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Review – Rambo: Last Blood – “Genuinely shocking in terms of violence”

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I was *INCREDIBLY* apprehensive about RAMBO: LAST BLOOD.

Taking the politics out of it, I thought the send-off in RAMBO (4) was just perfect. Closing out the series so well, after such a gap? It shouldn’t have been possible. Throw in the fact that they managed to make it a gorehound’s dream? It was seriously impressive.

On the back of ROCKY BALBOA, too? Stallone had made himself relevant again. Almost a reinvention like we used to give Madonna credit for.

As a Stallone fan for life, his overall career arch has been impossible to defend the whole way through.

To go from being the biggest action star in the world (sorry Arnie) to that stretch between 1997 – 2006 where the best he could get was straight to DVD. Times have been tough. I’m not sure when the all-time low was, but I suspect it was when I went to Blockbusters (miss them so much), and AVENGING ANGELO was there. I’d never heard of it.

I couldn’t believe the guy who made CLIFFHANGER & DEMOLITION MAN in the same year was reduced to that. Even stranger, he’d entered the exodus straight after COPLAND in 1997. It didn’t seem right, let alone fair. Yet much like John Rambo, he dug in and found a way back.

The trailers for RAMBO: LAST STAND want you to think it’s his UNFORGIVEN and in many ways, it should’ve been. Instead what we get is a fairly basic plot — which gets extra credit for making some bold choices. Chief amongst them is sending Rambo south of the border.

To make his mark, he breaks someone’s collar and squeezes the bone until they pass out. At that point, two retirees got up and went. And I’ve no idea why. I mean, I know why — the bone was there for all to see, but surely they knew what they were getting in too?

I wrote about the BBFC here, and moaned that ATOMIC BLONDE was a 15. They’d give anything a 15 these days. Even JOHN WICK 3 — which, don’t forget, includes a slow-motion shot of a knife going into an eye. And that still haunts me every day. Turns out some films can still earn an 18. And that’s fantastic news.

People keep telling me the difference is tone. To that point, the last two Rambo’s are cartoons. Verhoeven could’ve made them and I don’t say that lightly.

So for RAMBO: LAST BLOOD, all he really had to do was make it as close to a western as possible, and end it well. Ultimately they do both.

They never go all of the way in terms of characterisation, and that’s a shame. Rocky will, and arguably already has, get a more fitting send-off in terms of deep character acting, but Stallone CAN act. FIRST BLOOD proved it long before the masterful COPLAND, and he’s on fine form here.

He brings a physicality to the role that makes it clear, if we weren’t already sure, this guy has seen, and done, bad bad things. He’s like Michael Myers at times. Stalking prey and stabbing repeatedly. It’s a genuinely shocking film in terms of violence — and I loved every minute.

Match that with some heart, and a serious dark tone, and you’ll know immediately if it’s for you. Credit to it for being bold. It would’ve been far easier to play it out straight-laced.

People keep telling me it’s like TAKEN. I wouldn’t have a clue as I’ve walked out of every one of those at the cinema. Not because of the violence. (I forget if it’s 2 or 3 that uses TWO songs from DRIVE, but I maintain to this day, the film should’ve been banned for it).

By the time we see why he’s really built those tunnels, the film is notching up, and I didn’t want it to end. Sure, I wish there had been more flashbacks. More Logan moments stood by graves, looking remote, and sullen. What we do get, suggests genuine PTSD. John Rambo is still haunted by things he’s seen… things he’s done.

To its credit, the film doesn’t just end well, it ends fantastically. I was punching the air, long after people were impaled like some sort of X rated HOME ALONE.

I’m fascinated to know the process for the film reaching screens. The U.K. & US get a 90-minute version — whilst France & Australia get an extra 10+ minutes. That’s not gore cut out, that’s additional scenes. I’m unsure of why, and I’m not sure if there’s a precedent for it? But what I would say is I’ll be there front and centre to watch both versions in glorious claret ridden 4K.

Stay to the end of the beautiful credits. Not just for the epic score. I don’t think Rambo has necessarily ridden for the last time. Even though he let all of the horses go….

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