Review

Plot: Aging hitman Jimmy Bobo (Stallone) must team up with Taylor Kwon (Kang), a by-the-book cop, to track down the deadly organisation that murdered their partners.

Review: Bullet to the Head was largely ignored when it hit North American theaters in February – and one can see why. The trailers, marketing and release all screamed of “dump job” by Warner Bros. – whose contract with Action God Producer Joel Silver had just ran out. Upon examining the finished film, I can say that even if people had gone off to see the film – not too many would have been thrilled with it.

The good first. Stallone. He is an action icon. Thanks to Rocky Balboa, Rambo and The Expendables, we have all been reminded why we loved him in the first place. He is perfect for this film, from attitude to appearance. Bobo is a cold-hearted bastard who kills without hesitation and isn’t afraid to explain the rules of the killing game to anyone who gets in his way. Stallone is super cut in this film. While it looks like he has lost a substantial amount of weight, he is still bulky in the arms and neck. It’s worth noting that his arm veins are so prominent now that they could probably get second billing behind him on the posters.

Jason Momoa proves that he can play a great villain. His Keegan is a ruthless man, but, he’s also very dangerous. He doesn’t just kill for money. He kills for pleasure. As one character points out: you can’t trust a man who doesn’t care about money.

The action scenes – which are very important to a picture like this – are well orchestrated and quite graphic, even for a film titled Bullet to the Head. Veteran director Walter Hill still has the chops to deliver brutal, in-your-face shoot outs, fights and explosions and the cinematography by Hill regular Lloyd Ahern is top notch as always. Hans Zimmer protege Steve Mazzaro provides the gritty, thumping music which reminds me of Walter Hill’s yesteryear collaborations with Ry Cooder. Unfortunately that’s about it for the positives.

Marketed as a sort of anti-buddy movie (the kind Hill was famous for delivering back in the day), Bullet’s sidekick is rather lame. Sung Kang’s character is too damn straight-laced to really play off against Stallone’s force-of-nature Bobo. The fact that he spends a majority of the film’s scant 91 minute running time crying about all the bad guys Stallone has blown away really doesn’t help his cause. From his constant use of his cell phone to his equally continuous talk about the law and what is right and wrong, Kang is one of the most anoying partners in history – and the film makers seem to know it, because he really has nothing to do, other than bug the hell out Bobo, and the audience. Sure, he might get in a couple of good jokes, but the guy is pure window dressing.

The suporting players (if you could call them that) are all practically irrelevant. Hot babe Sarah Shahi turns up long enough to go topless and get kidnapped so Bobo can rescue her in guns-blazing fashion. Bourne Identity and Killer Elite villain Adewale Akinnuoye Agjabe is not surprisingly the villain in Bullet, but he just sits behind a desk for the entire picture, barking orders at Momoa.

The most troubling aspect of the film seems to be the lack of faith in Walter Hill by the studio. Hill’s normal directing style is organic, refined. Nothing is wasted. In some instances, it looks like a first-timer helmed Bullet. We get choppy cuts (known as Avid Farts) and a rather stupid sequence (which I am not sure if it is supposed to be funny or not) where Bobo and Kwan go to a fancy dress store – which adds nothing to the movie.

Action films, good or bad, should never be boring, or seem uninspired. Bullet to the Head would have worked just as well with Stallone by himself, blowing the hell out of New Orleans. He seems more committed to the film than anyone else, and he still has what it takes to carry a picture. As for Hill – I am not convinced he should get the blame. There are glimpses of his old style buried under the scattershot editing. When the film works, it’s because it is in his familar, and comfortable territory, and when it fails, it’s because it looks like someone tried to turn the movie into a Jerry Bruckheimer production.

Overall, a mixed bag, that without Stallone and Hill, wouldn’t have been worth watching.



About the Author

Churchman
Churchman
Big action fan. First movie I ever saw at the cinema was The Terminator. That was quickly followed by Lone Wolf McQuade, Commando, Lethal Weapon and RoboCop. My favorite action heroes include Bronson, Seagal, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Lundgren and Eastwood. My favorite action director would have to be John Woo. Favorite action movie ever: tie between Woo's The Killer and Hard-Boiled.