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Soundtrack review: Rambo: Last blood (Brian Tyler – 2019)

Action Film scores

Soundtrack review: Rambo: Last blood (Brian Tyler – 2019)

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“Rambo: Last Blood” is a 2019 American action film directed by Adrian Grunberg. The screenplay, co-written by Matthew Cirulnick and Sylvester Stallone (from a story by Dan Gordon and Stallone), is based on the character John Rambo created by author David Morrell for his novel First Blood. The story follows the titular Vietnam War veteran (reprised by Stallone) as he travels to Mexico to save his adopted daughter, who has been kidnapped by a Mexican cartel and forced into prostitution. A sequel to Rambo (2008), it is the fifth installment in the Rambo franchise and co-stars Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adriana Barraza, Yvette Monreal, Genie Kim, Joaquín Cosío, and Oscar Jaenada.

Growing up, John Rambo was simply my favourite character and hero in the world. His straightforward ways and his lust for revenge appealed to me like nothing else and to me he was the ultimate hero. I wanted to be him, I read the books, I assumed his initial any time I had to create an avatar or persona for myself. John Rambo lives and Sly Stallone knows nostalgia like nobody else and brought us this gift of “Last blood”. As the character grew older, his music remained fresh and Jerry Goldsmith’s natural successor Brian Tyler took over for the 2008 movie and brought his own version of the theme and developed the Rambo sound even more. Now it’s time for the fifth instalment and we get an entirely new “Last blood” theme that opens the score and it shows the Brian Tyler action sound in all its might. It’s balls to the walls heavy orchestral action and Jerry would be proud of his heir.
The ghost of Jerry comes in the very next cue “The ranch” where we get a hint of that majestic and emotional Rambo theme we’ve loved for almost 40 years. Same in “Dusk” and I just feel like closing my eyes and hugging that old melancholic friend. This is exactly what Brian Tyler should have done because he understood Sly’s vision for this final movie, the explosion of nostalgia, the insane strumming of old sentimental chords and he just went and stitched that original theme all over his score. “Dusk” is a blast from the past and will get any “First blood” fan invested in this score.
The tone of the movie is dark, heavy, oppressive almost and there’s hardly any place for a smile. The music reflects that perfectly with sombre, melancholic tones for the first half, before the anger, before the bloodlust. Brian Tyler controls and subdues the orchestra, allowing it only those low emotional tones but in the same time letting the sombre brass section create wide spaces like those tunnels from the movie. I listen to this score and I see images from the movie, I remember the evolution of the character. The composer linked his music to our hero and made it, well, “Unmistakable”. He never goes too far into his own thing and even if he does, there are always those anchors in the original themes, like the goosebumps inducing motif in “Sorrow”. The first few cues are all about the nostalgia.
Then the action starts. “Vengeance eternal” is a perfect name for what follows as Tyler explores his entire action repertoire while cleverly keeping it very separated from his superhero work. As over the top as Rambo is he is still a man and the music reflects that perfectly with moments of doubt and resilience. Humanity shines once again in “John and Gabrielle”. Glorious is the world that describes the bulk of this score for me. As always Brian Tyler goes the full 75 minutes and there are some filler moments that could have been left out, but this way listeners have a pick of themes and motifs.
There is also something that was left out and should have been in, and that’s the end credits suite, the film version; now I rarely feel such a need for a film version of a cue but Sly pushed one last button once the sunset came over that porch at the farm and instead of simply going to the end credits he decided to do a recap, through images, of the entire saga, starting with the iconic image of young John Rambo descending towards his war buddy’s farm at the very beginning of “First blood”. I admit that with all these images of the character evolving over 37 years and Brian Tyler’s powerful rendition of the main theme, I was in tears by the time it was over and “Sunset” doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Brian Tyler understood what the movie and character was about and delivered a score that for me is even better than the one he did for “John Rambo”. I will come back to this one quite often.

Cue rating: 86 / 100

Highlights:
Rambo: Last Blood
The Ranch
Dusk
Unmistakable
Sorrow
Vengeance Eternal
Love Unconditional
The Tunnels
Preparing for War
Sunset

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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