Monday, September 23, 2019 - Updated: 4:16 pm
NEW YORK — It's an old and easily spotted Hollywood trick: Set up a group of easy-to-hate villains, then dole out their presumably just desserts while inviting viewers to revel in their well-earned punishment.
In "Rambo" (2008), the previous installment of the franchise that began in 1982, the bad guys were the Burmese military. Now, in the bleak, absurdly brutal swan song for the character of the title, "Rambo: Last Blood" (Lionsgate), it's Mexican white slavers.
Led by brothers Hugo (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) and Victor (Oscar Jaenada) Martinez, the black hats have made the mistake of drugging, kidnapping and forcing into prostitution Vietnam veteran John Rambo's (Sylvester Stallone, of course) adoptive niece, Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal).
Despite the entreaties of both Rambo and her grandmother, Maria (Adriana Barraza), Gabrielle had insisted on traveling south of the border to ask her estranged father why he abandoned her. Traumatized by his cruelly honest answer, she sought solace in a nightclub and was duly slipped a mickey by the miscreants.
Working from a script by Stallone and Matthew Cirulnick, director Adrian Grunberg promotes a Trumpian vision of Mexico as a lawless, er, hellhole. But not to worry, Rambo is equal to the task of do-it-yourself justice. The sadistic revenge he exacts via booby traps and butchery is so over-the-top that it eventually ceases to shock and becomes laughable.
Thus, back at the horse ranch where he, Maria and Gabrielle were living their peaceful lives, and to which he knows the baddies will pursue him, he turns a series of tunnels into a subterranean killing field, complete with a sound system from which Jim Morrison croons the Doors song “Five to One” with such apt lyrics as "no one here gets out alive" and "your ballroom days are over."
Don't bother to ask what the ballroom days of Mexican gangsters might be like. Exult as they're maimed, decapitated and impaled — or covered in gasoline and set alight.
That'll learn 'em not to mess with Rambo.
The film contains hideous bloody violence, including gruesome torture, drug use, a prostitution theme, much rough and crude language and sexual references. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.