach, this is exactly what fans would want from this sort of film, and anything else would be a let down.
The third act plays out like a horror version of Home Alone and is not for the faint of heart. To take a character like Rambo and do anything else with him, would be like watching a Marvel movie without any super heroes. It wouldn’t make sense, so Stallone delivers a sharp, fast paced revenge movie that plays to the strengths of the character and will please fans of this franchise probably older than you are. To do anything else would be a fail. To go to such a movie and complain about the inherent tropes that define it, is silly. It’s like complaining a horror movie is too scary – that’s the point. So as a Rambo film, this is an unqualified success. It’s so tightly plotted, that it zips by before you know it, and the action sequences are well executed. Stallone shows age is not an issue for a leading man, and there are moments where we feel heartbreak and empathy for the main cast.
Think what you may about Last Blood, it does exactly what it sets out to do , and is very unapologetic while it does it, because that’s the only way this film could succeed. It will be critically slammed, but with a 50 million dollar budget, it will make it’s money back easily, and turn a profit too. Stallone knows this business well. If you are a fan then go and enjoy, if not then avoid it, but you can’t criticise this because it’s not the film you want it to be. Oh, and Rocky was 1976.