(2 / 5)
In 1982, the world was first introduced to Sylvester Stallone’s alter ego, John J. Rambo. First Blood may not have had the critical acclaim garnered by Rocky, but the Vietnam War veteran did manage to capture the attention of fans around the world. Over the past four decades, the industry has changed and the action star has aged, but that does not seem to slow him down or quench the desire to get more from this legendary figure. With the title Rambo: Last Blood, could this be the conclusion to this tortured soul and his penchant for vengeful aggression?
John Rambo has settled into a quiet life on his father’s farm in Arizona. The veteran enjoys his responsibilities of raising horses while caring for Maria Beltran (Adriana Barraza) and his niece, Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal). The tranquillity and simplicity of this life does provide peace for this man as he continues to struggle with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), flashbacks from the war and the effects of the events he has experienced since coming home. While he maintains the farm and the family, John still manages to develop a series of underground tunnels as a means of protection and mental catharsis. As life moves on around him, his niece looks ahead to attend university and begin her progression into adulthood. Before leaving her life behind on the farm, Gabrielle decides she needs to know the identity of her father and seek him out in Mexico.
Against the wishes of John and Maria, she ventures across the border to reach out to her dad, but discovers he does not desire the reconnection with his daughter. Devastated and bewildered, the young woman finds comfort in a friend who tries to console her before leaving the country. They go to a local dance club where things go down a dark path quickly as Gabby gets abducted into a human trafficking network. When John learns of his niece’s predicament, he goes south of the border to bring her back home. Upon confronting the Mexican cartel who has her in a local house of prostitution, a one-man war of violence and revenge ensues against this undesirable group and its leaders.
For those who have been around since the beginning of this franchise, there are very few surprises left in Rambo’s story. Stallone and writer/director Adrian Grunberg (Get the Gringo) stay faithful to the storyline that fans have come to crave. Showing this character’s flaws and good-hearted intentions through flashbacks to his past and a subtle addiction to opioids, the embattled warrior still manages to maintain his physical and mental capabilities. These components allow for a depth to the lead character despite being in another straight forward tale of revenge.
There are not too many aspects of organised crime that have not been depicted in films. To have human trafficking and slavery as the target of Rambo’s violent intent and anger do manage to justify the extreme methods of justice. The crime and punishment are not for the squeamish or faint of heart and may make all who watch it wonder why this is entertaining.
For the fans who have travelled from the beginning to the most recent chapter of John Rambo, fans have to acknowledge that the depiction of action and violence has ramped up considerably. The change is so significant, this film makes the original seem unrecognisably tame in comparison. It is proving that even action stars need to adapt to connect with modern audiences and Stallone has successfully managed to do this with two franchises. Is this the final instalment of Rambo? Only time will tell, but Last Blood does deliver the shot in the gut, face and groin that the faithful followers of the famous Vietnam vet have come to expect and embrace.
Reel Dialogue: A very ‘real’ issue: human trafficking
It is hard to imagine that in this modern era that we are dealing with slavery around the world, but it is an issue for us to address. Human trafficking and slavery are interchangeable terms that define people who are held in a forced labor situation, regardless of the reason.
The United Nations defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.” 
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9
It should go without saying that slavery is a gross indignity against men, women, and children created in God’s image. For those from a Christian heritage, we do have a role to play within this discussion and injustice. The Bible encourages us to pray, to speak out against these abhorrent practices and to work alongside those making a difference in the lives of the victims by these crimes against humanity and God.