First MGM yanks the first five “Rocky” movies off of Netflix Instant on Jan. 1, now this: In an interview with Variety, Sylvester Stallone says he’s officially (for now, until he changes his mind) retiring John Rambo. This development comes hot on the heels of him winning a National Board of Review award for his admired turn in “Creed,” which miraculously brought Rocky Balboa into the teens.
No such luck, it seems, for Rambo, his other seemingly deathless creation, the one borne of the Reagan era and its rebuffing of ’60s antiwar ideals. Stallone has been teasing a fifth entry, maybe titled “Last Blood” (presumably followed by “Last Blood: Part II”), since 2009, then reneging, then teasing once again. As recent as 2014 he was citing it as his “No Country for Old Men,” which you can only imagine.
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At least this retirement makes sense. After engaging in a ludicrous bout in 2006’s “Rocky Balboa,” Rocky easily settled into an aging trainer/mentor role to Michael B. Jordan’s aspiring pugilist. Stallone, five months from 70, is truly, finally too old to play a guy who scampers about jungles and deserts, outrunning baddies and fireballs.
And at least Rocky had family and friends. Rambo’s relationships were tenuous at best, ended in gory death at worst. It’s unlikely some young upstart mercenary is likely to saddle up to him in Tunisia or Papua New Guinea or wherever he’s hiding, asking him for lessons in the best way to shoot some dude sitting in a jeep with a high-powered machine gun from two feet away, as seen in the series’ last installment, 2008’s “Rambo.”
This does free him of adding another confusing title to the franchise, which began as “First Blood,” begot “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” then turned into “Rambo III” before settling on simply “Rambo.” It also frees him to follow more dramatic work. After all, Stallone is getting serious Oscar buzz for his low-key, understated, oft-heartbreaking work in “Creed.”
Oh, and far as we can tell “The Expendables 4” is still out in 2017.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge