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Rambo looking at his knife

Rambo: Last Blood audiences like the movie much more than critics. When the reviews for the latest, and possibly last film, in Sylvester Stallone’s second-most iconic franchise started dropping, I made the perhaps obvious prediction that the audience and critical divide on the film would be stark. Well, Rambo: Last Blood hit theaters over the weekend and that prediction appears to have been correct.

Rambo: Last Blood has been fairly universally derided among professional critics and the fifth film in the Rambo franchise currently sits at an exceedingly rotten 27% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 100 critical reviews. The audience score, however, tells a very different tale. With 2,405 verified audience ratings, Rambo: Last Blood enjoys a very fresh 85%. That 58% swing indicates that the opinions of critics and audiences are extremely far apart on this film.

Due to the contentiousness and controversy that often surrounds Rotten Tomatoes audience scores, the site changed its policy to make sure that those leaving reviews have actually seen the movie and aren’t just voting based on an agenda. IMDb and Metacritic do not have the same requirements, but their metrics also indicate that audiences quite enjoyed Rambo’s latest rampage.

IMDb users have given Last Blood a 7.0 out of 10, based on 8,184 ratings. And on Metacritic, where the Metascore is 29 indicating generally unfavorable reviews, the user score is an 8.5 out of 10. People rating Last Blood on sites like these may be rating the film highly because they have a strong opinion about it and perhaps are doing so in response to the critical sentiment, but it still seems that audiences like this movie much more than critics.

That bears out with the film’s CinemaScore as well. One of the more scientific gauges of how general audiences feel about a movie, the CinemaScore for Rambo: Last Blood is a solid, although not glowing, “B.” That’s the same score received by Crawl, Stuber and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and is above films like Hustlers and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

So why the disparity among critics and audiences? This is just conjecture, but I think it comes down to how a movie is judged, and whereas may critics may be judging Rambo: Last Blood on its merits as a film, audiences are judging whether or not it gives them what they want from a Rambo movie. Critics took issue with the gory, ultra-violence some called torture porn, but that’s exactly what audiences expected.

The critics lamented that Last Blood didn’t feel like a Rambo movie and didn’t live up to the legacy of the character established in First Blood, but the franchise hasn’t really been that in a long time. The Rambo franchise became popular more for a badass Sly Stallone killing bad guys than a character study about the effects of war.

People don’t necessarily want to think about the xenophobic implications of the film cited in the reviews, nor did they expect high art when they walked into the theater. They just wanted action. Audiences know what they signed up for with Rambo: Last Blood; people love movies about old dudes killing bad guys, and this movie delivered that. Those looking for intellectual stimulation and emotional nuance could go see Ad Astra.

So although First Blood author David Morell hated Rambo: Last Blood, he and the critics seem to be in the minority. That audience sentiment still didn’t help it conquer the box office though as Downton Abbey dominated.

You can judge for yourself because Rambo: Last Blood is now in theaters. Check out our 2019 Release Schedule to keep track of all the movies people will be arguing over in the months ahead.

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