What The Rotten Tomatoes Reviews Are Saying About Rambo: Last Blood

John Rambo has finally met his match: the critics.

Reviews are coming in for Rambo: Last Blood, which brings an end to the story begun with 1982's First Blood. The general consensus: Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) deserved a better sendoff, and one with much less of a sadistic streak.

Over-the-top carnage is nothing new for this franchise; 2008's Rambo similarly turned off critics with its cartoonish reliance on dishing up as much blood and guts as humanly possible. But Last Blood's detractors — of which there were many — were taken aback not only by the extreme level of the violence on display, but by some of the more troubling themes implied by the film's plot, which involves Rambo crossing the border into Mexico to search for a family friend who has been kidnapped by sex traffickers.

Many of the flick's detractors noted that political themes had always been present in the Rambo series, even — perhaps especially — First Blood, which dealt with the mistreatment of Vietnam veterans after they returned home from the war. Said detractors didn't begrudge Last Blood its exploration of hot-button issues — they merely opined, like Variety's Peter Debruge did in his savage review, that the series' worldview seems to have changed with the times, and not for the better.

"[Rambo: Last Blood is] another cruel and ugly showcase of xenophobic carnage squeezed into barely 80 minutes and packaged for export," Debruge wrote. "Screenwriters Matthew Cirulnick and Stallone adopt the racist view of Mexicans as murderers, drug dealers and rapists, devoid of cultural context or exceptions, beyond the 'independent journalist' (Paz Vega) keeping tabs on their whereabouts... This character has always been a mess of contradictions, representing on one hand the permanent damage that military service can do to one's soul, while simultaneously suggesting what the ideal soldier looks like. Rambo singlehandedly wins the wars that America can't. And the blood isn't likely to stop here, or anytime soon."

Tom Glasson of Concrete Playground concurred, musing that the level of violence presented in Last Blood — a step up even from Rambo, in his estimation — was better suited for a very different type of franchise. "[Rambo: Last Blood] a film that aspires to be Logan, yet lands somewhere closer to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre," he wrote. "[Rambo] abhors violence, yet maintains a terrifying arsenal of knives, guns and explosives. And beneath [his] picturesque ranch is a straight-up house of horrors, physically and psychologically. But is the film still enjoyable? Mostly, no."

Yet still, some reviewers were even less kind — like The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, who absolutely leveled the picture in his review's first paragraph, writing, "This massively enlarged prostate of a film can only make you wince with its badly acted geronto-ultraviolence, its Trumpian fantasies of Mexican rapists and hilariously insecure US border, and its crass enthusiasm for rape-revenge attacks undertaken by a still-got-it senior dude, 73 years young, on behalf of a sweet teenager." 

Ouch. It didn't get any better from there: "[The film] is cringemakingly written and clunkily directed, and even the final action sequence runs out of steam after a minute or so," Bradshaw wrote. "Of course, other dramas are arguably vulnerable to the charge of demonizing Mexico, such as the Sicario movies and Nicolas Winding Refn's TV series Too Old to Die Young; but they are thrillers composed with satirical brilliance and icy power. It is the streak of flabby sentimental self-importance that makes Rambo: Last Blood unwatchable."

Even some of the reviewers who recommended the film seemed aghast at its violence, with many remarking that even for a series which has always hung its hat on wanton bloodshed, Last Blood is a bridge too far. "It's funny to think how these movies were always symbols of Hollywood's gratuitous violence. They were bloody, but blood was the worst they could show in the '80s," wrote Fred Chopel of Showbiz Cheat Sheet. "Now there are no limits to the extent of the graphically brutal vengeance Rambo can take on his niece's tormentors. 2008's [Rambo] was already exponentially more graphic. Last Blood takes violence so far it almost has to be the last blood because there's no more blood left. Remember when the most graphic scene in First Blood was when he cleaned his arm wound with his knife?"

Again, this was a positive review, which indicates that even some of those predisposed to expect a heaping helping of bloody mayhem got a little bit more than they bargained for. Other critics posting positive reviews seemed to recommend the flick in spite of themselves; Vince Mancini of Uproxx, for example, penned an assessment which read for all the world like an absolute evisceration of the film, right up until the point where the critic offered his endorsement.

"Trump-era Rambo is essentially a human border wall keeping out Mexican rapists and murderers," Mancini wrote. "Last Blood is... a racist rape-revenge fantasy you can imagine ISIS recruits and school shooters separately [appreciating]... It's so genuinely horrific I'm convinced there are real-life cartel videos celebrating the torture of rivals that are less gory. I was either howling with nervous laughter or covering my face the entire time." Mancini then wrapped up his review with: "This movie is the product of truly deranged minds. It's a must-see."

The idea we're getting here is that Rambo: Last Blood can be appreciated only by those who go into the film expecting either a) to have their incredibly troubling, objectively terrifying worldviews validated, or b) to see enough harrowing onscreen violence to last them roughly the rest of their lives. One thing they apparently shouldn't expect, however, is for the film to do justice to its iconic main character.

This idea was summed up most succinctly by Harry Guerin of RTE, who wrote, "This last post for the 37-year-old franchise is a cheap and rushed send-off. There are plenty of bodies but not much soul... and although this is by far the bloodiest of Rambo's rampages, it's also the least cathartic. Don't remember him this way."

Wow. It's a bummer that John J. Rambo couldn't get the concluding chapter that he deserved — although, we suppose it's always possible that Stallone could rectify the situation by returning in another couple of years for Rambo: The Blood After the Last. All things considered, though, we're thinking that isn't such a hot idea.