"I want revenge. I want them to know that death is coming, and there is nothing they can do to stop it."
Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Yvette Monreal, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adriana Barraza, Oscar Jaenada, Marco de la O, and Louis Mandylor
In the 1970s Hollywood, a grimacing, cigar-puffing dude named Clint Eastwood had become the archetype of a true American hero. Directors like Sergio Leone and Don Siegel had made him the face of American masculinity. In other words, he was the John Wayne of his generation. Clint was busy shooting bad guys in the far-off deserts and the streets, oblivious to the fact that two nobodies going by the name of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger would soon take Hollywood by storm.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was already a champion body-builder who was looking to transition into acting. Hollywood told him it was a pipe dream, as someone like him couldn't make it as an actor. Stallone, his contemporary had a really hard time as well. Hollywood told him he `Looked funny and talked funny.` Stallone is said to have spent his nights sleeping at the New York Bus Station and at one point he had to sell his dog.
Fortunately, these two didn't get lost in the crowd. Both found success as not only as actors but as bonafide action movie stars. You couldn't spell A-C-T-I-O-N without Arnie and Sly being an important part of it. Stallone wrote and starred in Rocky, while Schwarzenegger found ultimate stardom with 'Conan the Barbarian' and 'Terminator.' Already hardened by disparities in life, playing heroes on-screen came easy to them.
Apart from being total outsiders who landed on their feet pretty well, both Arnie and Sly have another thing in common. They both belong to movie franchises often accused of losing steam over the years. Both 'Rocky' and 'Terminator' started well, before losing its soul and evolving into a total cash grab. It is 2019, and one thing action heroes do is make things right again. Schwarzenegger is out to do that with 'Terminator: Dark Fate' while Stallone returns for one last call to help.
It's been some painful decades since John Rambo ( Sylvester Stallone) left Vietnam but it hasn't left him. He might have taken up the pleasures of simple country life, but he is suffering from PTSD. In his own words, he's keeping a lid on it.' He works as a police volunteer which aggravates his survivor's guilt, builds and lives in tunnels where he's stacking weapons like there is a war coming. Even when he handles cutlery, he clutches on too tightly and you can see it all coming back to him.
Family is all he has left, and this family is about to leave him. His niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal) goes to Mexico in search of her father. Once she crosses the border, her father disappoints her once again while her friend misleads her. She finds herself roofied in a club and ends up in a prostitution ring for a ruthless cartel. When the last remnant of his sanity is taken away, Old Man Stallone goes on a murdering spree across the border. On his quest, he's helped by, a journalist named Carmen (played by a severely underused Vaz Paga).
We saw a new side to Stallone in 'Creed.' It wasn't him in the ring, but Stallone tremendously showcased a vulnerability seldom seen in him. He was great in his turn as a grieving widow and reluctant mentor, earning his only 'Best Supporting Actor' Oscar nomination to date. Hopes of similar performance were pinned on his shoulders, but here he doesn't have someone like Ryan Coogler to direct him.
The movie's undoing isn't Stallone alone, an actor is only as good as his/her director. The script is by the numbers and the editing is choppy. The characters are so underwritten that they come across as caricatures. It's always a fine line when you represent a culture alien to you, and this movie indeed crosses that line with the way it festers cultural stereotypes. For an action movie, it is frustrating to see how some moments of brutality are given away in favor of abrupt scene transitions. Moments that could have been discarded off-camera get too much footage.
The movie becomes entertaining in its final act when Stallone brings his acumen for destruction. Your heart pumps adrenaline when you see him engineering his revenge, this evocation of one-man cavalry reminds you why he's remained one of the best characters in the film history. Even with some laughable execution and trite dialogue towards the end, the audience finally gets what it came for- John Rambo wreaking havoc and saving the day.
With Stallone as Rambo will be hanging his boots after drawing the last blood, all eyes would now be on Schwarzenegger when he will be back as Terminator next month. 'Rambo: Last Blood' is a saga that ultimately rots from its nostalgia, with the audience waiting for the end credits to roll while it slowly bleeds to death.