Rambo: Last Blood (4k UHD)
Is Last Blood one Rambo too many? Check out our review of the film on 4K UHD!
Vietnam war veteran John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) goes on one final mission after a family member goes missing in Mexico. Also stars Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adrianna Barraza, and Yvette Monreal. Directed by Adrian Grunberg.
In 2008, Sylvester Stallone resurrected the iconic character of John Rambo and did the near-impossible: made him entertaining again. Critics hated the fourth film, but Stallone crafted a brutal action film set against a riveting, real-life international crisis: the war in Burma. Rather than offering cartoonish caricatures as villains, inserting Rambo into a real humanitarian crisis grounded the film in stark relevance.
2019’s Rambo: Last Blood, however, is a sad step back from the 2008 film. It is no less brutal in violence, but in nearly every other aspect, there is little here resembling a Rambo film. The setting, the tone, motivation, and the themes do not resemble those seen in the first four films.
Last Blood feels more like a Death Wish-style revenge tale, with Sylvester Stallone in the lead. The story picks up years after the end of the fourth film, with Rambo living in relative peace running his family’s horse ranch in Bowie, Arizona. After someone close to him is taken by Mexican human smugglers, Rambo goes on a bloody rescue mission.
In the special features of 2008’s Rambo, Sylvester Stallone casually mentions a discarded premise for that film which involved Rambo going home and fighting the Mexican drug cartel. Ten years later, it seems Stallone has resurrected the premise and made it a revenge tale.
This change in direction would have been welcomed, had the film’s premise been executed with more competence. Last Blood, however, feels like a rush job, and the end result is more akin to a B-level action film released straight to video.
Despite having a decade to develop this latest installment, Stallone’s script for Last Blood (co-written with Matt Cirulnick) plays out like a rough first draft. The tentpole action scenes are there, but they are held together with thin dialogue and nonsensical plot twists.
After unleashing hell in Mexico, Rambo inexplicably goes home and waits for the bad guys to show up on his front porch. That’s because he took his driver’s license with him on his mission and they come across it, discovering exactly where he lives. Kind of a rookie mistake, but it sets up the final showdown a bit too conveniently.
Thank goodness, Rambo has managed to dig out a labyrinth of tunnels underneath his farm that he has lined with booby traps. Never mind that it makes no sense that he was able to do all of this by hand and by himself. However, it does set up an ending that harkens back a bit to the original First Blood, as Rambo goes from hunted to hunter, thanks to some stealth and gruesome booby traps.
Lost in the mayhem is any substantial character development or reflection on Rambo’s personal journey. The events since Rambo arrived home at the end of the last film are only lightly alluded to. We do get some bonding between Rambo and Gabrielle, the granddaughter of Maria, a family friend who lives at the ranch with him. They are the only semblance of family he has, and the events of the film rip that apart.
Therein lies part of the problem with Last Blood. Over nearly 40 years, fans have seen Rambo overcome countless challenges and still survive with some humanity - and hope - intact. This film, in building up the revenge angle, takes so much away from Rambo, he is a victim with no chance of victory. Even when he gets his revenge, there is no light at the end of his tunnel. He deserves a better fate than this story gives him.
Last Blood is so dark, so thoroughly and needlessly hopeless, and so gratuitously violent and dehumanizing, it feels like an unnecessary swipe to undermine a once-great character. The viewer is given no chance to vest any emotion in the plot, and the ending is hardly satisfying.
Blame should also be placed at the feet of director Adrian Grunberg, who directs Last Blood in such a pedestrian style, he manages to make a Rambo film feel small. There’s no tension or decent pacing, and the action is underwhelming rather than exhilarating.
I’ve been a huge fan of the Rambo character since I saw First Blood as a kid in 1982. I would have preferred to see Rambo’s story end with the fourth film, with Johnny finally going home. His ending should have been left untold, so we could imagine he found some sort of personal peace.
Hopefully, the Rambo cinematic legacy will not be minimized by this misfire. In recent years, Stallone has managed to successfully build on the mythos around his most iconic characters, including Rambo and Rocky. In the case of Rambo: Last Blood, he went back to the well one too many times. And it hurts to admit that.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
Despite a desaturated color palette and most of the film taking place in the dark, Last Blood sports a fantastic image on the 4K disc. Detail is top-notch, and the HDR gives the darker scenes more nuance.
The film was shot digitally in 5K (according to production notes) and mastered in 4K, and the transfer captures every bit of that quality. This is particularly evident in the night scenes in Mexico, which features an impressive level of clarity and depth. On occasion, reds and purples (particularly in the nightclub scene) pop with vibrancy.
The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is superb, giving Brian Tyler’s soundtrack the right prominence. Too often, modern sound mixes minimize the score, but here, it is presented boldly. Dialogue is strong from the center channel, and the final battle makes good use of the low end.
There are only a handful of bonus features on the disc, which is a bit disappointing. However, the production diary (detailed below) does provide a pretty comprehensive look at the film’s production.
The special features on the disc are as follows:
*“Drawing Last Blood: Multi Part Production Diary.” This video diary, separated into five parts (“New Blood,” “Something to Fight For,” “Heaven Above, Hell Below,” “Forged in Hellfire,” and “Nothing is Over”), each covering a different week in the production. Stallone, Grunberg, and additional members of the cast and crew provide audio commentary over behind-the-scenes footage. It’s incredibly interesting to see Stallone work on the set, as we see quite a bit of him interacting with Grunberg and the cast and crew. Each gives more insight into the choices they made in crafting the film. Total Running Time: 50 minutes, 20 seconds
*“From First Note to Last Blood: Music For The Massacres” featurette. Brian Tyler discusses how he went from Rambo fan as a kid to now composing music for the recent films. Rather than being a polished promotional piece, the featurette is basically 15 minutes of Tyler just riffing on the music of the film. He describes how each theme made use of specific instruments to convey the proper tone for a particular character or scene. The featurette is worth watching just to see him explain his approach to the score. Total Running Time: 17:22
*Theatrical Trailer. A trailer for the film is included. Running Time: 1:09
*Digital Copy. A code for a digital copy of the film, redeemable through services including VUDU, AppleTV, Google Play and FandangoNow, is included. The code should provide a 4K UHD digital version of the film with all providers, but we suggest checking 4KSheet.com to ensure this is the case. Our code redeemed in 4K UHD in VUDU.
Release Date: 12/17/2019 Running Time: 89 minutes Rating: R (strong graphic violence, grisly images, drug use, language) Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 Audio: English Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital 2.0 (Optimized for Late Night Viewing), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, English Descriptive Audio, French Dolby Digital 5.1 Subtitles: Spanish, French Special Features: “Drawing Last Blood” Production Diary, “From First Note to Last Blood” featurette, Trailer, Digital Copy. Label: Lionsgate MSRP: $42.99