Rambo: Last Blood (18) ****
Dir: Adrian Grunberg
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Yvette Monreal
Runtime: 89 mins

If nothing else, the Rambo films have always existed as a product of their times. Written in the early ‘70s while the war in Vietnam was still very much a reality, David Morrell’s novel First Blood gave Sylvester Stallone a big success after Rocky as John Rambo, a soldier returning to find himself rejected by an America deep in post-Vietnam malaise.
An abrupt right turn into Rambo as Reagan-era war machine saw the action become more cartoonish in the smash-hit sequel, while a third entry that if anything was even more jingoistic is barely remembered these days. Into his 60s, Stallone returned with a spectacularly violent fourth instalment and now, at 73, he returns once more for the soldier’s swan song.
When we join him here, Rambo has settled into the life of a rancher, picking up something of a family along the way in the shape of Gabrielle (Monreal) and her aunt (Adriana Barraza). We don’t get detailed explanations of who they are and why they’re in his life, and we don’t need it - it’s enough that John has found some peace.
Given the film’s title you might be forgiven for expecting for something akin to the first, something contemplative and reflective of our times. In reality it’s more like the kind of thing Denzel Washington and Liam Neeson have been banging out for the past decade - a bare-bones revenge flick as a one-man army wreaks stunning retribution on some faceless bad guys. Granted, Rambo set the mould for that kind of character, and the audience knowing his baggage and what he’s capable of means we accept him in peaceful mode while also anticipating where he will go.
A lean midsection takes us into Mexico after Gabrielle heads there to seek her deadbeat father, getting into trouble in the process. The resulting chain of events sets up a finale that plays out like the deadliest sequel yet to Home Alone and it’s here where the film really earns its corn. The template is simple, the execution of it accomplished and the brutality merciless as Rambo eviscerates his enemies in some of the most savage ways ever seen in a mainstream movie. Societal commentary may be long gone but, if you can stomach it, it’s absolutely thrilling.