Seems like Sylvester Stallone was starting to his game back with the successes of “Rocky Balboa“, “Rambo” (or Rambo 4) and the Expendables movie franchise. He is just one of those action stars that can go down and yet, he never seems to get kept down. Well, I am not sure exactly what Stallone wanted to do with his 2013 film “Bullet to the Head”. Directed by Walter Hill and loosely based on the French graphic novel “Du Plomb Dans la Tete”, the film feels like a noirish, raw, traditional crime drama with a very standard plot--bad guys vs. good guys where the good guy is a bad guy.
Sylvester Stallone plays Jimmy Bobo, a hitman who has a long record of arrests and an impressive military record. He also has his own sense of honor, so when a successful hit becomes something else, and his partner ends up being dead, Jimmy wants a little retribution, and joins up with a Washington D.C. police detective, Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang, Fast Five) in a high stakes investigation that leads to the back alleys of New Orleans, and all the way to the powers that be in the city. The unlikely duo must do whatever it takes to bring a sense of justice to themselves, and bring down Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). But they have go through his forces and this includes Keegan (Jason Momoa, Conan the Barbarian), a hitman very much like Jimmy, when he was in his prime.
“Bullet to the Head” is a standard action film that has very little surprises. It can be seen as a “un-buddy” flick since the two protagonists played by Stallone and Kang are not friends, and yet they must learn to work with each other. The themes of the film are all about revenge, and the world they move around in has the same brand of corruption we’ve seen in other films that would allow a man like Jimmy to move around. Corruption, crooked cops and assassins with an odd sense of honor are all basic staples of the crime noir-tough guy hitman genre. The film has very little surprises, one can even say that it borrows heavily from other crime movies.
The film is almost a slow burn, and it takes a little longer to pick up. Sure, the film opens with some heavy gunfire, and it had some graphic violence to keep up the viewer’s interest. Jimmy and Taylor go about town, one uses his old-school savvy of the streets while the other uses a smart phone. I suppose it was a way for the writing to establish the old school and the new school, as they slowly move forward to take the bad guys one by one. I guess the ace on its sleeve relied heavily in the chemistry between Jimmy and Taylor. They are an odd couple, one has been tempered by the hard life of crime while the other believes in the law. They do learn from each other and their exchanges in dialogue have that straight-faced sarcasm that can be funny.
Stallone and Kang, felt more like schoolmates than actually an odd couple of a cop and a hitman. The two struggled to form a connection, and honestly too much machismo and attitude can really hamper a chemistry. Stallone is his usual self, but Kang felt more like a tag along rather than someone who is the opposite of Jimmy and gave the film its moral stances. I know, I guess the film wanted Keegan and Jimmy to connect as two men as the same, but different, rather than the killer and the cop. The other characters in the film were pretty much your run-of-the-mill bad guy, but Sarah Shahi, who plays Jimmy’s daughter gave some needed depth to Jimmy’s character and added some flavor to his relationship with Taylor.
Yes, the film is pretty predictable but it does what it is supposed to do with the display of violence. Hill does capture the look and feel of a seedy, gritty and raw crime film. The film looked dirty and edgy, and the shadows gave the setting a much needed sense of atmosphere to add drama in the violence. Heads get blown away (hence the title) a lot and the direction even injects some blood and gore into the mix. I did get a little turned off by the CGI blood, this was one flick that could’ve benefited from practical effects, but unfortunately, it went the CGI route. As with most action flicks, it all leads up to the final showdown, the Stallone-Momoa rumble as the ultimate tango of experience and youth. The direction had its good touches and I certainly enjoyed the occasional inner monologue; it gave it a little more mood and toughness in its narrative.
“Bullet to the Head” is your standard action-crime flick that manages to make its gritty and seedy atmosphere part of its appeal. In this world the good guy is a bad guy with a code and only the really vile criminals get their due. There is something good with simplicity, and the film exerts such things accurately. The law of the streets meet the law of the land, a lot of violence and a good number of nudity to spare, “Bullet to the Head” may be just what some movie fans need. It isn’t necessarily a must-see, but I wouldn’t blame anyone who wanted to see it. It is worth a Rental. [3- Out of 5 Stars]
The Post Christmas season is usually full of ineffectual movies that get shuffled to this spot cause they won't be hits or garner emmy praise. So far, I have already seen 3 movies that going in I knew wouldn't be special but had some fun seeing. Bullet to the Head was sure to be the most fun, with a trashy, grindhousy look, an unaffected hero who looked carefree, and a throwaway plot. Bullet to the Head really needed to cut loose more and have it's throwaway plot not … more