RAMBO: LAST BLOOD has not been received well. But it has gained plenty of attention.
And it’s great to see Sylvester Stallone back in Action.
AMAZING score, too, from Brian Tyler, as always!
So what’s the problem with the latest film? It’s nasty. It appears to pit Rambo against a specific group, rather than have him trapped in the middle of a conflict between nations / factions as before. He talks too much. He is now a man of property and even community, thereby meaning that all he can do is regress rather than progress.
Rambo was never Rocky, but they shared some sense of optimism at heart; the man against the odds, the system and a primal rage placed in service of an almost childlike innocence as ironic contrast. Stallone excels at that as an actor and his writing style, generally ‘got’ the essence of his characters and what made them cool.
So it’s a shame that LAST BLOOD = Logan + Skyfall + No Country for Old Men + Taken..yet not as good as any of those and lacking the soul, heart and above all, the bandanna of a solid Rambo movie. Cut his hair; sure. But NEVER lose his trademark battle outfit 😉
That said? The film IS getting talked about and Sly is STILL vital, and those last action scenes and closing montage are excellent, ‘imho’. Makes one curious for more, at least one more adventure? If that were to be commissioned, there were alternative drafts for the fifth film that could be harnessed, alongside the mooted prequel series for streaming. Here’s a list of old ideas, cobbled together from multiple gossip sources for ideas for Rambo 4 AND 5...that could still give us a Rambo..6?
- RAMBO VS TALIBAN
Seriously, this was almost a ‘thing’. Post 9/11, especially, it was knocked around as a possibility. Also as a way of apologising for the perceived simplicity of Rambo 3 in Afghanistan. Send him BACK there to confront an element of the old order who had previously helped him against the Soviets. Perhaps he was rescuing another friend FROM corruption by Taliban /Al-Qaeda forces? Proving one of his old friends was innocent of conspiring with Bin Laden, via extraction FROM a terror training camp?
So you’d have a big bad villain worthy of the old Cold War menaces that everyone feared in the war on terror; but still some socio-political complexity and depth, with Rambo again trapped in a struggle between competing forces and factions. Think the blood, guts and action fun of First Blood part 2..but with the heart, soul and depth of the first film? I would genuinely have loved to see this.
Could they do it again? Maybe: Rambo in Syria, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, an increasingly draconian China? The possibilities for a genuinely current thriller do exist, if done correctly and without losing the fun.
- RAMBO VS MILITIA
The Alt-Right. They are not ‘nice’, whatever your actual socio-economic politics. And in Timothy McVeigh, you have a poster boy for the extreme dark side of what one might term ‘right’ wing. An absolute belief in the imminent, even current, destruction of America at an almost apocalyptic level, they are drawn and driven to the madness of hate and ultimately, violence. McVeigh ‘masterminded’ the Oklahoma bombing of 1995. It was a devastating act of terror.
It also shook Hollywood to the core. On the one hand, they considered withholding action fare that summer if ‘terror’ appeared to be trivialised (honestly, Die Hard 3 was almost iced?). On the other? McVeigh provided a new face for evil, for the goodies to slay like a dragon.
And so it was that we almost had Ethan Hunt, Martin Riggs and yes, John Rambo take on militia groups. None of those proposals made it to the screen. But in Rambo’s case, it was more intriguing because the pitch apparently involved a confrontation in the mountains between Rambo and an organisation whose leader might have been played by Brian Dennehy from First Blood?
This would have had Rambo finish his war, on home turf, whilst remaining an exotic action piece with helicopters, machine guns and our hero taking out a private army, whilst confronting a real world villainy and finding some closure in his own character arc, via location. Missed opp. Definitely. But could be re-tooled, too, for part 6. AND, thematically, ending the final conflict on native American reservation land, as mooted..makes logical and visual sense.
- RAMBO VS PREDATOR?
Don’t laugh. This makes sense. In a way. A minor flip in genre, veering into sci-fi yet still ‘possible’. Around 2009, a script was circulating in which Rambo and a team of special forces veterans would be tasked with taking down a genetically enhanced super-soldier. Not compatible? Not realistic? Well, the Jason Bourne series arguably covers similar ground. And the idea of a mutation from genetic experimentation is only a minor exaggeration.
But the pitch was ultimately deemed too ‘out there’ and also a BIT too much like PREDATOR (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger: Sly’s main rival /buddy). Now, had they put those guys TOGETHER in a crossover..Arnie v Sly v Predator? Wow! But more seriously, the thematic depth could still have been there. Rambo is essentially a monster made by man; built for war and rendered autistic by an un-diagnosed PTSD. So confronting the ‘monster’ could have served as furter metaphor for John Rambo’s own arc of closure, and some sci fi schlock / cautionary action based tale against messing with DNA..
- RAMBO IN MEXICO!
This was an initial pitch for Rambo 4 AND 5. In the former, he went to Burma instead. In the latter, yes, there is a Mexican dimension, but its pitch, premise and tone / purpose are convoluted in the resulting plot and moral motifs. Rambo would either be just travelling, for fun, as fits his character and THEN, himself, faced a kind of kidnap from which he had to escape?
OR: He had been officially deployed, perhaps off the books again, to take out some baddies? Maybe gone into help his old mercenary buddy from a previous film. Is Matthew Marsden busy? Either way, the basic character traits would have remained, with logical and linear continuity and capacity for closure or the hope of continuation.
And it would have been a balanced platform, like the other, even more cartoonishly simple Rambo films to talk about the current border situation. Still fun but not tempting the critics who see racism everywhere. See: Rambo was at its most complex and rich as a franchise, when its premises were kept clear and simple. Bit like the worldview of the character himself!
Mr Stallone, ‘Sly’: you can still give us another, better Rambo film. It might be the last one but don’t make a ‘thing’ of that. Just tell a great story, simple yet rich, accessible yet profound. LOTS of action. And wear that red bandanna, even with shorter hair. Or at least give us Expendables 4, Cliffhanger 2…
RAMBO: LAST BLOOD is on general release.