Long answer after this excerpt.
The fifth Rambo movie is about an embittered old man who slaughters a lot of Mexicans in righteous fury after a resolved plot point one hour in its entire runtime involving a kidnapped foster daughter we’ve never heard about until this very movie. Also, it teaches the one life lesson every budding cartel builder should heed: if your brother says to kill the old-ass ‘nam veteran with an acid bath, you should listen to him.
And it also proves that the Home Alone formula works against gun-totting drug cartels, assuming they’re silly enough to explore a tunnel system operated and built by the same ‘nam veteran.
The big question is whether that hour of plot-building and setup is worth sitting through just to get to the one big action scene? It’s reusing the same story structure in Rambo IV/John Rambo but with different arcs: now it’s our hero enjoying halcyon days before his turn to dishing out violent justice to cartels who deal with illegal prostitution.
Said happy and sorta peaceful days involves Rambo and his sorta daughter Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal) wanting to see her dad in Mexico and ask why she’s abandoned. She gets mixed up in the prostitution trade run by bigwig Mexican cartel leaders Victor and Hugo Martinez (Oscar Jaenada and Sergio Peris-Mencheta). And it’s up to John Rambo to sort this out and also deal some bloodletting.
There are also some bits where John Rambo deals with his PTSD via painkillers and his helplessness in not being able to save folks. And also a subplot featuring a journalist played by Paz Vega who saves him and shares his grief of loss. Of course, that’s all thrown out the window in the last 30 minutes.
Was it worth it? Well, the violence and action bits are well put-together and paced just great. Impalements, arrows through flesh, hack-and-slashing, and shotgun after-effects: all of this is framed like as if John Rambo is channeling Jason Vorhees when going after the cartel.
Even with all the drama padding beforehand, director Adrian Grunberg did an OK job setting it all up before we get to the carnage. Gorehounds will not be disappointed.
To put it simply: you’re getting what you expect from a film that celebrates the machismo antics of old Sylvester Stallone. If you want a subversion of the formula or some revelatory material or a well-written narrative, you’ve come to the wrong place.
You’re here to see Rambo pull off his vengeance using tricks from Kevin McCallister’s handbook but with magnesium-filled shotgun shells and sharpshooting bow-and-arrow skills. It did an adequate job at that, though many wished it went an extra mile like part 4 did with its narrative.