Just weeks after Arnold Schwarzenegger headlined a blockbuster action flick (The Last Stand, a film that has since flopped), another throw-back leading man from years' past returns this weekend. In Bullet to the Head, Sylvester Stallone is the muscular old dude at the center of this one and once again, nostalgia for adrenaline-injected 1980's action heroes is not enough to save the movie from itself.
Even still, on the heels of Movie 43, Parker, LUV, The Last Stand and A Haunted House, dare I say that Bullet to the Head may be my favorite film thus far of 2013. It's a sliding scale, but the D grade I would give this film does rank it higher than all of these previously mentioned movies.
Revenge is the central premise of Bullet to the Head, a film riddled with plot holes where the gaps are all filled in with tired cliches. Stallone plays a former mercenary and war veteran who goes by the name of "Jimmy Bobo." Bobo and his partner go out on one last job and murder a crooked, coked-up bad guy, but retaliation leaves Bobo's partner dead. The coked-up bad guy just happened to be a former cop and his former partner Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) shows up to investigate the death of his old friend.
This leads Kwon to Bobo, whose name I just realized may have been part of why I couldn't take him seriously. Bobo the hitman. But I digress...
Bobo and Kwon team up to investigate who killed their respective partners. There is corruption in the police force, of course, and Oz's Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (also known for his role as Mr. Ecko on Lost) shows up as a villainous business man who, for reasons never explained, walks with the help of crutches. His best mercenary is Keegan, played by Jason Momoa, whom you may recognize as the barbarian Khal Drogo on HBO's Game of Thrones, or the most recent incarnation of Conan the Barbarian.
Momoa has a future (and a past) in playing large, imposing, barbaric figures. He plays another one here. Not known, is if he is a good actor, as he has yet been asked to perform as one.
Stallone and Kwon are an unlikely duo and they act out every action movie, buddy-cop cliche in the book. Unlike recent trash like Jason Statham's Parker though, at least Bullet to the Head has much of what one would expect coming into an action flick such as this. There are humorous one-liners and also many not so humorous ones. There are explosions, fist fights, shoot-outs and car chases. There is an underlying element of racism and sexism. Yes, everything one would expect.
But none of it is done all that well. To match old-school star Stallone, Bullet to the Head is directed by Walter Hill, an old-schooler in his own right with films like 48 Hours, Extreme Prejudice, Red Heat and Last Man Standing under his directing belt. Characters do and say exactly what we are accustomed to them doing in this type of movie. It's not enough to bring Stallone in, but we also get to see Christian Slater once again, playing a slime-y bit player like we are used to seeing from him.
The pace is acceptable, as are flashes of nudity thrown in just for good measure. None of it is needed, but it is understood that movies like this contain at least one scene where women walk about randomly with their tops off.
Throw in horribly bad dialogue, a totally over-the-top, cheese-tastic rock musical score, poorly thought-out plot developments (they stole a flash drive...did anyone suspect that a copy/paste could have taken place?) and stupid bad guys doing what stupid bad guys do best - choosing to talk to the hero instead of shooting them when they finally get them at gun-point - and we have ourselves another early year dud to throw on the pile with the rest.
In one scene, they even have Stallone begin to explain why his swamp home was rigged with explosives, which sort of made no sense in the movie. Then, as he begins to explain, the other character is suddenly not interested in finding out why. It's as if he already knew not to think too hard about things. It's the strategy audience members should adopt as well going into see Bullet to the Head.
This film is aptly named. A bullet to the head would definitely be my preferable exit strategy, if tasked with having to re-watch this easily forgettable, torturous piece of retro-trash. But did I mention it was still better than Parker?
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Run Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Momoa, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christian Slater
Based on the graphic novel by Matz (Alexis Nolent)
Written by Alessandro Camon
Directed by Walter Hill (Undisputed, Last Man Standing, Trespass, 48 Hours, Brewster's Millions)
Opens locally on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 (check for show times).
Be sure to watch Tom Santilli on TV! Check your local listings for “Movie Show Plus” for Tom’s weekly movie review segment, airing at 3 p.m. EST on MYTV20 in Detroit.
How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time