That time Sly Stallone made a grindhouse flick posing as action adventure sequel (IMHO)
Crime of the Scene is a feature that deals with moments in a movie that either undermine otherwise good material or unravel the whole by revealing inherent flaws in conception and execution. In the case of RAMBO: LAST BLOOD, it’s a bit of both.
The movie has some merit. Rambo has a haircut at last. It captures his sense of heart and soul at the start of the film in so far as he has adopted a family, a farm and found peace and purpose. Sly Stallone is acting his age here but remains vital and credible in action. There is a brilliant montage sequence and a genuinely moving credits sequence, set to Brian Tyler’s beautiful score via hints of Jerry Goldsmith’s original themes.
AND YET: THIS IS NOT MY RAMBO! THIS IS NOT A VALID RAMBO 5! This is a stinking, rotten, rushed, production line B movie verging on grindhouse video nasty mediocrity. The politics are irresponsible, at best. And the whole affair stretches every kind of credibility, despite nominally gritty and realistic confrontation with some all too painful subject matters (PTSD; Mexican crime on the American border; forced prostitution rings via drug dealing).
The rot sets in around the half way mark. What should be a kind of TAKEN with Rambo (ie he saves a kidnapped girl, deploying military skill against the over confident criminal gang?) becomes a gore-fest. What could have been a solid thriller sinks into deepest depression and darkness, needlessly so, after the death of a girl initially rescued by Rambo. Pace and purpose were lost from the whole affair after that point of no return.
I have nothing against sequels to Stallone vehicles, btw. And yes, Rambo, like Rocky, was ripe for reinvention. He could credibly, in universe, have faced any number of legacy foes from past adventures (militia men from FIRST BLOOD? Taliban from RAMBO 3?). Off the book black op adventures like Stallone’s EXPENDABLES, also an option (Rambo even calls himself ‘expendable’ in FIRST BLOOD PART 2). There was even talk of fighting a borderline sci-fi /genetic experiment gone wrong and that, though a radical departure, would at least have left one with an upbeat sense of the character living on with fighting chance.
Sequel, prequel, whichever tone/genre suits the Rambo template, adaptation is possible. Provided, of course, that you adhere to the core template. This is a veteran who wishes to escape war, but cannot do so, and therefore ends up in reluctant battle, trance like, whilst preserving some shred of inner decency. LAST BLOOD thinks it honours such tradition but instead, copiously urinates over it all with a gratuitous, explicit, verging on pornographically violent conclusion, wherein Rambo (now a soulless sadist?) CUTS A MAN’S HEART OUT.
Naturally, I cannot show said scene here. Nor would I wish to. But it is the moment Rambo died onscreen as a brand and neglected the series legacy, altogether. MAYBE the talk of one more sequel / half prequel; with ADAM DRIVER as young John and Stallone as the older counterpart / mentor figure might redeem everything. One can but hope.