On the Home Front

The key moment in each Rambo film comes when John Rambo accepts that violence is necessary. Each entry begins with peace: Rambo comes home, he seeks isolation in a foreign country, or he joins a monastery. Inevitably, he must kill.

“How is it ever done?” he asks in Rambo: Last Blood, drawing a connection to his ferocity in First Blood – “Nothing is over!” But in Rambo: Last Blood that moment comes later. In full rage mode, Stallone returns to form instantaneously when he learns a Mexican human trafficking cartel kidnapped his adopted teen daughter. There’s no rumination on his past; this Rambo grabs a hammer, crosses the border, and renews his war.

Rambo stemmed from wartime politics; they created him. First Blood brought them violently back Stateside. By Rambo III, Soviet aggression forced him to take up arms in Afghanistan. In Rambo: Last Blood, it’s become this right wing staging ground where Mexico is populated only by scum. The city is dressed in graffiti, Latino rap pours from stereos, and nearly everyone walks around with AK-47s in hand. Although decidedly a more personal narrative cause, John Rambo turns into a vicious serial killer, fighting for right as a nationalist fantasy. He wins, insomuch as one can in a situation like this.

Rambo: Last Blood lets go of this character

In failing, Rambo: Last Blood lets go of this character. While a camera glances Rambo’s medals and short, traumatic flashbacks recall Vietnam atrocities, there’s no person anymore. The veteran is gone. There’s no explanation as to why he builds a tunnel complex under his property, as if willingly recalling his combat experiences, but that’s left as a dangling figment of paranoia. He regularly takes prescription drugs, but for what isn’t clear. Rather, it’s assumed these keep him from reliving the war.

Broadly drawing despicable villains in order to reach the action, the finale leads to a sequence of sheer gory bedlam. Where Rambo 2008 set an already ludicrous standard, Rambo: Last Blood sees need to upend itself to elicit thrills. Beheadings, spike traps, stabbings, sliced off limbs, and a cut out heart bring everything to a preposterous climax.

Multiple Rambo films concerned the character’s reluctance to slaughter, and remorse for letting his country turn him into a killer. At this junction, Rambo enjoys it. He needs it. He waits for it. Rambo: Last Blood takes a complex figment based in national sorrow and turns him into an R-rated Kevin McAllister from Home Alone.

Video

Although transferred from a 4K source, Rambo: Last Blood is all over the place visually. When at absolute clarity, image definition brings outstanding texture. Precise facial detail and marvelous wide shots of Rambo’s ranch represent the format’s best output. Pristine sharpness makes full use of this resolution.

In Dolby Vision, nighttime shots produce firm, dense black levels, with strong highlights utilizing the available range. A few aerial pans of Mexico at night let street lights glisten against shadows. Overall contrast establishes depth. To give vibrancy, the color palette stretches where warranted, but settles down into distinctive blue or teal washes to set mood. This disc keeps intent intact.

But, Rambo: Last Blood is also a digitally shot mess around 40% of the time. Noise filters in constantly, reducing detail and causing the screen to buzz with artifacts. Apparently, this was noticed in post-production – partially anyway – as destructive smoothing turns people into plastic dolls. That great facial detail? Voided by these methods. The noise is preferable to inconsistently applied DNR equivalent to Instagram filters.

Audio

Before the action, the Atmos track focuses on ambiance. Birds chirp on the ranch and when moving through apartments, music blares while bouncing between each speaker. That sense of open air proves convincing, as do those clustered apartment hallways.

When shooting starts, bullets ping about, utilizing the soundstage for its width if not height. That changes as the fight moves underground, creating a sensational, authentic echo. Voices travel and reflect, while each strike reverbs off the walls.

While not the strongest, LFE supports heavy shotgun blasts with power. The real kick comes during a collapse. That’s equivalent of an earthquake. Detonations fire off, creating a sustained shake, proving the disc’s dynamic range is no slouch.

Extras

Although interviewed before the film was finished, the 50-minute Drawing Last Blood is a must as Stallone explores how he approaches characters and their depth. It’s interesting since Rambo: Last Blood barely touches on any of these qualities, but Stallone’s words reveal an intent. Plus, this plays over raw set footage. It’s fantastic, as is From First Note to Last Blood, detailing Brian Tyler’s composing method.

Rambo: Last Blood
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

Rambo: Last Blood ignores the character’s origins for something vengeful and outrageously violent to close John Rambo’s legacy.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 35 full resolution, uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: