Rambo 5 - Stallone sends the legend into an unnecessary follow-up
The title melody plays, the warrior John Rambo, tired by many conflicts and near-death experiences, walks slowly but consistently along the long path to the home ranch of his long dead parents in Bowie, Arizona. After his last unwanted adventure in Burma, Rambo feels that he has finally arrived to eventually find something like peace and quiet for the rest of his life. One wishes him this after all the hardships on domestic and foreign soil. This is how Rambo ended 2008, the supposedly last action-hurrah of the unjustly treated Vietnam veteran after a so far unprecedented massacre was put on the screen. It was also Stallone's comeback as an action star, which one could not necessarily expect, after he seemed to have lost almost all his status at the turn of the millennium and then successfully rode the nostalgia wave with Rocky Balboa and The Expendables and their successors.
But the now over 70-year-old, who is still working hard in terms of physical fitness to do justice to the role according to his abilities, proves a lack of feeling for the spirit of the times and the personality of the character in the fifth Rambo part titled Rambo: Last Blood. The sequel, which has been hinted at from time to time for years, was not at all euphorically awaited by the fans; the ending of the fourth part seemed too round. In his adherence to the iconic role, Stallone rather shows impulses that he might fear for his legacy, as director Ridley Scott (Alien: Covenant) is sometimes accused of. This often doesn't lead to the best creative decisions, as you can unfortunately see with Rambo 5.
The story is a lame, reactionary mixture of set pieces, which was last done really well by Taken in 2007 with an also aging actor. Thus, Rambo suddenly has to face a modern human trafficking cartel from Mexico and seems pretty clumsy and out of time, just like the whole movie. You won't find any nuanced social criticism, as it shone through in the previous parts, at times more and at times less clearly. The bad guys are from the drawing board and Rambo, with all his history, is forced into a corset he can't fit into. Even David Morrell, the author of the novel that was adapted for the first part, said he was embarrassed that his name is connected to the fifth part. Stallone also did not rule out the possibility that if it was financially successful, he might send the character into the race a sixth time. In view of the box-office results, that doesn't seem likely, and one can only hope that Sly will be able to let his John Rambo character go just like the credits of the fourth part.
Rambo: Last Blood - Extended in several markets outside the US, UK & Canada
Rambo 5 was presented to a test audience before its release, so that the studio could better assess where the film was already running smoothly and where adjustments were needed. Additional photography and re-shoots followed and resulted in further versions, which were tested again. Shortly before the film was released in theaters, several minutes of footage were removed, resulting in a running time of about 89 minutes. The US, the UK and Canada were among the territories that eventually saw this version in cinemas. Stallone said that especially the younger test viewers did not really understand the prologue in which Rambo tries to save the hikers as well as his calm conversation at the ranch. That's why it was removed, he said, to get to the main story faster.
But even that version, which was not affected by this clean up, was released in many international markets. Germany for example. The longer version is overall also the better one, because it contains more character development. The prologue with the storm generally seems a bit out of place, but especially the scenes with the Mexican cartel gangsters give them more personality. By the way, there is no more action and violence in the longer version of Rambo: Last Blood.
By the way: there is apparently a third version, which differs in one detail. At about minute 10:37 in some Latin American versions, Rambo's flashback has short insertions of the dead hitchhiker and her dead husband in a body bag instead of the short Vietnam insertions.
The US Version (included on the US Blu-ray by Lions Gate) was compared to the International Version (included on the German Blu-ray (by Universum Film).
The international version runs 656.48 seconds or approx. 10 minutes 57 seconds longer than the US version.
0:00:00: In the US version, the entire prologue is missing. In a storm that forces even the police helicopter to turn off, only Rambo is still in the forest area as a volunteer helper, looking for three hikers. The woman is already dead when Rambo finds the husband and daughter. When a flood of water pours from the mountains into the valley, he can only save the daughter, himself and his horse by strapping them behind boulders. The man also dies because he would rather search for his wife. In the end, the policemen and the daughter thank him, but he leaves very tight-lipped.
Back at his ranch, he takes the horse back to his stable. He throws in a few pills and then goes into the house where his housekeeper Maria makes him a coffee to warm him up. She says she's already heard what happened. Rambo is not happy with the fact that he couldn't save everyone, something that he couldn't also achieve for his comrades back in Vietnam. Maria says he is not in the war now, he is only in his head. Rambo says it's hard to turn off. Then Maria mentions that Rambo would remind her of his father, as he sits there in the chair, silent, making things out with himself. But he has done a wonderful job running the ranch and she is grateful to him that she could stay there and he helped her raise Gabrielle. He pats her hand and goes to his quarters where he sits on his cot and listens to music.
0:11:50: The absence of this scene is again attributable to the prologue, which is missing in the US version, because the content refers to it. Rambo and Gabrielle come out of the underground corridor system and he asks them how last night was. She says that not so many people came to the party because of the rain and that she heard from Maria what happened. She asks him if he is okay and if he knows that it is not his fault that people died in the storm, he tried his best. He agrees. Then she asks him if he wants to go riding and he tells her to get her riding boots.
Hugo welcomes Don Miguel to expand in the business of trafficking in young women. However, Hugo's brother and right-hand man Victor does not have the best manners, so Hugo takes him aside. He endangers the deal with his behavior and should better clear the field, there is a lot of money at stake. Victor feels ignored, but finally complies with the decision and leaves.
0:34:43: Rambo drives longer through streets in Mexico. Looks like tightening up the runtime.
Victor leads a couple of corrupt policemen into the illegal women's shelter and they jump on the crying women who are doing their best to defend themselves.
Victor is upset and goes to Hugo. He does not understand why Hugo is playing games with John. Victor wants him dead. Hugo gives his okay and Victor grabs a heroin syringe and leaves.
1:00:51: Hugo goes to the railing at the stairs and curses.
1:29:49: The tracking shot away from the house is significantly longer in the international version.