Going into Rambo V, I had assumed I was in for a rough time. Most of the reviews excoriated the film and left me worried I was about to waste my money on the ticket.
From a critical standpoint, I can definitely see where some of the criticism is coming from. It looks cheap, it doesn’t have much narrative flow, the characters are dull and it’s clearly aping off the style of Logan. The first hour is boring and it’s only somewhat redeemed by it’s final 20-minute Home Alone-esc murder sequence.

At the same time though, the theater goers watching the movie with me were totally into it. The reaction to it seems to be roughly the same as the fourth film from 2008, Rambo. That film was an ultra violent, scaled back 80’s style action film with all of the baggage that comes with it and it was quite polarizing. Cinephiles don’t like it but it has a consistent cult following who stand by it being a good film.

Rambo: Last Blood is probably going to develop the same reputation. I’m sure many film fans would love it if this film did for John Rambo what Rocky Balboa and Creed did for Stallone’s other screen persona but honestly this doesn’t feel inappropriate. John Rambo isn’t a character designed to learn. He’s a machine of war who expresses himself through violence to the bitter end.

While most of the criticism likely lines up with my own critiques of the film, the PC brigade running Rotten Tomatoes did their usual review bombing the film with negative reviews while the user rating immediately shot up high because every fan of the Rambo series got exactly what they wanted out of the film.

Much like Dave Chapelle’s Sticks and Stones, the movie seems to be hitting a nerve with progressive critics who consider the film retrograde and racist.

Bounding into Comic provided an excellent summary of mainstream reviews:

Peter Debruge at Variety describes the film as a “cruel and ugly showcase of xenophobic carnage.” He goes on to accuse the film of racism, “screenwriters Matthew Cirulnick and Stallone adopt the racist view of Mexicans as murderers, drug dealers and rapists, devoid of cultural context or exceptions, beyond the “independent journalist” (Paz Vega) keeping tabs on their whereabouts.”

The Guardian’s review by Peter Bradshaw makes it clear their review is all about politics in the first sentence.

“This massively enlarged prostate of a film can only make you wince with its badly acted geronto-ultraviolence, its Trumpian fantasies of Mexican rapists and hilariously insecure US border, and its crass enthusiasm for rape-revenge attacks undertaken by a still-got-it senior dude, 73 years young, on behalf of a sweet teenager.”

Eric Kohn at IndieWire continues the trend:

Rambo has long been a symbol of imperialistic rage, and “Last Blood” is no exception. Transplanting the action to Arizona provides the natural setting for a border drama that plays into Trump-era fear-mongering, right down to its ominous shot of a border wall, as Rambo heads south in search of justice.

Edward Douglas at ComicsBeat makes it clear his review is all about politics writing:

“Maybe I never got into the whole Rambo franchise, because when Stallone introduced the character back in the ‘80s, it contributed to all the “Rah! Rah! USA!” stuff that was going on under Reagan. Whether on purpose or not, Last Blood does something similar for the racist red hats wanting to “make America great again,” despite the presence of a few underused good Mexicans.”

I recommend readers read the full article and each summary. The sheer breadth of major film critics from reputable websites like IGN, Indie-wire, Variety and Rolling Stone excoriating this film on moral grounds is astonishing.

None of this criticism is dramatized in the movie proper. It’s not even implied subtext. The movie is just about one man taking revenge on the Cartel in brutal fashion. Even the movie’s allusions to the border wall are just window dressing.

Unless the writers of these magazines think that the Cartel is a vital or culturally authentic expression of Mexican culture or outright deny the existence of crime problems on the US-Mexico border, I can’t imagine what these writers are on about beyond Trump-Derangement-Syndrome.

Last Blood a sleazy, grindhouse crowd pleaser that relishes in its character’s ability to dish out unrepentant violence and it’s clear a lot of people love it flaws and all.

 
 
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