Make no mistake about it, 2008’s Rambo is the most gruesome mainstream action movie ever made. While audiences may not have known what to expect 11 years ago, what they received was an over-the-top revenge film in which John Rambo plays judge, jury, and executioner as brutally as any hero ever has.
While the film succeeds with shock value and .50 caliber glory, it fails to be regarded as the piece of legitimate cinema Stallone likely intended it to be. By all accounts– domestic audiences and critics alike– the world was not clamoring for another Rambo installment.
Aside from the debatably unwatchable Rambo III, there are lessons to be learned from all the previous adventures of John Rambo. Additionally, to his credit, Stallone is the type of artist who, like a fine wine, gets better with age. Though hard to stomach, Rambo ‘08 had a firmer grasp on exactly what it intended to achieve as a film than any of its predecessors in the franchise. Throw in the finest acting we’ve seen from Stallone in Creed as recently as 2015, and this decade’s installment in the Rambo story could have all the ingredients to be a huge success.
These are the three things that Last Blood must accomplish to be regarded as the best in the franchise:
- We must return to the grounded storytelling that we experienced in 1982’s First Blood. Specifically, Vietnam veterans and their struggles with PTSD. The franchise began as a drama that had action sprinkled in to raise the stakes, and returning to the formula that made Rambo so successful originally would do wonders for this now somewhat off-the-rails franchise.
- Fewer throat rips, less bayonetting of adolescents, and more shredded, grizzled Stallone hunting humans with a bow and arrow. While effective, the relentless violence was pushed further than most audiences are comfortable with in Rambo ‘08. If director Adrian Grunberg can use the gore in the right moments and with the appropriate amount of setup and restraint, he can capture the magic of the aforementioned action masterpiece without just retreading it.
- Last Blood must be the last installment. If the recent success of films like Logan and War for the Planet of the Apes has taught us anything, it’s that a heartfelt goodbye to a hero you’ve grown to love is an unrivaled experience when closing a chapter in film history. While we would watch John kill bad guys in a wheelchair if that’s what he gave us in 2035, the opportunity to close with a masterpiece is on the table and we would love to see Stallone take it.
Love it or hate it, the Rambo franchise has made an everlasting impact on the action movie landscape over the last 35+ years. For a more in depth discussion of each of the films in the series by two of the biggest fans you’ll ever meet, check out our reviews on Action Movie Anatomy.
Go see Rambo: Last Blood this weekend in theaters nationwide!