Rambo: Last Blood (2019)

Rambo: Last Blood. Directed by: Adrian Grunberg. Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Yvette Monreal, Paz Vega. Runtime: 1h 29 min. Released: September 20, 2019.

Spoiler warning! If you want to know as little as possible about the movie, come read this after you watch it. You’ve been politely warned.

“Rambo: Last Blood” is one heck of a mixed bag. John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is now living on a horse ranch in Arizona, dealing with old age and PTSD and living with his adopted family; his old friend Maria (Adriana Barraza) and her granddaughter, Gabriella (Yvette Monreal). Rambo’s like a father figure to her.

The first 20 minutes of the film feels like dull melodrama. Rambo shows off the underground tunnels (truly built for an action-packed finale) on his ranch and bonds while horseback riding with Gabriela. Then, Gabriela says she knows her father is living in Mexico and wants to go see him. Rambo and Maria basically say he’s a schmuck, but she goes anyway.

What happens next is basically the plot of Taken but with Rambo. Rambo immediately goes over the border and learns Gabriela has been kidnapped by a Mexican cartel involved in human trafficking led by the Martinez brothers, Victor (Óscar Jaenada) and Hugo (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), who are just awfully stereotypical characters.

The scenes in Mexico feel more like melodrama, especially when Gabriela tries to reconnect with her Dad and he says he never cared about her. It’s an odd scene. A journalist in Mexico, Carmen Delgado (Paz Vega) is an ally to Rambo and adds exposition for the cartel. She’s not an interesting character – but besides Rambo, none of the characters are great.

It’s also a shallow story you could tell someone about beat-for-beat in less than two minutes. To make matters worse, the first hour is just entirely boring with only a couple of scenes of brutal violence to keep Rambo fans interested.

Rambo article photo

Sylvester Stallone in “Rambo: Last Blood.” (IMDb)

I’ve only seen “First Blood” and the 2008 “Rambo,” but the story is so generic it only feels like a Rambo film in name, not in spirit. Any character could lead this film, but Sylvester Stallone is kick-ass in action scenes and mediocre in dramatic scenes. There’s one decent scene that’s believable in terms of emotion, but most of the other emotional aspects of the film don’t ring true.

Even at a compact 89 minutes, “Last Blood” is slow to get going. It feels slower still because I didn’t care about Gabriela’s arc, and she’s the core drive for Rambo. Their chemistry is okay, but the dialogue trying to get her to stay isn’t very strong. A lot of the dialogue feels awkward overall.

The non-stop action of the story doesn’t come until 70 minutes into the film, when Rambo sets up traps in his tunnels before luring the cartel back to his home in Arizona. The last 20 minutes plays out like an R-rated version of “Home Alone” and it’s bloody awesome. It’s gory and brutal and fun in its cartoonish way. It’s like Looney Tunes, but I love Looney Tunes and “Home Alone.Keep in mind, these scenes are a hard so there are no Macaulay Culkin cameos, here.

The shame about this film is that it’s all build-up to an action-packed finale that only lasts 20 minutes. If I could look at movies just for their finales, this would get a recommendation from me because it’s a decent time if you just like brutal action. There’s just too much crap to get through to honestly make it worth it.

Score: 50/100

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Escape Plan (2013)

Escape PlanTitle: Escape Plan. Released: October 18, 2013. Directed by: Mikael Håfström. Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 50 Cent. Runtime: 115 min. Time took to write review/Date written: 36 min/Nov. 17, 2013. Times seen: Once.

For a Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, this has a low amount of action. But for a movie with both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, it has a surprisingly low amount of non-stop action. Yet, oddly enough, the movie focuses so much on escaping out of the inescapable prison, that the film can’t slow down for one minute to complete a compelling aspect of Stallone’s character. It almost did, but not quite – so the film just leaves us in the dark too often.

It does have its fair share of action, but it’s a bit far between.  It would be better pitched as an action drama, not as a action, mystery, thriller like it is on IMDb. It’s a solid experience either way, even if it can’t fully develop its story. The warden Hobbes (Jim Caziezel) is looking for a prisoner that designed the prison where only Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzengger) knows where the person is. Or something like that, it’s never crystal clear.

Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is the main protagonist and mastermind of breaking out of prisons. It’s actually his profession, and he writes books about how to make an inescapable prison – and Hobbes uses it as a guidebook. His main purpose, though, is to report back to the Warden of the prison and tell them what they need to work on. When he is sent into Hobbes’ prison, however, there are no escape codes that he can use to get out of the prison. While he studies the guards’ habits, it is more difficult since they are faceless.

He has to resort to nicknaming their habits. Enough about the story because it doesn’t really go any thicker than that; what is important is this is a decent movie to see in theatres. It might be a bit overlong, but it’s never dull. Do not expect too much action, because it comes in sporadic doses. When it does come, it’s exciting. It has some funny lines to fill out parts that try to develop the story; but as with most of Sly’s starring vehicles, there are more than a few pointless lines.

The movie’s weakest aspect is mostly just its character development, and certain aspects of the story. The filmmakers try to develop all of that, but they don’t succeed with flying colours. It’s nice to see an action movie at least attempting to develop at least one character, and that’s a better courtesy than some do. I really don’t like having to strain my brain to remember a simple character trait.

Anyway, the creativity of the film is great. The premise gets points for originality. The only way to tell the guards apart is the way they walk. Their creepy masks and similar British accents are nearly impossible to differentiate. Vinnie Jones is nice to see; his role seems to be the director of security or something, the only one who doesn’t wear a mask. The guards with masks would be excellent for a horror movie, I’m telling you. It’s nice to see Amy Ryan in a supporting role. The cast is fine, but everybody knows Stallone nor Schwarzenegger are the greatest actors. My favourite part of the movie is probably the design of the prison. It reminds me of the elevator cube layout of “The Cabin in the Woods.”

Score: 70/100

The Expendables 2 (2012)

Expendables 2, TheThe Expendables 2

Release Date: August 17, 2012

Director: Simon West

Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Randy Couture

Runtime: 103 min

Tagline: Back for war.

Mr. Church reunites the Expendables for what should be an easy pay check, but when one of their men is murdered on the job, their quest for revenge puts them deep in enemy territory and up against an unexpected threat.

The Expendables 2 improves on its original, mainly because Stallone’s sloppy direction is trashed (and replaced with a slightly better director) and the film doesn’t try to have a brain.

Sure, there’s a story established: the baddies mean to steal from a plutonium mine (led by Jean-Claude Van Damme) to produce a bomb. That’s how the thick as the plot is. However, the real problem with this film’s predecessor is [that] it tried too hard to have a good story and it just came across as tedious. This completely disregards any attempt at giving us a good story, and the film makers focus merely on the explosions and the humour.

This offers an extremely fun experience, nothing more; nothing less. For anyone looking for an experience that never has a dull moment, this is the film to watch. It doesn’t have anything to offer to the action genre except for non-stop explosions and artillery and a great ensemble cast. The actors are having a great time, and it truly translates well to the silver screen.

Like the predecessor, this does rely on the actors to make it fun – but not quite as much. They are assisted by the good pop culture jokes. There doesn’t seem to be any true characters or development at all. The names are established, but the actors might as well be playing even more bad ass versions of themselves. Either that or characters they’ve portrayed earlier in their careers. This film is just a bunch of old guys having fun and kicking ass.

In a nutshell: The only things this film offers is the humour, the ensemble cast and the great action. This just needs a bit more Jet Li and a little less of an over-the-top  antagonist.

70/100

Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World review.

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (2D TV Screening)

Release Date: August 19, 2011

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Stars: Jessica Alba, Jeremy Piven, Joel McHale

Runtime: 89 min

Tagline: Saving the world is their idea of family time.

 

Robert Rodriguez: Director, often great screen writer, some of his best work  includes Sin CityGrindhouse, Planet Terror, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, those sort of darkly atmospheric flicks. He has also entertained children and adults alike with the first two Spy Kids films – they’re sort of like the James Bond for kids. Though, he also is capable of inducing torturous films for adults, that pass itself as entertainment – and even some kids may not enjoy. The prime example is The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl. I’ll give him that Spy Kids 3-D was bearable in most areas, but it wasn’t anything special. This film is just one of those movies where you can say confidently: “Oh, this crap is just terrible.”

Marissa Wilson (Jessica Alba) has been married to Wilbur Wilson (Joel McHale) for about a year now, and they have had one baby together. There’s a nuisance for Marissa: Wilbur’s twins. Cecil (Mason Cook) isn’t all bad, but the real trouble is the daughter, the pranking Rebecca (Rowan Blanchard). She has a sore spot for her [Marissa] because Rebecca thinks she’s trying to replace her real mother, and most of all – she thinks Marissa is hiding something. She is correct, Marissa is a retired OSS agent. After the Timekeeper escapes from prison, he threatens the world with an upcoming apocalypse. He’ll do this by speeding up time to the point where there isn’t any time left in the day. Marissa is called back to action to stop the Timekeeper, and her new family is tossed into the mix in the process.

This film is predictable from the get go, or at least when you meet the central characters. I don’t know how good the 3D was, but it was fairly obvious what could have been in 3D – and it didn’t look like it would have made any good 3D effects.

The film bares the same message as the first three: family is the most important thing. The first three did this well, so this film is just so unnecessary. Also, the fact that family comes first is practically just generally believed to be true.

Some good things about it… I guess it offers a fairly nice sense of nostalgia. Some of the gadgets are sort of cool, but they weren’t as cool as in the other films. Alexa Vega’s cameo was good, but she has gotten a bit too old to play her character.

It was nice to see Danny Trejo in this, in his extremely brief cameo as Uncle Machete, but I didn’t care for it very much. Nor did I care for the extended cameo by Daryl Sabara as Juni. He just didn’t work very well.

The story is just really stupid. Who cares about this guy taking over the world? Did Rob Rodriguez not learn anything from having Sylvester Stallone play numerous roles? The villain is just so ridiculous.

The film is just rather unbearable, the acting is horrid and the attempts at comedy or any sentimental moments fail miserably. How this did not get nominated for a Razzie, I have no idea.

Alexa Vega was really the only person in this film I could tolerate. All the other performers are awful, and the children are mighty annoying. The performers do horribly: Jessica Alba, Joel McHale, Jeremy Piven, Rowan Blanchard, Mason Cook and Daryl Sabara. Though, the voice work from Ricky Gervais as the sarcastic mechanical dog, Argonaut, was decent.

Spy Kids 4 is a completely unneeded sequel that offers no entertainment value, has a stupid plot, and should not be seen by anyone who appreciates a good movie. Watch it only if you’re curious to see how bad it really is.

25/100