Bullet to the Head (**½)

bullet_to_the_head_ver3While not an especially good movie in the traditional sense, Bullet to the Head is the type of throwback action flick that knows exactly what it is and satisfies in a surprisingly strong way. The title certainly has truth in advertising on its side, as during the runtime the film average a literal bullet to the head about every eight minutes or so. What else can you reasonably expect from a low-tech “shoot em’ up” starring Sylvester Stallone? Content to coast by and beat up the bad guys, Stallone gives the crowd what they want here and gets in and out quickly. I’m not sure how I feel about Walter Hill as a director anymore, but he certainly keeps things moving at a breakneck pace. If Hill had gotten a better script to work with and had cut down on some of his odd stylistic choices, I might have actually full on recommended this culture clash revenge tale. As it stands, I’m mostly just saying that it’s not as bad as you likely feared and you could probably find yourself entertained by it.

Yes, there’s a plot to this film. No, it’s not especially important or coherent at times here, but it’s there, so let me run it down for you quickly. New Orleans hit man Jimmy Bobo (Stallone, with one of the most amusing character names I’ve seen in some time) lives by a code, but one night after a job, his partner winds up dying. That sets something off in Jimmy, who decides to make sure that the murderers pay the price. At the same time, Washington D.C. detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) arrives in town to investigate the death of his own partner…who just happens to be who Jimmy had to put a hit on. Sensing something amiss with both of their partners being dead, Taylor proposes to Jimmy that the work together. Initially resistant, Jimmy eventually teams up with him, and quickly they uncover some massive corruption (were you expecting anything less?). When not making quips about their backgrounds or age, the two-track down the bad guys, with Taylor trying to do the police work and Jimmy mostly killing people. Yup, it’s that kind of movie, and it’s completely unapologetic in its overt trashiness.

bullet-to-the-head-2There is no reality in which you can say that Sylvester Stallone gives a good performance in this flick. That being said, it’s a solid choice for an actor who seems to be at a crossroads in his career. This throwback movie might help him begin to move on from loud action movies (besides sequels to The Expendables, of course), though perhaps I’m being optimistic. Here, Stallone is just being Stallone. He shines in the fight scenes and mumbles his way through the rest. He might actually give the best performance in the film though, so that lets you know how everyone else is. Sung Kang is a vacuum of charisma, but he works well enough with Stallone. The only co-stars of note are Christian Slater, who’s terrible, and Jason Momoa, who just smiles and kills people periodically.

Walter Hill was once a decently well-regarded writer and director, though honestly he never really did it for me (I do love his remake of Brewster’s Millions though, perhaps inexplicably). Here, he shows that he may be past his prime, but still can show people getting blown away with effectiveness. The script he got from Alessandro Camon, based on a graphic novel, is rather terrible, but Hill doesn’t do too much to help the cause either. There are some very odd edits, visual tricks that are unnecessary, and a beginning that seems like it starts off with a scene missing, not to mention the ending, all of which kept me from having the guts to actually give the flick a thumbs up. They do have a climactic axe fight though, so that’s something.

Yes, I liked a lot of Bullet to the Head, but I liked it for what it was. You go in to have fun with a movie like this, especially knowing it stars Sylvester Stallone. If you want 90 minutes of silly action with an 80’s movie star in the lead role, you could do a lot worse than this one. The film has problems, but it also knows what it is. That’s something too few movies can say these days. In the early months of 2013, this fits in nicely as a simple pleasure for those who want to turn off their brains occasionally in a darkened movie theater.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!