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Movie Review

Now in his latter years, John Rambo is all about control. Or at least that’s what he keeps telling himself.

Control is important after all: It enables you to keep your anger and worry in check and the evils of the world at bay. That’s why John drives himself to work so hard on his horse ranch. That’s why he’s popping prescription pills like candy these days. That’s why he tries to keep his niece, Gabrielle—his only living family member—closely tucked under his loving wing of protection.

Why, just the thought of his sweet, innocent Gabrielle heading off to college soon makes John Rambo uneasy. It makes his stomach roil, his fists clench, his muscles knot. But he’ll get through it. He’ll keep himself busy, get another bottle of pills and calm himself down.

When Gabrielle announces that she’s somehow tracked her absentee father down in Mexico and wants to travel there to see him, however, John’s blood pressure rises a few more points. She doesn’t know the evils of the world, he reasons with her. She doesn’t understand the blackness of some men’s hearts. He’s not a good man! John says of her father through gritted teeth and a pulsing vein at his temple.

However, even though Gabrielle says she understands, and says she’ll stay safely there on their little ranch in their little Arizona town, she heads off across the border anyway. John doesn’t find out about it until Gabrielle has gone missing, until something terrible has already happened to his dearest loved one in the world.

John Rambo, however, isn’t a man to simply sit still and let bad things happen. He protects. He pushes back against the evil nastiness of the world around him. And if that nastiness reaches in and wraps its corrosive tentacles around someone dear to him, then those tentacles must be lopped off!

Control? Once John Rambo hits the boiling point, self-control becomes a thing of the past.

Positive Elements

Rambo does indeed want to do right by Gabrielle. And we can give him some credit for that noble, protective impulse. But however well-intended that impulse may be, his subsequent rescue efforts quickly degrade into seeking brutal and gruesome vengeance, draining away any notable positives.

John meets a female reporter in Mexico named Carmen. She reaches out and selflessly helps John at one point, after he’s been badly beaten and is bleeding profusely.

Spiritual Content

A Mexican murderer dealing in drugs and prostitution wears a cross necklace. We also see a cross at a gravesite.

Sexual Content

A high school guy tries to put the moves on Gabrielle, but she holds him off. Later a friend asks her if she’s still a virgin. These moments are used to establish Gabrielle’s lack of sexual experience before human traffickers grab her and rape and abuse her. We don’t see those terrible activities take place on screen, but it’s implied that she and a room full of other bruised, captive teens are being beaten and used sexually.

The young women are told to service as many men as are sent their way. And one of their captors tells Rambo, sneeringly, that Gabrielle and the others “aren’t people they’re just things.” Some of the young women are dressed in tattered, sometimes revealing clothes. And though we never see her naked, Gabrielle is repeatedly left in a crumpled heap with her clothing pulled aside, revealing quite a lot of her body.

Violent Content

Intense and fearsome bloodletting is this movie’s calling card. And gore is sometimes spewed across the screen, seemingly, simply for the twisted rapture of it all.

Things start off rather low key with Rambo’s rumbling mountain of an avenging angel punching and choking bad men, manhandling bad women and slamming huge knives point-first into tables. He is battered and slashed by a crowd of 20 or so men in return. His face is deeply cut open by his own blade (as is Gabrielle’s), and then he’s left pulped and bloodied to die.

He doesn’t die, of course. And things explode from there. (Often quite literally.)

In the early stages, throats are slashed and heads impaled by a huge knife. Rambo lops off a man’s head altogether and dumps the bloody noggin’ on the highway. Men have their brains bashed out and their faces bashed in by a hard-swung hammer, and a few receive the nail removing side of that tool in the crotch. A man is brutally tortured as Rambo cuts him open in a couple spots and digs into the wounds to pull bones to the surface. A guy has his chest hacked open and his still beating heart is ripped out and crushed.

When war truly breaks out, and the big guns and blades are pulled out, faces are blown off, bodies are dissected, skulls are crushed and hacked apart, people are set aflame, impaled and literally flayed open in at least 10 or 12 different ways. Steel-tipped arrows skewer, bullets riddle, enormous explosions erupt, fields and buildings are set ablaze. Many die in grisly, realistic-looking ways.

(During the credits, we’re shown old clips from previous Rambo pics. Some are a bit violent, but nothing in comparison to the film we just saw.)

Crude or Profane Language

Some 20 f-words and a half dozen s-words join several uses each of “a--,” “h---” and “b--ch.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

Rambo takes a prescription medication repeatedly that appears to be an anger management drug, one that he eventually stops taking. (We see his flinching sensitivity to light and sound without the med.)

Human traffickers drop a knockout drug into Gabrielle’s drink in a bar and then, after kidnapping her, they inject her repeatedly with some kind of narcotic. She is left in a drugged, catatonic state for days while different men abuse her (offscreen).

A number of men in a room drink booze and snort cocaine.

A variety of people, including Gabrielle’s school friends, people in a bar and men frequenting a house of prostitution, drink beer, hard alcohol and mixed drinks. Gabrielle’s “friend” Jezel talks of getting so drunk that she lost sight of Gabrielle.

Other Negative Elements

Jezel, not only betrays Gabrielle and allows her to be taken by abusive human traffickers, she steals a bracelet from Gabrielle, too. Gabrielle states that she wants her uncle to recognize that she can make “good choices,” but the teen then repeatedly lies and does just the opposite. When she finally locates her absentee father, he hatefully tells Gabrielle how little she and her mother meant to him.


If you think about it, John Rambo was the original guy with a “certain set of skills.” Movie-wise anyway.

Rambo was an emotionally tormented veteran coming back from war: America’s son who had been dragged from his high school football field and forced to learn how to kill. And when this numbed and just-coping vet was pushed, he unleashed his hard-won abilities on unsuspecting bad guys.

When First Blood introduced us to this fierce, broken individual back in 1982, his pumped-up exploits weren’t necessarily plausible. And his stealthy death-dealing was jarring. But he was embraced by entertained moviegoers as a familiar, put-upon guy who stood up and fought back: against war, governmental overreach, abusive authority, etc. He battled the unfairness that John and Jane Q Public wished they could.

That was then. This is now.

Our public frustrations may be similar, and this latest Rambo pic may want to pluck the same emotional chords, but its efforts are tuneless, messy and pointlessly brutal.

Last Blood squeezes out every last drop of blood and gore that it can, to be sure, ostensibly in the name of vigilante justice on behalf of brutalized, sexually trafficked women. It’s an important cause worth caring about—but not in the way it’s depicted here. That’s because this very real issue is simply treated as a narrative springboard to unleash Sylvester Stallone’s second-most iconic character in hyper-violent, soul-numbing, flesh-rending ways.

In the end, we moviegoers are the ones left feeling numb this time around. What was once a cinematic, coiled-muscle dance of violence lashing out against injustice is now just beefy butchery. It’s all so much savage dissecting of sinew, flesh and bone.

And it isn’t entertaining in the least.

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Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo; Paz Vega as Carmen Delgado; Yvette Monreal as Gabrielle; Óscar Jaenada as Victor Martinez; Sergio Peris-Mencheta as Hugo Martínez; Fenessa Pineda as Jezel; Adriana Barraza as Maria Beltran


Adrian Grunberg ( )





Record Label



In Theaters

September 20, 2019

On Video

Year Published



Bob Hoose

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