RANGE365 QUICK REVIEW:
I saw Rambo: Last Blood over the weekend at a small local theater and I had a blast. I bought the tickets at the box office rather than on my phone just for the novelty of saying, “Two for Rambo, please.”
There has been a lot of criticism and some negative reviews online since the movie was released on Friday, but I’m not going to get into that. If this action fantasy actually, really offended you somehow, there are much bigger problems in your world than the latest Rambo movie.
All that said, this movie has a very different feel to it than the previous entries in the series—however, I would argue that every single Rambo movie has had its own distinct feel. You can’t even look at a still image from any of them and get them confused if you’ve seen them all.
Because of the plot, some were comparing Last Blood to the Taken film series before even seeing it. It’s nothing like Taken…at all.
We find the character of John Rambo in a place we’ve never seen him before—at home. He’s always been on the run or hiding in some way, but here, we find him growing older and managing to keep his demons under wraps—at least, well enough to function and to live with actual people. I think Rambo says more in the first 10 minutes of this movie than in the past two movies combined.
It’s been 11 years since the events of Rambo (2008) and John has inherited his late father’s horse ranch in Bowie, Arizona. He manages it and lives there with an old friend from when he was a teenager, Maria Beltran, and her granddaughter, Gabrielle, who refers to him as “Uncle John.” Gabrielle’s mother died of cancer some years ago, so it’s just the three of them.
We think Rambo may have found some kind of peace, but we lear that he’s pretty much the same he’s always been, he’s just gotten better at controlling himself. You get the impression that living on the secluded ranch and a couple trips to town every month are about as much social interaction as he can handle. He still suffers from PTSD and occasionally has mild flashbacks and now takes medication to manage them.
He spends a lot of time in his tunnels…a literal network of underground tunnels he has built over the past decade that spiderweb beneath the entire property—something he undoubtedly learned from his time fighting the NVA and Vietcong. He even has a blacksmith workshop set up down there where he makes knives as a hobby, and as a way to get out his anger with a hammer and anvil.
If anything, I would say this movie is darker than any other entry in the series, even the last one set in the Burmese civil war. Young Gabrielle, who just graduated high school and is getting ready for college, travels to an unsavory part of town just over the border in Mexico to confront her biological father, who abandoned her and her family when she was young, despite John and Maria’s warnings against it.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
A girl she thought was her friend sets her up to be kidnapped by a cartel of sex traffickers. This isn’t far fetched and she didn’t have to go to Mexico for this to happen. According to the UN’s International Labour Organization, an estimated 3.8 adults and 1 million children were victims of forced sexual exploitation in 2016 globally and that 99 percent of them are women and girls.
In 2019, the State Department found the top three nations of origin for human trafficking victims were the U.S., Mexico, and the Philippines.
From here on out, we see a lot of things we’ve never seen in a Rambo movie before: an innocent dying despite the protagonist’s best efforts, the protagonist himself being overcome and severely beaten, and Rambo actually needing help. Its indicative of how much the character has changed, and frankly, how much he’s aged.
The score has more in common with horror movies than action movies, and the film’s trim run time does an excellent job of keeping the narrative taught with an undercurrent of dread and anticipation that culminates in an explosive final confrontation.
I have two bits of criticism. First, I feel like the hand-to-hand kills Rambo performs in Mexico weren’t done quite right. Something about the way they were shot, the lighting, the pacing, again, made it feel more like a horror movie, only with Rambo as the slasher. It didn’t feel…tactical if that’s the right word. Though I can totally see how they were going for brutality, not tactics or stealth or anything like that. But it feels off somehow in the context of the character.
EDIT: I’ve thought about this a bit and changed my mind. I think the depiction of these kills was simply another effort to make the violence more realistic. It isn’t glossy or exciting like it would be in Rambo 2. In reality, a knife can be a primitive and brutal weapon—and for how iconic the Rambo knife has become, he only uses it to kill four people in the entire series up until this movie.
He kills a wild boar with his knife used as a spear head in First Blood, in Part 2 he stabs a river pirate through a mat roof on a boat, he kills a guard with his knife in Part 3 but you don’t see it, and then in the more violent fourth movie, he beheads a Burmese soldier with his small machete and kills the General with it at the end of the battle. That’s it. In contrast, Rambo takes out about a dozen bad guys or so with various knives in Part 5, and a few more with a claw hammer.
But, if you look at it from the perspective of a slasher movie, it does track. The typical set-up is a group of annoying teenagers with abhorrent personalities and a psycho killer with little to no motivation who stalks around taking them out one by one. The audience feels less bad about it because the teens are crappy people anyway, and the killer always gets some kind of comeuppance in the end and the one decent teen survives. In this movie, the slasher is the hero, and instead of going up against annoying teens, its a cartel full of abhorrent human traffickers, rapists, and murderers—which he stalks around and kills one at a time.
So, you can actually root for the slasher this time around, and I think that gave people a weird feeling in their lizard brain. Plus the fact that it takes place in a urban environment in Mexico and on a ranch in the U.S. makes the killing seem more…civilian? We more readily accept depictions of violence in a war zone than in civilian life.
My second gripe is with the pacing. Not the overall pacing, which is terrific, but the pacing of the action scenes. I felt like there were too many quick cuts, and just not enough time spent on action. They come and go almost before you can appreciate what happened. The film could have given us some more time and suspense here, especially during the big showdown at the end.
I wanted to see cartel bad guys scared to death in the tunnels as their comrades are picked off one at a time by boobytraps and Rambo himself, the way the deputies were terrified during the stalking scene in First Blood. I wanted to see the full realization of this horror movie tone the movie cultivates, but it ultimately felt too rushed. Or maybe a whole lot happens and it won’t seem so rushed on a second viewing. Or maybe I’m spoiled by the super long action sequences in the John Wick movies. Either way, Rambo’s final kill is more gruesome than anything Michael Myers did in the most recent Halloween (2018) movie.
As far as the guns go, there wasn’t much we didn’t see in the trailers, other than a beat-up M1911A1 Rambo carries for a while, but never gets to use before cartel members take it from him. He also uses a 12 gauge sawed-off double barrel shotgun in the tunnels that we couldn’t really see in the trailers, combined with some magnesium-based incendiary shotgun rounds we see Rambo load on a press in his workshop.
The action, as far as firearms are concerned, was pretty excellent and pretty realistic, especially compared to the other Rambo movies. There were no never-ending magazines that I noticed, none of the silly action tropes you often see. The cartel bad guys had some blinged-out guns, including several gold-plated AKs, but they’re cartel members and it fits. They shoot from the hip a lot instead of aiming, but they’re panicked and they miss, so that’s a good thing.
Rambo, the character famous for spraying from the hip—usually with something absurd like an M60 machine gun—actually aims every shot he takes in this movie. But Rambo has never, and will never carry spare ammo. Instead, he switches to different loaded, pre-stashed firearms as he moves through his tunnels, hanging on to the sawed-off shotgun for the longest.
Also, whereas Rambo has sometimes seemed invincible and like he has a magic bullet shield around him, during the big battle at the end, he gets shot not once, but twice—and quite serious wounds,—just from lucky shots by bad guys who were essentially spraying in full auto. (But I want to point out, Rambo has been wounded several times in past movies. He received several injuries in the first movie, including a severe gash down his arm; in the third movie he took a large piece of wood shrapnel through his side and a bullet in his thigh; and in the fourth movie, he was hit in the left shoulder by a bullet fragment.)
So all in all, the gunplay was more brutal, and more realistic than any other Rambo movie to date.
The biggest criticism in that arena I have is that Rambo takes a bullet through the right shoulder, but can still draw and shoot his recurve bow with pinpoint accuracy. But after all, he’s freakin’ Rambo, so I don’t care, I’m letting it slide.
I liked the ending, though I really thought the camera was going to pull back and we’d just see the chair stop rocking and that would be that—but then, we definitely wouldn’t be getting another Rambo movie.
The memory lane footage montage felt out of place an unnecessary. If anything, it should have been run behind the credits, and not so prominently right at the close of the film. Stallone did the same thing at the end of Rocky Balboa, but then we got Creed and Creed II, so it was kind of invalidated.
I’m hoping that we will get a longer cut and not just deleted scenes when the movie hits VOD and Blu Ray. There’s obvious footage that was cut. We’ve seen stills from scenes, like Rambo riding a horse at night in the rain, that didn’t end up in the theatrical cut. Hopefully get an alternate or extended version like we did for Rambo and not just a bunch of clips in a “deleted scenes” tab.
Those are some petty gripes for sure. Overall I was really happy with this new chapter, even though it is the least Rambo-feeling movie in the series by far. I like that it was different. But be prepared, its designed to be a dark and heavy downer capped with a big catharsis at the end. Which is also pretty dark in its own right. it’s not the typical action movie. —DM 9/23/19
UPDATE 9/04/19: We also have the international trailer, which features footage we haven’t seen yet!
UPDATE 8/20/19: THE FIRST FULL-LENGTH TRAILER FOR RAMBO: LAST BLOOD IS HERE!!!
And also check out the awesome new movie poster that was released along with the new trailer:
UPDATE: 5/30/19 THE FIRST TRAILER FOR RAMBO V IS HERE!!!
It’s hard to believe its been over a decade since the last Rambo movie came out, especially since it was such a success, but indeed it has. Stallone has teased another installment over the years, and there were a few false starts. As he moved on to the Expendables movies, the new Rocky spinoff Creed series, and other projects, it looked like any Rambo V movie would be lost in development hell, at least long enough to make it unfeasible for the aging star to play the role.
However, the unlikely has happened. The fifth installment in the Rambo series is due out this year, and we’ve gotten a few sneak peeks thanks to Stallone’s active Instagram account during the filming.
The Guns of Rambo: Last Blood
The plot picks up with our hero a full decade after the end of Rambo (2008), which left him at his family’s horse ranch in Arizona after coming stateside for the first time since the early 1980s.
The aging war vet has been tending the farm ever since, working the horses and the land. Stallone released a number of photos of himself in character on horseback, looking more like a cowboy than a soldier.
Things get heated up when someone close to him is abducted by a Mexican cartel, forcing Rambo to go across the border and wreak is particular form of vengeance.
We also got to see Rambo mulling over something in a shed that looks like a makeshift tribute to his time in battle. We see a rack of guns behind him, which looks to include a couple different lever action rifles, an M1 Garand (this was confirmed by a brief clip of Rambo firing the M1 Garand shown during cast interviews), and an M16A1. We can also see the handle of the combat machete he used in part 4 hanging on some kind of wooden plaque.
We don’t see Rambo holding or using any guns in these few Instagram photos, but we do see him with his trademark bow. In all previous movies, Rambo has used a compound bow, though never a modern D-limb bow.
it looks like he’s going old school for this new movie from the show below of him drawing a recurve bow.
As far as knives go, it looks like Rambo will have two: a big one and a smaller one. The big one is called the “Heartstopper” and was designed and made by Dietmar Pohl of Pohl Force in Germany, according to Stallone. Pohl also produced the smaller fixed blade knife pictured below.
Pohl joins knifemakers Jimmy Lile and Gil Hibben as the only designers of Rambo knives. It is yet to be seen if an affordable reproduction of the Pohl knives will be available after the movie comes out.
Though details have been scarce, we can assume Rambo will be doing some reflecting on his life and on his time in Vietnam. A couple photoshopped production photos have been revealed.
A shot of a young Stallone shopped into Vietnam appropriate fatigues and a helmet is shown in the photo below along with Rambo’s smaller knife.
Another doctored photo depicts a young Rambo in his dress uniform with his medals, including the Medal of Honor, proudly displayed. All this points to perhaps a better exploration of Rambo’s past than we’ve had so far. We get the most information about his time in Vietnam from scraps of info dropped here and there by Col. Trautman in First Blood and from a piece of dialog from Rambo II, listed in full in the caption below.
Movie Trailer #1
The first trailer has been out for a few days now. So let’s take a look at what more we can see about the guns from Rambo V: Last Blood.
We only see Rambo use a couple firearm in the short trailer, though its not the only gun we see. We get a quick shot of Rambo firing a round from a shotgun.
Rambo has used a shotgun once before in Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) when he kills a number of river pirates with a pump action Remington 870.
This gun looks to be a Benelli M1 Super 90 semi-auto 12 gauge shotgun with a black stock and the standard ghost ring sights.
We get a brief flash of Rambo firing an M16A1 rifle in full auto while in a network of underground tunnels.
Its likely that its one of the M16s we see on Rambo’s gun rack earlier in the trailer and in the photos above.
Rambo hasn’t used an M16 since he fired a magazine of suppressive fire from one at National Guard soldiers in First Blood.
We do get to see Rambo using his trademark bow, but its not clear how many of them he uses. In the previous films, he has elected to use a compound bow. In Rambo (2008), he uses a recurve bow for fishing, but still uses a compound bow for combat.
From the trailer and the movie poster, it looks like he’s fully switched to a recurve. I asked a friend who is far more well versed in recurve bows than I, and we agree that Rambo’s new bow is likely a left-handed Limited Edition Bear Traditional Take Down bow with the B-style risers.
On the movie poster, the bow has an on-board quiver attached, but it is absent in the footage from the trailer of him firing the bow, so it appears he uses it more than once in the new movie.
When I first saw the trailer and got to the part where a bad guy opens the door to what we presume is Rambo’s home and is greeted with an arrow to the face, I thought Rambo had rigged up a booby trap with a crossbow. We see a quick montage of him preparing various traps, including this one and a sharpened pitchfork that swings down from a ceiling.
But when I took a closer look, I realized the trap is made of a compound bow with the risers fixed to some kind of base or directly to the floor. The bow is drawn and a tripwire trigger mechanism is attached to the string’s D-loop (for a mechanical release), keeping it at full draw until the door is opened. It looks like tension keeps the whole thing in place until the trap is sprung.
The D-shaped limbs on the bow don’t really give away the model, only that its newer than the bows he has used in previous films.
We see Rambo use two knives in the trailer. We get a shot of him drawing the Hearstopper knife described above from a sheath on his belt. What’s odd is that he carries the knife on his right hip and draws the knife with his right hand in the trailer.
Rambo, just like Stallone, has always been left handed. He shoots long guns left handed and has always shot his bow left-handed as well.
In the first two movies, he carries his knife on his left hip and draws it with his left hand. In Rambo III, because of the size of the knife, he carried it in a right-handed sheath but on his left hip and he usually crossdraws the knife with his right hand. In Rambo (2008), he carries his knife on his left hip and draws it normally.
And, maybe, the trailer footage was flipped. We’ll see.
We also see him sharpening the blade at the beginning of the trailer, and in the middle, we see a flash of Rambo swinging the large machete style knife from the previous movie that we see hanging by his gun rack.
In once shot, we see Rambo surrounded by a bunch of what look like cartel gang members armed with various firearms on a rooftop. I see at least one SIG Sauer P226 in there and an H&K USP along with a Glock.
We can also see at least one bad guy with a shiny, AK-pattern firearm that looks like an AK-74U.
We get another shot of some bad guys assaulting Rambo’s ranch, who may in fact be the same bad guys from the rooftop. The one in the foreground is using an AK-74U, and the one behind him has what looks like a gold-plated AK variant with a longer barrel. This could be the same shiny AK from the rooftop.
The bad guy in the background has an AR-pattern rifle with a holographic sight on top.
In the final shots of the trailer, where we see a battle-worn Rambo drawing his knife as he approaching someone in the barn. If you pause it, you see Rambo takes some real damage in this movie. He has a serious wound on his left side that he’s holding as well as what looks like a bullet wound to his back in the right shoulder area.
Some of the establishing shots reinforced the Western feel we got from a lot of the early on-set photos.
Rambo certainly runs his family horse farm, though it seems he’s still having trouble dealing with his violent, war-filled past when trouble comes calling again.
And we do have an answer to one other question. While Rambo may be rocking a Stetson and a duster, he’s not walking around in cowboy boots. In fact, the shot of his worn combat boots as he sits on a rocking chair is a pretty great summation of a modern aged warrior.
Rambo V: Last Blood hits theaters in September.