The Rambo franchise is about a U.S. veteran who keeps finding himself in situations where he has no choice but to kill dozens of foreigners. He’s always just minding his own business, not killing anybody, when someone comes along and recruits him for a mission. Then it’s only a matter of time before Rambo looks at the situation and says, “Well, I guess I’d better kill all these foreigners. Whaddaya gonna do, amirite?”
In the other movies, though, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) was a soldier, and his missions were military-related. This time, in the gross, stupid, sleazy, exploitative and almost certainly falsely titled Rambo: Last Blood, he’s retired and living on a horse ranch in Arizona when it becomes his obligation to go to Mexico to kill the sex traffickers who snatched his adopted daughter (Yvette Monreal). No governments are involved. It’s like if they made another Rocky movie where Rocky doesn’t box anymore but still goes around beating people up, freelance.
Anyway, after a relatively placid first 25 minutes or so, Rambo gets to Mexico and learns where the girl is being kept by smashing a guy’s clavicle, digging through the skin, and pulling the bone out. Some setbacks at the brothel leave Rambo bloody and angry (and more justified in killing everybody, of course), but he returns soon enough and starts administering justice with the claw end of a hammer. The final showdown is back at the Arizona ranch, under which Rambo has built an elaborate series of booby-trapped tunnels in the hopes that one day he’d be besieged and get to kill everybody. It’s always heartwarming when you see a man’s dream come true.
I misspoke earlier. I said he administered “justice.” Rambo himself denies that’s what it’s about. “I want revenge” he tells Carmen (Paz Vega), a Mexican journalist who assists him when the plot needs some deus ex machina. He gives a lengthy (for him) monologue on this subject, describing how he wants his victims to feel pain and terror and know that it’s the last thing they’ll ever feel in this life. Sex traffickers are bad, obviously, and I have no qualms about their being killed. What’s icky is how Rambo is doing it for purely personal, animalistic reasons: because they hurt someone he cares about. It’s not about making the world a better place, it’s about making Rambo, personally, feel good and giving a bloodthirsty audience the pleasure of seeing bad guys tortured. There’s no art, wit, or style to it. The cruelty is the point.