Tag Archives: Adriana Barraza

Rambo: Last Blood (2019, Adrian Grunberg)

Sitting and reflecting on Rambo: Last Blood and the franchise’s thirty-seven year legacy, the best idea of the fixing the film is probably just to have Sylvester Stallone do a bunch of shots training horses. He seems really good with them. And he doesn’t seem really good at anything in Last Blood. It’s a far less physical Rambo for Stallone, who seems far less interested in being a septuagenarian action star than quickly turning around corners after the villains end up in his traps. There’s one big physical action sequence for Stallone though; he seems able enough. Just the script doesn’t offer any good action possibilities and director Grunberg is incompetent.

Last Blood is a film with limited possibilities. It’s not like Rambo is a great part with a lot of potential. He’s a pretty generic Stallone protagonist here. He’s still got PTSD, which Last Blood showcases with hilariously bad flashback newsreel footage because no one in the film’s post-production departments care about their dignity. Maybe they all used pseudonyms. Doesn’t matter, because the flashback footage goes away, along with when Stallone gets visual flashes when he’s out being Rambo (in a Mexican night club), and then never shows up after a doctor warns he’s got a concussion. Because Last Blood isn’t just bad—it’s boringly bad. Grunberg’s really, really, really bad. Stallone and Matthew Cirulnick’s script is frequently dumb, then dumber. Lots of bad things happen because Stallone doesn’t operate with forethought. So when he eventually plans how his enemies are going to attack him so he can set traps to ensnare them… well, he didn’t have that ability for forethought earlier.

The movie’s real simple. Stallone’s living on his childhood ranch, training horses, with fellow old person housekeeper Adriana Barraza and her granddaughter, Yvette Monreal. Stallone’s “Uncle John Rambo” and just wishes Monreal would spend her life training horses with him instead of going off to college. She’s really smart, even though her father left the family after the mom died. Oh, and he was physically abusive. Apparently to a dying wife (Last Blood has a lot of problems with its timeline; again, the script’s dumb). Barraza and Stallone ought to be cute together. With a sitcom intern doing a script polish and someone who could competently direct a soap opera, there would be potential with the setup. But it would take someone to write a character for Stallone to play; after thirty-seven years of Rambo as a caricature, what if we got a real character in the last movie?

We’ll never know because Last Blood’s Rambo is pretty thin. He’s also terrible at monologues. In trying to prove there’s room for a septuagenarian Rambo, Last Blood shows why there’s not. Then again, maybe if Grunberg weren’t so terrible, the movie would be better.

Anyway.

Things go wrong when Monreal goes to find her dad, ignoring Stallone and Barraza’s advice. Monreal could be good; Grunberg doesn’t know how to direct his actors and she needs direction, but she’s at least sympathetic. Sympathy isn’t exactly weakness in Last Blood, but it’s pointless. Politically, Last Blood is interestingly hands off. The wall is a failure, but because it’s a fool’s errand. As far as bad hombres… well, Last Blood makes the case every single woman living in Mexico should be granted asylum. There are also some other odd spots, like when Stallone wishes he never became Rambo and hadn’t enlisted. Also when he tells Monreal everyone in the world’s bad and she’s sheltered and she needs to not go to Mexico to find her dad but, it’s okay if she does, because her uncle has a very particular set of skills he has acquired over a very long career.

And Monreal goes through a lot. With considerable dignity since Grunberg’s so crappy. Last Blood’s never scary. Not even when good people are in danger. Sometimes because of how Grunberg and not good editors Carsten Kurpanek and Todd E. Miller cut the scene, sometimes because of how Stallone and Cirulnick’s write the scene, sometimes just because Grunberg can’t figure out how to do an establishing shot. Technically, Last Blood is rather crappy. The editors, Grunberg, Brian Tyler’s score is godawful; but it’s Brendan Galvin’s photography. Galvin’s not good. Grunberg’s awful but he’s awful with bad cinematography. It’s a mundane ugly but it’s an ugly.

Because Last Blood, Stallone seems to think, is a Western. Based on the script, based on his performance, it’s a Western. Set in Arizona. And Mexico. And Stallone has a farm house and trains horses and on and on. It ought to be simple to do some Western. Grunberg can’t. Because he’s awful.

There’s also the whole thing with Stallone building an intricate tunnel system and living in it, going up to hang out with Barraza, Monreal, and the horses, but otherwise he lives in the tunnel system under his family farm, which ought to be an uncomfortable statement on Vietnam vets, but isn’t because Last Blood’s got jack to do with Stallone as Rambo as veteran. It’s really, really, really weird.

The other thing about doing a Last Rambo? Stallone’s always been interesting because he’s grown as filmmaker, his ambitions have changed, matured, developed. Last Blood doesn’t come off like a passion project or a personal ambition. Even though, after the first batch of end credits roll, you do have to wonder if Stallone tinkered with the end, which is what got Kirk Douglas to walk on the first movie, or if they always planned on a stupid twist. It’s hard to say, because so much of it is stupid. Also… doesn’t matter.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Adrian Grunberg; screenplay by Matthew Cirulnick and Sylvester Stallone, based on a story by Dan Gordon and Stallone and on the character created by David Morrell; director of photography, Brendan Galvin; edited by Carsten Kurpanek and Todd E. Miller; music by Brian Tyler; production designer, Franco-Giacomo Carbone; produced by Avi Lerner, Yariv Lerner, Kevin King Templeton, and Les Weldon; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Sylvester Stallone (John), Yvette Monreal (Gabrielle), Adriana Barraza (Maria), Óscar Jaenada (Victor Martinez), Sergio Peris-Mencheta (Hugo Martínez), Fenessa Pineda (Jizzel), and Paz Vega (Carmen Delgado).


Amores perros (2000, Alejandro González Iñárritu)

Amores perros could be a public service announcement about canine cruelty in Mexico City. Mexico City has a population of around nine million and takes up about six hundred square miles. For such a big city, it’s kind of odd the cast keeps running into each other, since their only connection is being the subject of this film (destitute assassin and dog lover Emilio Echevarría, who walks everywhere, must secretly be The Flash if he’s going to cover so much ground). I’d barely heard of the film, so I was a little surprised when I found it had such a critical and popular following.

Considering how hard it was to get through the first third–the film’s separated into three parts, rather haphazardly since most of the action in the second part is Echevarría’s and the first part is resolved in the third–I figure I’m alone. The first part is an entirely predictable brother loves brother’s wife story, somewhat accessorized (with the dog fighting). Even when it seems like it’s going to be unpredictable, it really turns out it is, no surprise, utterly traditional. The acting’s a little weak–Gael García Bernal and Vanessa Bauche are about as charisma-free as forbidden lovers can get. Cuckolded brother Marco Pérez, who has almost nothing to do, is a lot better. Bernal’s given the film’s biggest movie star role (except Echevarría, but his role turns out rather well) and he doesn’t do much with it. He’s a passive actor who mugs for the camera a lot–he kind of reminds of George Clooney on “E.R.” when he’d do the thing with looking up with his head down. Except Clooney had better writing.

The second story, which is hinted at during the first, turns out to be excellent and is a complete surprise. It’s a joy no less. Married publishing guy Álvaro Guerrero runs off with his mistress, a supermodel (how they met isn’t really explained and it’s a problem at first, since Guerrero’s character is a tad shallow). There’s a dog trapped in the floor, there’s the supermodel recovering from a car accident, there’s Guerrero’s wife ready to take him back. It’s the film’s most singular story–it reminds of a deceptively good short story, one the reader might dismiss while going through only to have a realization about on the last line. Even when it seems like it’s going to be cheap, it pulls through. Goya Toledo is good as the supermodel, probably giving the film’s second-best performance.

The best performance is easily Echevarría, who gets the goofy nomination friendly role here (Mexico has an Academy Award equivalent, right?). It’s almost absurd all the work he gets to do, but he does it all well. The film runs two and a half endless hours and the third story takes an hour. Subtracting the resolution to the first story (Guerrero and Toledo are noticeably absent from the third story, but given how well their’s went… maybe it’s for the best), it still probably runs fifty minutes. It’s frequently surprising and Echevarría makes the melodrama work. He’s got a couple big actor monologues and then gets to walk off into a Herzog shot.

The script uses some really cheap devices to bring its cast together and the narrative’s fractured, future here, past there, which is sometimes distracting and never really any good. Iñárritu’s direction is fine, does a decent film as video verité (I think it’s film anyway). It’s kind of a small movie pretending to be big, where the three stories either don’t deserve a feature or desperately do. Taking the Nashville approach seems to be something of a recurring cinematic fad… except some films tell stories requiring and some do not. Amores perros does not.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu; written by Guillermo Arriaga; director of photography, Rodrigo Prieto; edited by González Iñárritu, Luis Carballar and Fernando Pérez Unda; music by Gustavo Santaolalla; production designer, Brigitte Broch; released by Nu Vision.

Starring Emilio Echevarría (El Chivo), Gael García Bernal (Octavio), Goya Toledo (Valeria), Álvaro Guerrero (Daniel), Vanessa Bauche (Susana), Jorge Salinas (Luis), Marco Pérez (Ramiro), Rodrigo Murray (Gustavo), Humberto Busto (Jorge), Gerardo Campbell (Mauricio), Rosa María Bianchi (Aunt Luisa), Dunia Saldívar (Susana’s Mother), Adriana Barraza (Octavio’s Mother), José Sefami (Leonardo), Lourdes Echevarría (Maru), Laura Almela (Julieta), Ricardo Dalmacci (Andrés Salgado) and Gustavo Sánchez Parra (Jarocho).


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