NOTE: Check out that cool fan art by David Allcock we just got (above)!
PLOT: A New Orleans-based contract killer loses his partner to a mysterious assailant after a successful job. A New York cop similarly loses his partner after they've gotten too close to cracking the murder of a politician. Now both are in danger of being wiped out by a criminal conspiracy that's much bigger than either of them... and the only way to survive is to team up and take down the whole rotten system!
REVIEW: We've read plenty about HEADSHOT in recent weeks: The script, written by Oscar-nominee Alessandro Camon (THE MESSENGER), is set to be realized by the legendary Walter Hill (48 HRS., THE WARRIORS) and star Sylvester Stallone and Thomas Jane. While that last part is up in the air and the movie is close to being compromised by studio interference (click HERE for a summary of the drama currently surrounding the film), I'm happy to report that there's still a lot to get excited about regarding HEADSHOT, which is a violent, mismatched buddy movie in the tradition of Hill flicks like 48 HRS and RED HEAT.
Man's man Sylvester Stallone.
The story begins in Brooklyn, NY. We follow two hitmen - Jimmy and Louis (Jimmy is the Stallone character) - as they carry out a job against a corrupt senator. Though the hit goes well, something about it didn't feel quite right - a fact hammered home when the two are suddenly attacked by gunmen aboard a riverboat casino in New Orleans (their home base). Louis dies, Jimmy lives, and he knows he's been double-crossed.
Back in New York we meet fastidious cop Eric Carlisle (the Thomas Jane role). He's partnered with Perry, a hard drinking, womanizing sort who is, despite his problems, a good cop and friend. They get assigned to the murdered senator case, which Perry wants to investigate outside the bounds of the law. Carlisle, a by-the-books type, wants nothing to do with it - which saves his life, because Perry is soon killed. As it happens, the killer is the same man who led the squad of killers against Jimmy and Louis. Coincidence?!
Of course not. We're introduced to a powerful Washington developer named Trescott who is planning on turning the ravaged areas of New Orleans into expensive condos, blackmailing local politicians into making it happen. Naturally, he's the story's main baddie, a power-mad corporate weasel who seeks to take away everything from the blue collar community (the script frequently highlights the damage of Hurricane Katrina, making Trescott's callousness even more insufferable). Along with his trusted assassin Kaplan, he wants to eliminate anyone who comes close to uncovering his devious scheme.
So it is that eventually the hitman and the cop run into each other in New Orleans and figure out it's better for both of them if they team up. Naturally, Carlisle has trouble checking his ethics at the door to join forces with this professional killer, while Jimmy must learn to trust this uptight cop. Their coupling brings with it all the hallmarks of the genre: Soon they're bickering, squabbling and even pointing guns at each other, and brawling. They'd never associate in another circumstance, but dammit, they can't help but respect what the other guy brings to the table: Carlisle with his attention to detail and keen detective work, Jimmy with his brutish tactics and dexterity with a gun.
Man's man director Walter Hill.
The interesting thing is that the two aren't exactly all that different. Both are pros who have played within the rules of their respective jobs most of their lives, but now are forced to change things up. We don't have the "wacky comic relief" of a wild card character, as both are fairly stoic, Of course, there are still key differences that make obvious the fact that they're opposites. Jimmy is a working class type who lives on the bayou, smokes dope and eats red meat with gusto. Carlisle is a straight-edged vegetarian, tech-savvy, not used to shooting people, accustomed to fancy New York living. It's the ideal bromance.
The script isn't all getting-to-know-you stuff, however. There's a good reason it's called HEADSHOT, as about a dozen people get bullets in their craniums. Those who don't get it in the neck, chest or leg. Yes, it's a bullet fest, certainly no disappointment in the violence department. A standout scene features Jimmy and Carlisle on a fanboat as their interrogation of a scumbag is halted by a gang of thugs. Boats crash, helicopters fall out of the sky, and even the threat of an alligator attack is present. Multiple car chase sequences occur throughout, both in NY and New Orleans, and we even get a woman in peril scenario, as Jimmy's daughter is kidnapped and held hostage.
If there's a drawback, it's with the villains. The stuff with the evil developer Trescott is nothing exciting. We've seen this character before in a hundred action flicks, and unfortunately there's not much unique about him. Similarly, the physical villain, Kaplan - the guy who actually tracks down our heroes and attempts to kill them - is a standard issue foe. He has no quirks or character traits to speak of - other than the vague insinuation that he used to be in the military - and he comes across like an afterthought. A more distinctive, memorable bad guy would have raised the stakes.
Man's man SHOULD BE in Headshot Thomas Jane.
But the relationship between Jimmy and Carlisle is what HEADSHOT is all about, and it's what makes the script such a fun read - and prime Walter Hill territory. Jimmy is a perfect match for Stallone, the cold killer with a secret humanity and humor that he's only willing to show a privileged few. Meanwhile, Thomas Jane would make for a terrific Carlisle. Jane can play the rogue outlaw as well as anybody, but he can also play the buttoned-down, straight-faced type. Because Carlisle is the latter, with a hint of the former that peeks out in dangerous situations, one can absolutely picture Jane handling this part with ease.
It remains to be seen if the studio will meddle with HEADSHOT beyond what they're apparently already doing. It would be a severe shame if this movie doesn't get made the way Camon and Hill envision it, because it has a chance to be what THE EXPENDABLES was last year: A return to good old fashioned testosterone-soaked action the likes of which we rarely see anymore...