Over a decade ago, when the credits were rolling on 2008’s “Rambo,” I thought it was the perfect way to end the character’s long story. Apparently Hollywood didn’t agree because now we have a fifth film in the franchise. In all fairness, though, it is pretty entertaining.
After serving in Vietnam, getting unjustly pushed into a conflict in Washington state, rescuing prisoners of war, fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and battling against ruthless soldiers in Burma, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) has finally settled into a peaceful life.
The 2008 film saw him return to the family ranch and that’s where we pick up with John, who now keeps busy by training horses. He lives a peaceful life at the farm with his friend Maria (Adriana Barraza) and Maria’s granddaughter Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal). While everything seems to be OK at the outset, though, trouble starts when Gabrielle visits Mexico to try and reconnect with her biological father. Unfortunately, during her time there, Gabrielle is abducted by a cartel and it once again forces Rambo out of peacetime.
Rambo’s latest adventure is kind of a tale of two parts. There’s the first two acts which feel very reminiscent of the film “Taken,” with some generic plot pieces, and the third act where the action kicks into really high gear.
While not groundbreaking, though, the former does serve somewhat of a good purpose. As an audience we’ve never really seen the Rambo character living in a state of peace in his home country. To see him in that state was new and welcome. Then, seeing that stripped away from him, knowing how long he fought for it, gives strong motivation for the character.
The second act very noticeably drags, though, as the movie falls into very cliche’d territory and leaves an audience just kind of waiting for the grand finale. It’s safe to say that the climax delivers, fortunately.
The final 15 minutes or so are packed with amazing battle sequences featuring the one-man-army doing what he does best. Some of the kills are reminiscent of the other movies while others are inventive. Regardless, the whole sequence is bad-ass and seeing Stallone wage a war against this cartel is damn satisfying.
Part of the reason it works is Stallone. Whether its in the new “Creed” movies as Rocky or here, the guy knows his characters and is able to portray them well. It may not be the most complex role, but Stallone has always been able to give Rambo as a man who wants to get away from battle but keeps getting back in.
There’s a point where he tells Gabrielle that he wishes someone would have talked him out of going to war and it’s a nice, convincing moment. He’s of course also very good in action scenes.
The rest of the cast is kind of hit or miss, though. Barraza and Monreal are fine here in their parts, but the bad guys are pretty much just type-cast cannon fodder.
Additionally, the film features the actress Paz Vega as this independent journalist named Carmen. She’s fine in the role but the character doesn’t really have much to do. Rambo asks her for help and it’s implied that she does, but it’s not really even shown. Even a short scene of her going over documents and articles with Rambo about the cartel would have been helpful.
The 2008 “Rambo” is a better film and made for a superior send-off. While this one is an alright action flick, it lags behind others in the franchise. With that said, though, it still has entertainment value and the final third act makes this worth the price of admission for action fans. 3 out of 5.