Jacob Richardson | 22/09/2019
A pointlessly bloody, listless rehash that barely meets runtime requirements and only does so by bloating it out with soap opera drama.
Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) lives on his family ranch with his surrogate daughter Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal) and her grandmother. Before Gabrielle goes to college, she wants to meet her birth father, and when a friend tells her she has found him in Mexico, she hurries off south of the border to meet him. In the process, however, she is picked up by the Martinez brothers (Oscar Jaenada and Sergio Peris-Mencheta) who traffic in sex slaves. Rambo must cross the border and rescue Gabrielle from the hands of these undesirables, before she, like so many before her, ends up selling herself on the streets.
Adrian Grunberg directs this tepid entry in the Rambo saga, reducing any semblance of intrigue to an unnecessarily bloody, unsatisfying, Trumpian fantasy.
The first major issue revolves around the structure of the piece. Rambo is always at his best when defending a patch of turf, and in this instance that is his ranch, where he inexplicably has built a network of underground tunnels for no apparent reason. Grunberg sets up early on that this is going to be the final set piece, and so we understand that whatever happens, Rambo will come back here to make his stand. That’s a critical error, because there are some early steps towards an actually interesting film when Rambo starts hunting for his pseudo-daughter in Mexico. One could almost imagine a film that starts as somewhat of a Taken-esque rip off, but then puts Rambo on the backfoot, constantly scrabbling through Mexico with his rescued famiglia, uncertain of his surroundings, injured and pursued by evil drug lords.
Alas, Grunberg instead treats Mexico like a brief detour. Indeed, the first three quarters of this film plays out like an OTT soap opera, complete with slightly mislayered audio track. The hammed up dialogue, flat delivery, and evident foreshadowing, result in an hour or so of pain for any Rambo fan, or general moviegoer for that matter. Rambo’s connection to this grandmother and granddaughter duo seems stretched to the point of unbelievability, and the way in which she gets abducted (complete with an impossibly cruel, almost laughable run-in with her dad) only serves to further exacerbate the feeling that this is an ill thought out piece of celluloid.
When the action comes (and boy, come it does in spades), it almost plays out comically. The violence is so gratuitous, and the edit so slapstick, that you will feel almost none of the typical wincing, teeth gritting abhorrence at the violence Rambo is inflicting. That’s a problem, because while previous iterations of this character had equal or greater violence, it never felt juvenile or ill-thought out; this does. It makes light of the violence in a way that turns this almost into a comedy, as opposed to a dramatic action film. By the time Rambo rips a literal heart out of a chest (coupled with a very cheeky double heartbeat sound through the mix) and gives a gravelly voiceover while sitting in a sun-drenched deck chair, you almost feel like someone supercut some previous, unreleased Rambo footage and chucked it on YouTube to show off their first time using editing software.
From an acting perspective, almost everyone is universally bad. Sylvester Stallone rises above the pack, but still could play this character in his sleep - and for the vast majority of the movie does. It feels like he has zero interest in the character, or the story, and that this is just a payday for him. But with a story this weak, and a director insistent on delivering it in the most bland, insulting way possible, who can blame him?
Even the aged, steroid filled shoulders of Sylvester Stallone can't carry this bloated corpse of a movie.