By TOM BURKE
Almost 35 years ago, I parlayed my love of movies and writing reviews on them for my school newspaper into a temporary job with The Sun Chronicle in Attleboro, Mass. I challenged the publisher of the paper that I could write as credible and thorough of a review as the person he had doing it. My tenure was short-lived, but one of the many films I reviewed was “Rambo” the sequel to Sylvester Stallone’s “First Blood.”
I gave it an enthusiastic nine out of 10 and foretold that there would be a third one. Plus, back then no one questioned a 13-year-old going into an R-rated movie. Little did I know that in 2019 I would still be writing movie reviews for a local newspaper and critiquing another Rambo sequel, “Rambo: Last Blood,” with a now geriatric Stallone starring in it. And now I don’t have to sneak in.
It has been years since the movie-going public has seen John Rambo, but apparently, he has taken up a quiet, restful existence on a farm in Arizona. Suffering from continued PTSD, night tremors and insomnia, he’s wandering the tunnels he’s dug under the ranch. He’s an overbearing uncle and is opposed to his niece, Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal), going to Mexico to find the father who abandoned her, but of course she runs off south of the border. Stallone’s Rambo pursues her and he forms an alliance with a woman in Mexico, Carmen (Paz Vega), a journalist who helps him to locate and recover his niece.
What is troubling about this film is that it’s like watching a Stallone impersonator portraying Rambo. I thought the last “Expendables” movie was uproariously funny with all of the aging action stars coming back one more time. I also recently bemoaned Gerard Butler in my review of “Angel Has Fallen,” and also the last few Liam Neeson films. You reach a point where you find yourself going “oh, come on” or saying out loud “this is ridiculous.” These guys are popping medication to complement the bullets they’re loading into clips.
Now don’t get me wrong, Stallone is known for being a very healthy, active individual but I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that at some point in this movie he was going to say “you kids get off my lawn.” I know that he looked beat up and very old in last year’s “Creed 2” but here he just looks like a deflated caricature of one of his most memorable roles.
In the next Rambo movie instead of cutting the throats of bad guys he can cut through the bureaucratic red tape of the veterans’ administration and help fellow soldiers get the benefits and medication they need.
It’s almost like “Home Alone” meets “Death Wish.” The revenge he exacts on the cartel members is both gruesome but satisfying. I don’t often bring politics into my reviews, but I get the impression the screenwriter Matthew Cirulnick might be a staunch MAGA supporter. The film establishes that Mexico is filthy, filled with criminals, seedy, sneaky types who are more than ready to kidnap and rape women.
I chuckled at one point expecting to see Rambo wearing that familiar red hat as he drove to Mexico hungry for revenge. This was an amusing one for sure.
The film is rated R.