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Rambo feeling the blade of his knife

In the past few years, Sylvester Stallone’s most iconic character, Rocky, has been revitalized on the big screen thanks to the Creed films. Those films have found success at the box office and been critically well received, while also offering a fitting end for the character... which may turn out to not actually be the end. Now Sylvester Stallone is back with a swan song for his second-most iconic character, John Rambo in Rambo: Last Blood.

The fifth film in the Rambo franchise, and the first in over a decade, comes from director Adrian Grunberg, and it tells the story of an older Rambo who is forced to return to his killing ways when a friend’s daughter is kidnapped by a drug cartel. The reviews are now out for this weekend’s Rambo: Last Blood. So does it send the character out in a blaze of glory and is it as awesome as its fantastic title suggests?

Unfortunately, that doesn’t look to be the case if the early reviews are any indication. CinemaBlend’s Dirk Libbey gave the film 1.5 stars in his review and said:

If you're in desperate need of 90 minutes of gore-filled violence, Rambo: Last Blood will fill the order. Beyond that, there's nothing of value to be found here.

Dirk found Last Blood to have nothing of substance like insight into the Rambo character to help balance out the film’s horror movie violence and he wasn’t the only one who didn’t find much redeeming about it. Indiewire’s Eric Kohn found the film tiresome and gave the film a “D+.” In his review, he said:

Constructed with a lo-fi telenovela aesthetic and overwhelmed by a throbbing paint-by-numbers score, Last Blood feels like a fan tribute that just so happens to star the real McCoy.

The sentiment that Rambo: Last Blood doesn’t feel like a proper Rambo movie is found in several of the reviews for the film so far. Forbes’ Scott Mendolsohn found Last Blood to be a disappointing entry that it didn’t live up to its predecessors or other films in the genre. He said:

It’s an aggressively irrelevant and undistinguished movie from a franchise whose previous installments have at least tried to justify themselves as events. Rambo V can’t compare either to its predecessors or the action franchises it inspired.

One thing that all the reviews seem to agree on is that Rambo: Last Blood is every bit the gory and ultra-violent action flick that it appears to be. That ultra-violence and its execution does not work for everyone though. In his review for Variety, Peter Debruge said:

It’s horrible, gut-wrenching carnage to witness, and yet, it’s been calibrated to elicit whoops and cheers from fans.

Opinions will vary on the violence in Rambo: Last Blood, and there will certainly be many people who buy their ticket to witness that very thing. Uproxx’s Vince Mancini acknowledged the over-the-top nature of the violence, but still gave the film a positive review and found it to be worth a watch for that very ridiculousness. He called the film a “rollicking good time” and said:

This movie is the product of truly deranged minds. It’s a must-see.

That opinion is definitely in the minority. IGN’s Witney Seibold acknowledged the film’s action merits, but took issue with the way the action was carried out and the implications of the film’s politics. He was not alone in that criticism, as other critics took issue with what they saw as xenophobia in Last Blood. In his 4.5 out of 10 review, Witney Seibold said:

The Rambo series continues its track record of ultra-violence, shallow characterization, and irresponsible politics in Rambo: Last Blood, a film with more gore than a horror film, and some legit badass action that, all too unfortunately, plays like the dark fantasies of an angry teen.

As you can tell, there aren’t many truly positive reviews for Last Blood so far, but not everyone hated it either. Edmund Lee of the South China Morning Post actually enjoyed the film for what it is. He said:

As a generic revenge thriller with an unusually grisly edge, Last Blood is bloody satisfying indeed.

Rambo is an iconic character so it is a bummer that this potentially final film has received largely negative reviews. That’s a feeling expressed by The Hollywood Reporter’s Frank Scheck, who said of Rambo:

He deserves a better sendoff.

So it doesn’t look like Rambo: Last Blood will be a revival for the character in the way Creed was for Rocky, at least not in the critical sense. Right now, Rambo: Last Blood sits at a 39% on Rotten Tomatoes, which to be honest is basically in line with the previous Rambo movies, with the exception of First Blood, which enjoys an 86%. Overall, things aren’t looking good on the critical front. Maybe we can hold out hope for Sly’s prequel idea.

Despite the negative reception, I don’t think the reviews have indicated that audiences will be getting anything less than they want or expect from this film and this franchise, so I have a feeling the audience and critical divide might be stark on this one.

Rambo: Last Blood opens in theaters on September 20. Check out everything you need to remember about the franchise before seeing it, and keep an eye on our 2019 Release Schedule to keep track of all the movies hitting theaters this year.

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