If you know what works, don’t fix it, as Sylvester Stallone is proving by continuing to push his two most famous creations well into the 21st Century. For starters, he’s reprising the role of heavyweight champion turned boxing manager Rocky Balboa in next month’s Creed II (marking the eighth time he’s played the character since the original Rocky in 1976), and is currently shooting Rambo 5: Last Blood.
Stallone, who had previously played Vietnam vet John Rambo in First Blood (1982), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III (1987), and Rambo (2008), has the character in the new film living peacefully on an Arizona ranch, where he picks up work where he can. But it isn’t long before his friend, Maria (Adriana Barraza), informs him that her granddaughter, Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal), has gone missing in Mexico. This eventually leads him to team up with journalist Carmen Delgado (Paz Vega), whose half-sister has also been kidnapped. Together, they uncover a sex-trafficking ring and its leader, Hugo Martinez (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), towards which Rambo unleashes all of his furies.
The character of Rambo was created by novelist David Morrell, who, on his website, details how he came up with the idea, noting, “I was raised in southern Ontario. In the mid-1960s, I came to the United States to study American literature at Penn State. At that time, Vietnam was hardly mentioned in Canada, so I had no idea what the war was about when I met students recently returned from Vietnam. I learned about their problems adjusting to civilian life: nightmares, insomnia, depression, difficulty in relationships, what’s now called post-traumatic stress disorder.
“In 1968,” he continues, “the two main stories on the television news were Vietnam and the hundreds of riots that broke out in American cities after the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. I got to thinking that the images of the war and the images of the riots weren’t much different. Eventually, I decided to write a novel about a returning Vietnam veteran who brings the war to the United States. That’s the short answer.”
And don’t think for a second that Stallone, 72, is thinking about slowing down. He’s just announced two more film projects: Next up is Samaritan, which is described as a “dark, fresh take on the superhero genre,” in which he’s supposed to star. And then there’s Hunter, based on what had once been a Rambo screenplay, which in itself was based on the novel by James Byron Huggins. In it, Nathaniel Hunter, a man with superb tracking skills, is brought in to capture (or worse) a half-human creature brought to life by a secret organization. No release dates yet on either.