I wrote this review/rant in September of last year after seeing Rambo: Last Blood. It is slightly jokey and slightly dead-serious. I never posted it because I am lazy.
Do you ever accidentally hype yourself up for a film? No? Just me? “Hype” is a bit of a catchphrase for me at the moment. Right now, it’s usually for the return of a beloved franchise I’ve never seen before. A couple of months before the film’s release I decided to hop on the bandwagon and binge-watch the previous entries in the series in anticipation. Some recent entries in this can sometimes include entire directors’ filmography. Just this January I decided to work my way through the works of Martin Scorsese in anticipation of The Irishman. Only skipping the docs and the films I physically cannot get my hands on. I even watched After Hours, a movie I’ve mentioned to people all year and always get a resounding “what?” in response. I should stop bringing it up at funerals.
This phenomenon happened again fairly recently with none other than ‘Rambo. Last Blood’ was right around the corner, and the ‘Old Town Road’ infused trailer dropped this summer in time for its September release. How could you not be excited? Sly was riding god damn horses! This should not have excited me as much as it did.
There was a precedent to get worried. I got excited for Terminator: Genisys before I knew any better, going out of my way to get my dad to take me to the reissue of The Terminator that year. Then he and I saw the reviews for T5, and it was safe to say that the cinema trip for 14-year-old Cameron was no longer on the cards. I did eventually catch it on a plane and wow even considering I watched in on a TV the size of my palm that film was complete trash. But, you’re not here for Terminator. You’re here probably here for Rambo, and that’s understandable. Terminator will probably get something like this disappointment in October, but we’re still a month out.
Anyway, history repeated itself. I didn’t know this yet but, I should have run for the hills, instead of doing that, I ran from a screening of Ad Astra into a screening of Last Blood. I started the binge on the Sunday before release, and 6 hours later, I rolled credits on Rambo (2008). I had come away with a couple of thoughts on the series. The films are short and sweet. It makes them easily digestible and slim in terms of plot. However, First Blood packs a punch emotionally, detailing some of the horrors of PTSD that the Vietnam war had leftover in a lot of American soldiers of the time. It did it woven into an excellent action film too, it took me by surprise because it wasn’t anywhere near what I expected.
The second and third were more what I expected, dropping the nuances in favour of bazookas, helicopters and exploding soldiers. You can see the tastes of audiences change over the 4 previous entries, more so in the fourth which sees Rambo go bland and a little bit gritty. There is also a steady drop in quality from film to film. None of them reaching the heights of the 40-year-old original film.
The drop continues into Rambo: Last Blood. The film is easily the worst in the franchise. Beginning with an hour of meandering through Rambo’s newly acquired horse ranch until something happens that makes him become one of the most gruesome killers of our time.
Long gone are the days of the heart-breaking speeches about his place in the world, John is here to pop your collar bone through your skin or straight up cut your head clean off in gory detail. I’m by no means saying gore doesn’t have a place in the franchise, but jeez this was something else. The best way to put it is that it tries to amalgamate Taken and John Wick into some dull mixture. Then for some reason, the producers poured too much Texas Chainsaw Massacre by the last 30 minutes to make a film that is boring and completely unnecessary.
This annoyed me. I had no reason to think it would be good at all. None. The trailer was terrible, but I was blinded by nostalgia I didn’t even have. I blame Creed for making me think that reviving Stallone properties in the 10s would be a brilliant idea. We could have gotten something exciting with thrilling action in the spirit of John Wick since the franchise has a history of copying the relevant action of the time. It did attempt this, as I mentioned. Still, it ultimately failed due to the plodding story and the poor execution, its focus on gore also holding it back.
Most importantly, it could have attempted to have another crack at a political aspect. In an alternate reality, this post could have been titled “Rambo: Last Blood is the film we needed in Trump’s America”. But in fact, it is the film we got BECAUSE of it.
The hype is dangerous because it leads my expectations to be sky high for a film that shouldn’t have been. The trailers sold it to me for whatever reason, mainly the thought of Creed and Sly being quite wholesome there, but this was silly levels. Hype can ruin films for you, the most toxic kind of it being the crowd induced ‘hype’, the type that caused a lot of the people who hate The Last Jedi to, well, hate it. In some weird turn of events, fans theorised the shit out of it and got upset over the lack of truth to those words. It is a dangerous tool that can lead to a lot of upset if not kept in check. There are just endless lists of hype getting the better of the movie of the masses, but for me, this was an individual level of it. Something clicked and made me excited for it, which is quite embarrassing.