Bullet to the Head
Grimy, brainless and features the line “if you hurt her I will kill you with a rock.” Bullet to the Head is unapologetic about it’s violence, stereotypes and bullets to the head. It is the story of a low level assassin who teams up with a detective to take down an evil condominium owner.
One of the biggest problems with the film is that the director has no idea on how to use Jason Momoa. He is like an NFL linebacker who can act and has showcased his charisma in Game of Thrones. In this film he scowls, spins axes and scowls more. He has cool moments where he is interesting but he has to flail around while Stallone somehow manages to go blow for blow with him. The main advertising point of this film was the epic axe fight. I was hoping for long static shots but was stuck with quick editing and only about thirty seconds of violent axe action. This is a shame because the fight had a lot of promise.
Sylvester Stallone is reliably reliable as a con who wants to avenge his partner. The problem is their is nothing likable about him. He makes racist Asian comments, constantly takes his shirt off and mumbles a lot. Stallone made his comeback years ago in fantastic films Rocky Balboa and Rambo. In those films he provided character moments that filled the movies with heart. For instance, in Rocky he had a chair sitting in a tree next to his wife’s grave showing that he often visited. In Rambo he said the famous line “live for nothing or die for something.” Those films featured little ego and relied on solid writing. However, in this film he rambles on and tries to make us believe he has lived in New Orleans his whole life and could battle Khal Drogo to a draw.
The film also features likable actor Sung Kang in an odd relationships with sly’s daughter played by likable Sarah Shahi. The two have zero chemistry yet have to form a relationship because the script calls for it. The bonding makes it awkward for Kang the detective and Sly the crook to gel and is tailored made idea to feature in a sequel. It is a plot device that is never fully formed thus feels like a waste of time. This is a shame because the two have proven to be invaluable in Life, Fast Five and Better Luck Tomorrow.
I know I am being overly critical of a film called Bullet to the Head. However, The recent Arnold action film The Last Stand features clear motivations, coherent action and an immensely likable cast. Bullet is grimy and feels like it was written in 1986. The movie focuses heavily on high falutin’ cell phones and magical flash drives that seem like relics. The director Walter Hill (Warriors, 48 Hours) is part of the problem. He has a stellar resume but can’t help but making this film feel like an old school action romp. It relies on conventions (one-liners, boobs, blood) that worked in the 80’s but now feel gratuitous. There is nothing wrong with the conventions but they seem old when in the hands of Hill and Stallone. You feel like this movie could have worked in 1986 and that is why it won’t work in 2013 regardless of the tagline trying to tell you otherwise.
I applaud Stallone for trying but I hope he goes back to the days of interesting scripts and non-gratuitous bullets to the head. Watch The Last Stand instead and appreciate an old action star in a new vehicle.