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Rambo: Last Blood

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Rambo: Last Blood
Rambo - Last Blood official theatrical poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAdrian Grunberg
Produced by
  • Avi Lerner
  • Kevin King Templeton
  • Yariv Lerner
  • Les Weldon
Screenplay by
Story by
Based onCharacter
by David Morrell
Starring
Music byBrian Tyler
CinematographyBrendan Galvin
Edited by
  • Todd E. Miller
  • Carsten Kurpanek
Production
companies
Distributed byLionsgate
Release date
  • September 20, 2019 (2019-09-20) (United States)
Running time
89 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$50 million[2]
Box office$19 million[2]

Rambo: Last Blood (also known as Rambo V[3][4] and Rambo V: Last Blood[5]) is a 2019 American action film directed by Adrian Grunberg; the screenplay, co-written by Sylvester Stallone, is based on the character John Rambo created by author David Morrell for his novel First Blood. The story follows the titular Vietnam War veteran (reprised by Stallone) as he travels to Mexico to save his niece, who has been kidnapped by a Mexican cartel. A sequel to Rambo (2008), it is the fifth installment in the Rambo franchise and co-stars Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adriana Barraza, Yvette Monreal, Genie Kim, Joaquín Cosío, and Oscar Jaenada.

Plans for a fifth film were announced on and off again since 2008, with different iterations developed and cancelled. The film was finally announced in May 2018, with Grunberg attached to direct. Principal photography began in October 2018 in Bulgaria and Tenerife, and ended in December 2018, with additional photography in May 2019. Brian Tyler returned to score the film.

Rambo: Last Blood was theatrically released in the United States on September 20, 2019, by Lionsgate. Critics gave the film negative reviews, which decried the script, graphic violence, and what they perceived as racist and xenophobic.[6][7]

Plot

Eleven years after the events in Burma, Vietnam War veteran John Rambo inherits his late father's horse ranch in Bowie, Arizona, which he manages with his old friend, Maria Beltran, and her granddaughter, Gabriela. Gabriela reveals to Rambo that a friend of hers, Gizelle, has found Gabriela's biological father, Miguel, in Mexico. Against Rambo and Maria's wishes, Gabriela secretly drives to Mexico to ask why Miguel had abandoned Gabriela and her mother years ago. Gizelle leads Gabriela to Miguel's apartment, where he reveals to her that he never really cared for Gabriela or her mother.

Gizelle takes a heartbroken Gabriela to a local club, where Gabriela is drugged and kidnapped by enforcers of a Mexican cartel. Meanwhile, Maria informs Rambo of Gabriela's disappearance to Mexico. Rambo travels to Mexico and interrogates both Miguel and Gizelle about Gabriela's whereabouts. Gizelle reluctantly leads Rambo to the club where Gabriela was last seen and confronts El Flaco, the man who last spoke with Gabriela. A mysterious woman, Carmen, tails Rambo as El Flaco leads him to Gabriela's location. Rambo is immediately confronted, beaten and marked by the cartel, led by Hugo and Victor Martinez. They take his driver's license, revealing the ranch's location, and a photo of Gabriela, whom Victor recognizes. The cartel vow to mistreat Gabriela further due to Rambo's actions.

Carmen takes Rambo back to her home where she cares for him until he fully recovers. Carmen reveals herself to be an independent journalist and has been investigating the Martinez brothers, who had kidnapped and murdered her sister. Rambo later raids one of the brothels, killing several men until he finds a drugged Gabriela. On the way back home, Rambo thanks Gabriela for giving him hope for ten years before she dies from the forced overdose. Enraged, Rambo sends Maria away and rigs the ranch with traps for a confrontation, later returning to Mexico to ask Carmen's help in finding Victor. Carmen refuses initially, believing that it will solve nothing but is convinced after Rambo appeals to her grief and frustrations.

Rambo raids Victor's home, killing several guards and decapitating Victor. In retaliation, Hugo leads a group of hitmen to Rambo's ranch, where each falls victim to the rigged traps. Saving Hugo for the last, Rambo mutilates him and rips his heart out. In the aftermath, a weakened Rambo sits on the porch of his father's house, vowing to continue fighting and to keep the memories of his loved ones alive. During the credits, Rambo saddles up his horse and rides off into the sunset.

Cast

Production

Development and writing

In February 2008, Sylvester Stallone revealed that making a fifth film would depend on the success of the fourth film, stating he was "gearing one up" and that it would "be quite different".[8] In March 2008, Stallone revealed he was "half-way through" writing Rambo V, stating that it would not be another war movie, with Bulgaria being considered to double as Rambo's home in Arizona.[9][10][11] In February 2009, Stallone revealed that he was proceeding with the fifth film but stated, "the conflict is whether to do it in America or a foreign country".[12]

In August 2009, Millennium Films green-lit the film with Stallone writing, directing and starring. At that time, the plot focused on Rambo battling human traffickers and drug lords to rescue a young girl abducted near the U.S.–Mexico border.[13] In September 2009, Stallone revealed that the film would be titled Rambo V: The Savage Hunt. The film would have been loosely based on Hunter by James Byron Huggins and would have focused on Rambo leading an elite special forces kill team to hunt and kill a genetically engineered creature.[14] Nu Image/Millennium Films released a poster and synopsis for The Savage Hunt.[15] In November 2009, it was reported that the plot had reverted to Rambo crossing the Mexican border to rescue a girl who had been kidnapped.[16]

In May 2010, Stallone revealed he was "done" with the character, stating, "I think Rambo’s pretty well done. I don’t think there’ll be any more. I’m about 99% sure, I was going to do it... but I feel that with Rocky Balboa, that character came complete circle. He went home. But for Rambo to go on another adventure might be, I think, misinterpreted as a mercenary gesture and not necessary. I don’t want that to happen."[17] At the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, Millennium Films and Nu Image advertised Rambo V with posters and handouts.[18] Following an interview with Stallone for Ain't It Cool News, in which the director expressed his desire to end the franchise, Harry Knowles reported that, "He then told me that the folks behind those posters essentially said that if Sly didn't do it - someone else would. And Sly seems fine with that."[19]

In 2011, Sean Hood was hired to write a new script titled Rambo: Last Stand that Hood described as "more in line with the small-town thriller of First Blood.[20] In 2012, Hood revealed that Rambo V had been put on hold in order for Stallone to finish The Expendables 2. Hood also revealed his uncertainty whether the film would be similar to Unforgiven or a passing-of-the-torch.[21] In August 2013, it was announced that Entertainment One and Nu Image would develop and produce a Rambo TV series with Stallone.[22] In June 2014, German film company Splendid Films confirmed that Stallone had started writing the script for Rambo V, with Stallone describing it as his version of No Country for Old Men.[23] In September 2014, it was revealed that the film would be titled Rambo: Last Blood, with Stallone directing.[24]

In 2015, Stallone and Rambo creator David Morrell re-developed the story for Rambo V. Stallone wanted a "soulful journey" for the character that Morrell described as a "really emotional, powerful story". Stallone pitched the idea to the producers, but they wanted to proceed with the human trafficking story instead, abandoning Stallone and Morrell's idea.[25] In October 2015, Stallone pondered on the possibility of a prequel, stating, "It's intriguing to find the whys and wherefores of how people have become what they are. The traumas, the loss and the tragedy of being in Vietnam would certainly be a great challenge for a young actor, and it would be ironic that Rambo directs younger Rambo having played it for twenty years plus".[26] In 2016, Sylvester Stallone revealed that Rambo V was no longer in production.[27]

Pre-production

In May 2018, Rambo: Last Blood was re-announced and was scheduled to begin filming in September, with the plot focusing on Rambo taking on a Mexican drug cartel.[28] As per mediation resolved in August 2019 through the Writers Guild of America (WGA), and agreed upon by Avi Lerner of Balboa Productions, Dan Gordon was awarded a primary "story by" credit for the film.[29] Stallone was confirmed to be co-writing the script with Matthew Cirulnick, but seemed unlikely to direct.[30] That same month, Stallone confirmed that the film is scheduled for a fall 2019 release.[31] In August 2018, Adrian Grunberg was announced as the director.[32] In September 2018, Adriana Barraza was added to the cast as Maria.[33] In October 2018, Paz Vega,[34] Yvette Monreal,[35] Sergio Peris-Mencheta,[36] Oscar Jaenada, and Joaquín Cosío[37] were cast in the film. In May 2019, Louis Mandylor, Sheila Shah, Dimitri Vegas, and Genie Kim (aka Yenah Han) were revealed to have been cast without prior announcement.[38][39][40]

Filming

Principal photography began on October 2, 2018 in Bulgaria.[41][42] It was previously scheduled to begin on September 1, 2018,[43][44] and before that on October 27, 2014, in Shreveport, Louisiana.[45][46] Barraza filmed her scenes in Tenerife (Canary Islands).[33] Principal photography was completed on December 4, 2018.[47] Additional photography took place at the end of May 2019.[48][49]

Music

Rambo: Last Blood (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Film score by
ReleasedSeptember 20, 2019
Length75:03
LabelLakeshore
ProducerBrian Tyler
Brian Tyler chronology
Ready or Not: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
(2019)
Rambo: Last Blood (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
(2019)
Charlie's Angels: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
(2019)

Brian Tyler, who composed for Stallone on Rambo and the Expendables trilogy, returned to score Last Blood. Tyler shared his scoring process with Dread Central:

Rambo: Last Blood is a very emotional story and the music needed to reflect the tone that the director, Adrian Grunberg, set so beautifully. I wrote a series of heartfelt and passionate themes that echo Rambo’s yearning for family, justice, requital, and compassion. These ideas created a tonal tension that was both challenging and rewarding as a composer. Lush strings, massive brass, thunderous percussion, delicate piano, and harrowing trumpet duets echoed the themes of loss, regret, hope, and vengeance. It has been an incredible ride composing for this timeless character.[50]

Release

Marketing

In May 2018, Millennium Films brought the project to Cannes to generate interest and sales.[30] Stallone verified that he would share images and videos from the film's set on his Instagram as the film approaches its release.[51][52] In February 2019, Stallone revealed images on his Instagram of Rambo's adopted family,[53] combat history,[54] and the character Gabriela's intentions to travel to Mexico to find her father.[55] In March 2019, Stallone revealed via his Instagram an image of Rambo covered in blood and aiming his signature bow.[56]

In May 2019, it was revealed that Stallone will present exclusive images at Cannes to coincide with a special "first-look" screening of the film at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès on May 24, 2019.[57] The first trailer was revealed at Cannes on May 24, 2019.[58] The teaser trailer was released on May 30, 2019[59] and drew comparisons to Logan and Unforgiven.[60] A remixed version of the song "Old Town Road" was used for the teaser.[61] On August 1, 2019, Stallone revealed the theatrical release poster on his Instagram.[62] On August 20, 2019, Stallone released the second trailer on his Instagram.[63] On September 4, 2019, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema announced it would host a marathon of all five Rambo films to commemorate the release of Rambo: Last Blood.[64] Deadline Hollywood reported that P&A costs were under $30 million.[65]

Theatrical

Rambo: Last Blood was released theatrically in the United States on September 20, 2019.[66] Dadi purchased the Chinese distribution rights and agreed to an eight-figure co-financing deal.[67] On July 30, 2019, the MPAA assigned the film an R rating.[68]

Reception

Box office

In the United States and Canada, Rambo: Last Blood was released alongside Ad Astra and Downton Abbey, and was projected to gross $23–25 million from 3,618 theaters in its opening weekend.[69] The film made $7.17 million on Friday, which included $1.3 million from Thursday night previews.[70] It went on to debut to $19 million, finishing third and marking the second-best opening of the series. [65]

Critical response

The review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 27%, with an average rating of 3.95/10, based on 100 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads: "Like the sequels that preceded it, Rambo: Last Blood is content to indulge in bloody violence at the expense of its main character's once-poignant story."[71] Metacritic said the film received "generally unfavorable reviews," with an overall weighted average of 29 out of 100 based on 26 critics.[72] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an average 3.5 out of 5 stars and a 56% "definite recommend."[65]

The portrayal of the Rambo character was put under scrutiny. Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan gave the film 3 out of 4 stars and was complimentary of the story's "surprisingly brooding examination" of Rambo: "Sure, Rambo is convincing when he ends up telling bad people, 'I'm gonna hurt you real bad,' but there is also a kind of fragility that makes us worry about people putting the hurt on him."[73] Peter Debruge wrote in a negative review for Variety, "This character is 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."[74] Rating the film 4.5 out of 10 for IGN, Witney Seibold lamented that "[a] character who was originally meant to stand as a symbol for the damage that war can do to a soldier is now best remembered as an unkillable human machine gun," but credited Stallone with "manag[ing] to give as soulful a performance as the part warrants."[75]

The script by Stallone and Matthew Cirulnick attained mostly unfavorable reactions. In a negative review for The Hollywood Reporter, Frank Scheck said it "feels utterly tossed-off and generic, more resembling the pilot for a Rambo television series than a proper sendoff," but credited Stallone with "keep[ing] a franchise afloat".[76] Katie Walsh of the Chicago Tribune, who gave the film 1 out of 4 stars, called the script "barely a script at all" and the writing "lazy"; she added that story writers Stallone and Dan Gordon "trade on charged imagery rather than, you know, actually writing characters that fully express the spectrum of human morality."[77] William Bibbiani of Bloody Disgusting said the script "has been reduced to its lowest common denominators, establishing characters quickly and then shoving them into a simplistic plot (that is to say, simplistic even by Rambo standards)," and rated the film 1.5 out of 5.[78] Grading the film a "D+" for IndieWire, Eric Kohn said Stallone as a co-writer "does a decent job at generating empathy for Rambo through furtive gestures, but Last Blood goes overboard to prove that he's tried to be a better man."[79] While many called the plot of Last Blood derivative of Taken,[75][78][79] web-based critic James Berardinelli called it "a Death Wish variant with a few callbacks to the trap-building of First Blood."[80]

Critics reported being appalled by the brutality of the action scenes, with some comparing its amount of gore with that of a slasher film.[75][81] Berardinelli said that "[t]he body count is insanely high and the methods of death are worthy of a Halloween or Friday the 13th sequel," and gave the film 1 out of 4 stars.[80] Debruge called the violence "horrible, gut-wrenching carnage to witness, and yet, it's been calibrated to elicit whoops and cheers from fans, who've faithfully followed along as Rambo evolved."[74] Vince Mancini of Uproxx said that "[i]t's so genuinely horrific I'm convinced there are real-life cartel videos celebrating the torture of rivals that are less gory," but recommended the film as a "must-see".[82] Conversely, Johnny Oleksinski of the New York Post said Last Blood "features what's easily the most violent movie scene of the year. It's awesome," giving it 2 out of 4 stars.[83] Duncan Bowles of Den of Geek gave it 3 out of 5 stars, writing: "If you're not the kind of person who wants to weep with joy at the sight of Rambo tooling up, firing a bow, or rigging booby traps, then the film really isn't for you, but if you're after a solid display of carnage from a character you love, then there's plenty on offer."[84] Many saw the climax of Last Blood as similar to that of Home Alone, which, by contrast, is rated PG.[76][77][83]

The depiction of a crime infested Mexico and the stereotypical portrayal of most Hispanics and Latinos as criminals prompted critics to accuse the film of racism, xenophobia, and pandering to supporters of the Trump presidency.[7][74][77][81][85] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian called Last Blood a "massively enlarged prostate of a film [that] 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," giving it 1 out of 5 stars.[86] Seibold wrote, "I understand that Rambo films have rarely been bastions of cultural togetherness, but in 2019, these broad stereotypes are offensive and dated and downright irresponsible."[75] Kohn wrote, "In 2019's hypersensitive cultural environment, the depiction of murderous Mexican crime bosses and their cowering sex slaves encountering a literal white savior doesn't go down so easy."[79] Addressing the complaints about the stereotypical villains, Bowles wrote: "The villains might be built from the stereotypical strain of pure evil from years past, but their reprehensibility is what makes the explosive payback work and the violence, despite some especially grim moments, never quite strays into the extreme stomach churning highs from part IV."[84]

David Morrell, creator of the Rambo character and author of the First Blood novel, tweeted that he disliked Last Blood, calling it "a mess" and feeling "[e]mbarrassed to have my name associated with it."[87] Morrell later told Newsweek:

I felt degraded and dehumanized after I left the theater. Instead of being soulful, this new movie lacks one. I felt I was less a human being for having seen it, and today that's an unfortunate message ... [Trackdown] is typical of ultra-violent 1970s exploitation "grindhouse" films, the technique of which Rambo: Last Blood resembles. The sets here look cheap. The direction is awkward ... Rambo could be called John Smith, and the film wouldn't change. It assumes the audience is familiar with Rambo's background, whereas anyone under 40 will wonder what on Earth is going on with those tunnels.[87]

Future

During Cannes 2019, Stallone said he would continue portraying Rambo if the fifth film succeeds.[88] Grunberg, however, said that Last Blood "closes the circle", hoping it would conclude the film series.[89] In September 2019, Stallone confirmed that he has plans for a prequel to the series. Although he would not reprise the title role, he would like to explore who Rambo was before the war:

I always thought of Rambo when he was 16 or 17 – I hope they can do the prequel – he was the best person you could find. He was the captain of the team; he was the most popular kid in school; super athlete. He was like Jim Thorpe, and the war is what changed him. If you saw him before, he was like the perfect guy.[90]

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       How 'Last Blood' Trailer Shows the Humanity in Rambo — The Hollywood Reporter
        Rambo 5 Last Blood TRAILER: Sylvester Stallone channels Logan — Express.co.uk
        Rambo Returns in RAMBO: LAST BLOOD Trailer — Comics Beat
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