What should have been a fitting swansong to an action icon turns out to be an offensive dud that is nigh-on impossible to pry free from the hateful rhetoric spewed by the current incumbent of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. There are no two ways about it: this fifth instalment in the Rambo saga is an utter shitshow.
The story follows perpetually haunted war vet John Rambo (73-year old Sly Stallone) leaving his retirement ranch in Arizona to save his niece, who, after just one day in offensively caricatural Mexico, has been kidnapped by a sex-trafficking ring operated by the cartel. The first half of the film is Mexican Taken, and may as well have the lines “they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists” playing on a loop over the action; the second is a dusty take on the last act of Skyfall, a racist revenge fantasy that’ll have the MAGA crowd positively creaming themselves.
While the previous films have been embraced by right-wingers because of their patriotic overtones, there was a case to be made that Rambo was holding up a mirror to American society. The first film in particular, about a traumatized vet who had been abandoned and victimised by his country, revealed a post-Vietnam national malaise. It even joined Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter as one of the first films to address PTSD within the military. Over the course of several sequels, which upped the body counts, Rambo became more of a jingoistic figure, one which Ronald Reagan took to mentioning in his speeches. But originally, the baddies weren’t the horrible foreigners in the jungle; they were the Americans right at home. Times change, ambition withers and there’s much less to say about this latest instalment… Some may consider the plot of Rambo: Last Blood to be well-pitched considering the current climate, but this poorly filmed Trumpian wet dream is played so straight that there’s no commentary about modern politics and society to be found. And there’s certainly no redeeming metatextual evidence to suggest we should be watching such toxic tripe.
Rambo: Last Blood | Directed by Adrian Grunberg (US, 2019), with Sylvester Stallone, Yvette Monreal, Sergio Peris-Mencheta. Starts Sep 19.
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