Rambo 5 black hat

John Rambo has spent the better part of four decades battling his inner demons and shooting bad guys in the face. And soon, he’ll embark on his final mission. Lionsgate has officially set a 2019 release date for Rambo: Last Blood, which looks to end the iconic action series and, in one way or another, allow Sylvester Stallone‘s most famous character not named Rocky Balboa to ride into the sunset.

Lionsgate (via Deadline) has announced that the fifth and supposedly final Rambo film will open on September 20, 2019. The date makes sense – Rambo is a bit too old-fashioned to tangle with the superheroes of the summer, but he’s perfect for the post-summer hangover, when older folks return to theaters and the multiplexes start starving for something, anything, interesting. And one more Rambo film is, at the very least, going to be interesting.

We’ve known for some time that Rambo: Last Blood would see the PTSD-stricken war machine go up against Mexican drug cartels, but Deadline has a more clear synopsis:

When the daughter of one of his friends is kidnapped, Rambo — who has been working on a ranch — crosses the U.S.-Mexico border and quickly finds himself up against the full might of one of Mexico’s most violent cartels.

Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, and Yvette Monreal round out the core cast. Get the Gringo director Adrian Grunberg helms this one, from a script by Matthew Cirulnick and Stallone himself. As that cast and director suggest, this isn’t…well…it isn’t the biggest or most expensive action movie you’ll see this year. After all, the days of Rambo being a box office juggernaut went tumbling down with the Berlin Wall. But 2008’s Rambo made a totally respectable $113 million worldwide against a $50 million budget, so this all feels like a sound investment on Lionsgate’s part. Plus, fans will get to see Stallone take on the character one last time.

And yet, I can’t help but wonder which John Rambo we’re going to get here. It’s easy to forget that 1982’s First Blood was very much an anti-war film, a drama about an irreparably damaged soldier who finds himself a stranger in his own country, pushed to violence by forces that do not comprehend his rage or capacity for violence. Of course, the first two sequels threw most of this away in favor of Rambo machine-gunning America’s enemies to death in increasingly ludicrous, “patriotic” fashion. The 2008 film attempted to find a balance, leaning heavily on Rambo being a broken man who is very good at one thing (ripping throats out with his bare hands) while totally delighting in the gory details of watching him do that one thing (and Rambo does indeed feature a throat-rip for the ages).

The “Rambo vs. Cartels” angle does give me pause, mainly because I worry that it will give a certain breed of xenophobic moviegoer an excuse to cheer on an American rampaging through Mexico. And yet, it’s hard to imagine a more despicable adversary – even a quick Google search will return results that turn your stomach. In other words: don’t expect much political nuance from Rambo: Last Blood and don’t expect it to have many thoughtful things to say about American/Mexican relations. Buckle up for those conversations, folks.

We’ll talk more when Rambo: Last Blood opens later this year.

Cool Posts From Around the Web: