The reviews are in, and critics have reached an unsurprising verdict: “Rambo: Last Blood” is not politically correct. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes has scored what is presumably the final entry in the Rambo franchise at 27 percent positive based on 100 reviews from critics. In contrast, 85 percent of moviegoers gave it a thumb’s up on Rotten Tomatoes.
The film came in third in its opening weekend, after “Downton Abbey” and “Ad Astra,” with an approximately $19 million take. That’s comparable to the 2008 opening for the last installment of the Rambo franchise, which made $18 million its opening weekend and went on to gross $113 million worldwide, according to USA Today.
Besides voicing general disappointment in the film’s action sequences (which, in fairness, are by no means revolutionary among recent offerings in this genre), an overwhelming proportion of the negative reviews have also been decidedly political. Here is a sampling of headlines:
- ‘Rambo: Last Blood’ Is a Trumpian, Anti-Mexican Nightmare
- ‘Rambo: Last Blood’ Is A Rollicking Good Time Of Hyper-Violent Xenophobic Revenge Fantasies
- ‘Rambo: Last Blood’ Is An Ugly, Xenophobic Mess
- Right wing “Rambo” propaganda is alive and well in “Last Blood”
- ‘Rambo: Last Blood’: Sylvester Stallone Leads A Manic MAGA Fever Dream & Radicalizing Recruitment Video
Going by these headlines, the casual reader could be forgiven for expecting the newest Rambo to be chock-full of xenophobic rants against Mexican immigration into the United States. Unfortunately for overwrought critics, this turns out to be about as far from the truth as the Charlottesville lie. One could argue that the film actually creates sympathy for Mexicans who wish to flee what are often hellish conditions in the more dangerous regions of their home country.
The film finds John Rambo, a more-grizzled-than-ever Sylvester Stallone, living peacefully on his farm, tending horses and looking after his niece Gabrielle (Yvette Montreal) with the help of his housekeeper Maria (Adriana Barraza). Gabrielle is busily preparing for life in college when she receives a phone call from a friend in Mexico, who has discovered the location of Gabrielle’s long-lost father.
Disregarding her uncle John’s warnings, Gabrielle decides to track down her father, who lives in a seedy area across the border. The neighborhood is rough and dangerous, and the naïve Gabrielle unfortunately crosses paths with a local sex trafficking gang and disappears.
I won’t spoil the proceedings, but anyone can see where this is going. Suffice it to say that a bloodbath is imminent, courtesy of a very angry John Rambo.
“Last Blood” is most definitely a “hyperviolent revenge fantasy,” much in the same vein as “Taken,” “The Man From Nowhere,” and the numerous other examples this genre has produced in recent years. One might complain that the writing and action in “Last Blood” is a bit subpar compared to these other films, and it’s certainly no artful action masterclass on the level of, say, John Wick.
But who really cares? As the film’s positive audience rating shows, moviegoers bought their tickets to watch Rambo beat up some bad guys, and that’s exactly what Stallone and director Adrian Grunberg delivered. So why all of this hyperventilating from professional reviewers?
This critic at UPROXX lays it bare for us: “It’s all a setup for Last Blood to live out every assault rifle owner’s worst fears and most insane fantasies about Mexico. The only way it could be more transparent is if Stallone had growled ‘I. Am. The Wall!’ in his best Judge Dredd voice.”
Well, there it is. Just like everything else since 2016, it all has to come back to Trump. We’re apparently so deep into our hyper-politicized era that a film showcasing an American action hero beating the tar out of a vicious Mexican cartel is now subject to libelous accusations of racism and xenophobia — ignoring that this action hero is also fighting on behalf of other Mexican characters. Shouldn’t fighting sex trafficking be on our to-do lists regardless of our party affiliation?
One must wonder whether some of these reviewers are aware of the extent of sexual violence near and across the border, not to mention the rampant sex trafficking in parts of Mexico. Indeed, it doesn’t take much research to know that parts of the country have seen a boom in sex slavery in recent years, thanks largely both to corrupt officials and cartel enterprising.
Surely critics would agree in light of these facts that many Mexican citizens, both legally and illegally, come to the United States year after year seeking peace and prosperity precisely because it is less available in their country. These are complicated and heartbreaking real-world problems, to be sure, and a Rambo movie is simply not the place to expect them to be treated with nuance.
But in the end, if watching Rambo terrorize a sex-trafficking cartel is wrong, then I don’t want to be right. Critics should relax, forget Trump for two hours, and enjoy the ride.