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Review: Bullet to the Head (Chris Bumbray's review)

Jan. 29, 2013by: Chris Bumbray


[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!"
Source: JoBlo.com

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7:17AM on 02/03/2013

Yes!

Still excited to see the film, but love the Streets Of Fire nod! SOF rules!!!
Still excited to see the film, but love the Streets Of Fire nod! SOF rules!!!
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-6
6:01PM on 01/29/2013

"You had me at FUCK YOU"

Can't you write a review without spoiling things from the movie? I wager the audience would have gotten a chuckle out of that line/scene. Way to go!!
Can't you write a review without spoiling things from the movie? I wager the audience would have gotten a chuckle out of that line/scene. Way to go!!
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4:08PM on 01/29/2013
'Streets Of Fire' is one of my favorite films of all time!
'Streets Of Fire' is one of my favorite films of all time!
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+5
8:00AM on 01/29/2013
To all the people saying Bumbray shouldn't expect a good story, he did say he would give the movie a pass if it delivered in the action department. Supposedly it didn't so relax.
To all the people saying Bumbray shouldn't expect a good story, he did say he would give the movie a pass if it delivered in the action department. Supposedly it didn't so relax.
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6:33AM on 01/29/2013
Extra tidbit: Also, getting nowhere fast!
Extra tidbit: Also, getting nowhere fast!
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-2
3:35AM on 01/29/2013
Managed to see this tonight, and while I agree with the 5, I don't agree with the reasons. I never expected a good story nor do I think this is a mess. In fact, it's about as straight forward and convenient as the 90's action flicks it imitates. The problem is it's just not the least bit interesting. In a time when action is being redefined, and newer and better ways of having action are being delivered, this one falls short of excitement. The gun fights are mostly boring with very little
Managed to see this tonight, and while I agree with the 5, I don't agree with the reasons. I never expected a good story nor do I think this is a mess. In fact, it's about as straight forward and convenient as the 90's action flicks it imitates. The problem is it's just not the least bit interesting. In a time when action is being redefined, and newer and better ways of having action are being delivered, this one falls short of excitement. The gun fights are mostly boring with very little creativity. I do like that the action hits hard and doesn't shy away from getting a bit nasty, but nothing impressive happens once in the film. Not even the climactic fight is interesting. The chemistry between Stallone and Kang was stale. Kang was made a complete buffoon in, what appeared to be, an attempt to make Stallone look more badass. But probably the biggest fault here is Stallone. The man is so boring, despite his old school attitude and the one liners, that I couldn't get excited or interested in his character in the least. He's as cliche as they come and his dialogue delivery is tired and backstory, relationships, etc. aren't enough to raise a brow at. The only thing I could think throughout was that Stallone seemed tired and old. Overall, this was a rather dull movie.
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3:08AM on 01/29/2013
Thanks Bumbray for the review. Sure it's supposed to be a throwback to the action movies of the 80's/early 90's, but you know what made the action classics i.e. Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, First Blood, Terminator, etc stand out from the rest??? Good stories, great characters, and great acting. Sometimes, you didn't get all of them, but at least you got one or some combination. And it looks like "Bullet to the Head" is just another one to the firepile, with neither one of those things to make it
Thanks Bumbray for the review. Sure it's supposed to be a throwback to the action movies of the 80's/early 90's, but you know what made the action classics i.e. Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, First Blood, Terminator, etc stand out from the rest??? Good stories, great characters, and great acting. Sometimes, you didn't get all of them, but at least you got one or some combination. And it looks like "Bullet to the Head" is just another one to the firepile, with neither one of those things to make it memorable.
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+13
2:36AM on 01/29/2013

Enjoy it while it lasts!! Cause you'll miss them when they're gone!!

You guys all cry out bring back action films, then we have our legends back on the screen... And for what, to tear it apart? Guys its an Action film, and simply put ..thats all it is! The formula for an action film is mindless fight scenes, bodies being torn apart, high death count, some nudity, with a side of car chases, and a dash of explosions, with a great climatic final fight scene where the hero gets wounded, and the villain dies a brutal death.. and if theres some quality acting and a
You guys all cry out bring back action films, then we have our legends back on the screen... And for what, to tear it apart? Guys its an Action film, and simply put ..thats all it is! The formula for an action film is mindless fight scenes, bodies being torn apart, high death count, some nudity, with a side of car chases, and a dash of explosions, with a great climatic final fight scene where the hero gets wounded, and the villain dies a brutal death.. and if theres some quality acting and a decant story those things are a BONOUS!!! So please for the love of action films, take them for what they are, cause when Sly and Arnie are gone... I'm afraid that will be the end of action films.
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7:24AM on 01/29/2013
Movies can be faithful to a genre, and still be bad.
Movies can be faithful to a genre, and still be bad.
7:49PM on 01/29/2013
yes your right, and they should be critiqued that way, not rated based on all merits of film.

i.e read Arrow's review.

yes your right, and they should be critiqued that way, not rated based on all merits of film.

i.e read Arrow's review.

9:30PM on 01/29/2013
I don't understand that reasoning. I guarantee you- no one went into this wanting to make a bad movie. By your reasoning it would be critic proof because it's "supposed to be bad".
I don't understand that reasoning. I guarantee you- no one went into this wanting to make a bad movie. By your reasoning it would be critic proof because it's "supposed to be bad".
3:18AM on 01/30/2013
No thats not what im saying at all,

Didnt think it was that complicated.. seems most ppl got what i was saying..

An 80's action had cheese, and one liners, and explosions, and so on.. and they were good, i can watch blood sport, Cobra, any Rambo, and so on, at any given time and enjoy it. All that cheese in those films, and one liners, and plot wholes, and unrealistic odds of survival is what made it a good action film. All i'm saying is that this type of action film should be
No thats not what im saying at all,

Didnt think it was that complicated.. seems most ppl got what i was saying..

An 80's action had cheese, and one liners, and explosions, and so on.. and they were good, i can watch blood sport, Cobra, any Rambo, and so on, at any given time and enjoy it. All that cheese in those films, and one liners, and plot wholes, and unrealistic odds of survival is what made it a good action film. All i'm saying is that this type of action film should be critiqued on the same level is all. Read Arrows Review and you will know what i mean, how and why he loves action films are what i think this type of film should be critiqued on. Again if this doesnt make sense to you, read Arrows Review
[link]
1:58AM on 01/29/2013
SO let me get this straight right now. You went into a Stallone film looking for a story? Did any of the infamous 80s movies you loved so much have STORY. Maybe you should read your fellow collegue's review. Plus I hear Sarah Shahi gets naked, thats worth the price alone as she is damn fine!
SO let me get this straight right now. You went into a Stallone film looking for a story? Did any of the infamous 80s movies you loved so much have STORY. Maybe you should read your fellow collegue's review. Plus I hear Sarah Shahi gets naked, thats worth the price alone as she is damn fine!
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