Review: Bullet to the Head (Chris Bumbray's review)
[read John Fallon's review of this film HERE]
PLOT: When hitman Jimmy “Bobo” (Sylvester Stallone) is set up on a hit and his partner is killed by Keegan (Jason Momoa)- a mercenary, he goes for revenge against his employers. Meanwhile, he crosses paths with a detective (Sung Kang)- also on the hunt for Bobo's bosses, and the two form an uneasy partnership.
REVIEW: Along with Arnie, Sly Stallone is one of my all-time idols. As a youngster, their action films were an inspiration. I was picked on frequently in school, and watching Arnie and Sly movies encouraged me to build up my body and to stop taking crap from bullies. For that- I'll always be grateful to them. So- knowing where I come from, I can assure you that giving one of my heroes a bad review does not come easily to me.
So when I tell you BULLET TO THE HEAD is maybe Sly's worst movie since STOP OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT, you know I'm not just trying to be snarky. It's a total mess, with it being no better than the DTV movies starring Nicolas Cage, Steve Austin or JCVD (actually some of his are pretty good) that come out every few months. Something must have happened to BULLET TO THE HEAD on it's way to the big-screen, as I find it inconceivable that a movie directed by maestro Walter Hill (48 HRS, JOHNNY HANDSOME, EXTREME PREJUDICE, and one of my favourites- STREETS OF FIRE) and starring Sly, who always takes a measure on control on his projects, would turn out this bad.
Granted, the story is old hat. The older, grumpy action guy is teamed up with a younger action guy (with a totally unmemorable Sung Kang taking on the role) to wreak a little payback on his double-crossing employers has been done many times. Heck, Hill pretty much invented the action-comedy with 48 HRS. This isn't a problem, as a ninety minute action flick doesn't have to rewrite the formula to be entertaining. And while BULLET has a couple of nice one-liners (Sly's “you had me at fuck you” is a good one), the story is a mess. It all boils down to some kind of boring land deal, involving deposed African war criminal Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, a coked up lawyer Christian Slater (who has fun camping it up), and a gang of mercenaries led by Momoa. Even though the story is boring and mostly doesn't make any sense, I'd still give BULLET TO THE HEAD a pass if it didn't come up short in the one area that counts- the action.
While it benefits from a hard-R rating, Hill's action scenes are sparse, with only the final battle royale between Sly and Momoa- with the two of them wielding axes (a nod to STREETS OF FIRE?) leaving any kind of impression. Sadly, even this fight scene, which should have owned, is a mess- with it falling prey to the “quick-cutting” technique that's killing one Hollywood action flick after another. Meanwhile, Sung Kang has nothing at all to do, other than give some clunky exposition regarding Bobo's past, and moon over Sly's hot on-screen daughter, played by a heavily (and sexily) tattooed Sarah Shahi.
I wonder if there's another cut of BULLET TO THE HEAD sitting on a shelf somewhere that's a bit better? After all- it got pushed almost a year (it was supposed to come out last winter)- so maybe the studio re-cut it? Who knows- but there are a couple of Walter Hill-style flourishes, including a swell Ry Cooder-style score by Steve Mazzaro , and some seamy New Orleans-atmosphere that livens things up a tad. And,as always, Sly's worth watching, not to mention the fact that he's still totally ripped. Still, BULLET TO THE HEAD is a huge disappointment. But- there's a silver lining. Sly's going to be back in just a few months with THE TOMB (opposite Arnie), and there's a really good chance that may wind up as a new action classic. So take BULLET TO THE HEAD for what it is- a quickie action movie that goes in one ear and out the other. I just wish it had been a whole lot better.
|Extra Tidbit:||If you haven't seen STREETS OF FIRE, check it out. It's the best (only) action-musical ever made. And remember, "Tonight is what it means to be young!"|