Nothing Is Over!
Rambo: Last Blood. Potentially the last in a line of films, based off of a single novel that hit home for Americans so hard that nobody would opt to actually make the film until almost ten years later. And that would be First Blood. Now, I could go through a complete Rambo history lesson here, but I think I could cut it short and mainly focus on Last Blood. But I have to at least briefly touch on my first experience with Rambo. After all, you came for my take, right? Here we go!
Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, Rambo was a pretty big deal. But as much as I wanted to get my hands on every videogame or movie, I also read. Way more than your average kid. And sometimes I would read things far beyond my comprehension, such as Stephen King’s IT, The novelization of Friday the 13th, and many books that my uncle had about World War II. But, I always had comics and games to fall back on when I wanted some fun entertainment. My uncle also had a book by an author named David Morrell called First Blood. During the summer, I would always be over there, as my father and my uncle had a trucking company and were always gone. So, I did what any kid would do, and tried to get my hands on things that were well beyond my understanding. So yes, in a world where action movies were king, I actually read the book first.
First Blood portrays a Vietnam veteran returned home to be hated by his country. Rambo was his name. Just Rambo. Drifting from town to town, having a few run-ins with the law due to his temper, Rambo felt like he had lived through hell for what? To be pushed around by people and authority when he is just trying to eat a burger and drink his Coke? Well, in the town of Madison, Kentucky, he decided that was enough. When the Sheriff Will Teasle decides to give him a hard time, Rambo pushes back. In the book, you are shown that Teasle, while a bit of a jerk, isn’t a bad guy. He had also served in the Korean War, had a hell of an upbringing, and sort of paints the picture that he came out on the other side to a country that embraced him for his service. Not so with Rambo. Rambo ran away, enlisted, was trained to kill, and then sent home to a country that wanted to spit in his face. Long before there was a name to it, David Morrell focused in on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and what it could push a man to do without proper help.
Now, Rambo isn’t this invincible machine in the book, but he did kill a lot of people fighting back against Teasle and his men. He even had the chance to slip away, and maybe make his way down to Mexico. But in the end, he had something to prove. But what was proven is that he was broken. In the end, you saw no sun shine down for a happy ending. A lot of lives were lost, including Teasle I believe, and Rambo himself, his head blown off by his commanding officer, who realized Rambo was too far gone to address these issues. It was a tragic ending that spoke volumes on American politics and how the times have changed, and soldiers were coming home with no treatment or care, and tossed back into a regular society that they didn’t belong to. Alright, I tried to keep it short. Let’s move on a bit.
First Blood the movie made some changes. The town is now Hope, Washington. There is no background for Teasle, he is just a jerk cop on a power trip. Rambo has a full name, and doesn’t kill at all except one person by accident. But it still portrays a broken veteran, and the ending scene still moves me to this day. The biggest change is that Rambo lives at the end. After showing an ending where he dies, test audiences wanted it changed. So it was. Which now means we get a series of Rambo movies. David Morrell was baffled. But after being asked repeatedly to write a novel that went along with the second film, he agreed. He never wanted to take away what he had written, and just didn’t know how to write that Rambo was still alive. In the end, he didn’t. At the beginning of the second novel, he simply states that the Rambo at the end of his book dies. In the movie, he lives. So now we fast forward to a very aged Sylvester Stallone playing a very aged John Rambo.
Rambo seems to be dealing with his problems a bit better. We see him on medication, and he even helps with the family living on the farm in Arizona. While he was away, his father died and left the farm to the family that helped him. You see that he still has flashbacks, and has even made tunnels around the farm. But the thing that is most important to him is Gabrielle. The daughter of Maria, which is the family I was talking about living on the farm. Rambo has had a hand in raising Gabrielle, and he finally sees that there is good in the world that still needs to be protected. With Gabrielle’s father gone when she was younger, the story moves into Gabrielle finding him via a friend down in Mexico. Gabrielle goes to find him against everyone’s wishes, and doesn’t return. This is where our movie really starts, and things go to hell from here.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that the Rambo movies moved away from politics pretty much after the first movie, and becoming straight up action movies. The second movie had a bit, but it was mostly Rambo leaving a high body count on whoever he perceived was the enemy. In First Blood, it was his own country. In Rambo 2, it was the Vietnamese, who you find out was being controlled by the Russians. Not to mention his own unit turning their backs on him yet again, leaving Rambo betrayed a second time. Rambo 3 you see him going to rescue his old Colonel, and aids the freedom fighters in Afghanistan. But, it was once again the Russians who were behind it. Rambo 4 you see the gruesome war zone in Burma, where Rambo slaughters more or less an entire army to save some missionaries, and the civilians of Burma who were being abused as well get some benefit. Now we see a different kind of battle in Last Blood, pitting Rambo up against, well, more or less the cartel.
This movie gets dark, gritty, and depicts a side of Mexico that people are taking issue with. But this movie isn’t supposed to be anything nice, except for showing Gabrielle at the beginning and what she means to Rambo. At roughly an hour and thirty minutes, we really don’t get to see much story here. Think Taken, but way more violent and way less happy. Then think Home Alone, as Rambo sets up all sorts of nasty traps down in those tunnels for his attackers. I personally enjoyed the film, because I’m someone who grew up with mindless action movies. This fits right in here. Girl disappears, crazy hero goes on killing spree to rescue girl. We’ve seen it a hundred times. The only difference here is that we see Rambo snap beyond coming back, and will kill anyone in his way to see his objective completed. Wait, that’s pretty much just like every other Rambo movie, right? Exactly.