The landslide winner for this year’s coolest movie title, Rambo V: Last Blood, continues the story of Sylvester Stallone’s Vietnam War vet that began in 1982’s First Blood. For a franchise that has been around as long as this one, we generally know what to expect with a Rambo film. However, Rambo V will be totally different than what came before in terms of how it picks up the story, as Sylvester Stallone explained:
In every film, Rambo never goes home, he goes out to the jungle or Afghanistan. In the new one, he does come home, but in a way he never arrives. He’s there, but he’s not. That’s what the whole story is built around. As soon as he walks outside his door, he has no more control. The world controls you.
As reported by Deadline, while speaking about the film at the Cannes Film Festival, Sylvester Stallone explained that Rambo V: Last Blood sets itself apart from the rest of the series by picking up Rambo’s story in a place we’ve never really seen him: his home. It provides a unique lens through which to view the warrior because we have never seen him in that context.
The previous Rambo movies have found the Special Forces soldier in places like Thailand or Afghanistan, and even when he was in the U.S. like in the first movie, he wasn’t home. At the end of the fourth film Rambo, the character finally returns to his father’s ranch in Arizona. But you can’t go home again, not really.
Seeing Rambo at home in Last Blood is a fascinating setup because it gives us some real insight into Rambo’s psychology and the mental cost of a lifetime of war. He may be home, but he’s not settled. He’s been in a state of perpetual war for so long that being home doesn’t feel like home. There’s no real comfort in it; his body is there, but his mind isn’t.
Rambo sadly finds that life is its own kind of fight and despite being home and not in some far off land, he is still at the mercy of events beyond his control. Those events start right away in the movie and they elucidate the toll his battles have exacted, as Sylvester Stallone continued:
We pick it up, he’s out in this storm, a horrible storm. He’s trying to rescue people. There’s a flash flood. One guy goes up by horseback, he volunteers to save people. He’s still dealing with survivor guilt, b/c he could save his friends in Vietnam. A result of PTSD. He has a hard time. He has a beautiful ranch, but he lives underground. This is how he deals with his dilemma. There’s something subterranean in Vietnam. He has an adopted family there. His father has passed on. The housekeeper who is 70 has a granddaughter. He’s her surrogate father. [The girl finds her real father in Mexico and heads there.] Bad things happen. There’s going to be some serious vengeance in this movie. A lot of people getting hurt.
We’ve seen images of Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo in cowboy attire in a storm and now we know that this is how the film starts, with him helping people as he can’t help himself but do. It’s not a savior complex, but survivor’s guilt as Sylvester Stallone explained. He feels he has to basically make up for it and save as many people as he can.
Rambo has seen so much death and dealt so much of it himself that he has PTSD and can’t live a quiet and untroubled existence on his ranch. It’s a premise that adds a great deal of complexity and realism to the John Rambo character. He isn’t John Wick, so the blood on his hands shouldn’t be easily washed off.
Sylvester Stallone also explained the premise of Last Blood, which shows that war always finds John Rambo, even if he isn’t seeking it. The vet’s family is gone, but he has something of a new family with his housekeeper and her granddaughter. But because this is a Rambo movie, something bad happens to the granddaughter in Mexico.
Rambo has to make this right, not just because of his survivor's guilt, but because it is personal. Naturally, many bad guys will feel Rambo’s wrath along the way because while he may be restless and uncomfortable at home, the battlefield is what he knows and where he operates best, even if he doesn't like it.
Rambo V: Last Blood opens in theaters on September 20. Check out our 2019 Release Schedule to keep track of all of the big movies headed your way this year.