Review: Bullet to the Head


Sylvester Stallone returns to the big screen in Walter Hill’s Bullet to the Head.  He plays a hitman, named Jimmy Bobo (yea…) who teams up with a cop, Taylor Kwan (Sung Kang), in order to take down a common enemy.  That right there sums up the movie well enough as there isn’t much depth to the story and whatever story is present is a bit of an incoherent mess.  Still, there is enjoyment to be had in Bullet to the Head, even if some of that enjoyment comes from some seemingly unintended hilarity.

First and foremost, this is a Stallone action film.  Despite the material being less than stellar, Stallone still manages to remind us why he’s a star.  He still has the larger-than-life charisma he’s always had and, even though he’s in his upper 60s, I don’t doubt for one second that he could beat his enemies to a bloody pulp.  Stallone performs the majority of his stunts which is something I enormously respect, especially since at his age he doesn’t have to.  He cares about his fans/audience/legacy enough to sacrifice his body to injuries just so that we can believe the action on the screen.  That may sound a little crazy to some but I am incredibly thankful.  I will happily watch Stallone entertain us until he is no longer capable or decides to retire his action star status.

The rest of the cast, with exception to Jason Mamoa, all feel rather flat.  Granted, that may be due to a bad script but no one seems to breathe much life into their characters.  Sung Kang, who buddies up to Stallone’s hitman character, looks like a piece of wood next to the legendary action star and can’t quite deliver the necessary chemistry to really make their on-screen banter work as it should.  Sarah Shahi is fine in her role as the tattoo artist/failed med student daughter of Jimmy Bobo but her character is generic.  Christian Slater comes off as unintentionally hilarious at times, which added to the enjoyment of the movie.  Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who plays Robert Nkomo Morel, the bad guy pulling all the strings, is almost cartoonish in his performance (I was waiting for his maniacal laugh scene), especially since he cannot fend for himself as he requires two canes to be able to walk and is not even a threat to Jimmy Bobo. The threat comes in the form of the hired mercenary Keegan (Jason Mamoa).  Mamoa feels well-matched physically against Stallone and, even though his character had cheesy moments, he still felt like a violent force to be reckoned with.

The action in the film is pretty good and director Walter Hill doesn’t shy away from being a little brutal with his portrayal of violence.  Some of the snap zooms Hill uses hides some of the action a little but they aren’t used overly so and you still are able to see a good amount of the punches and body hits.

While the action works, the buddy comedy aspect doesn’t quite work as it may have been intended.  Some of the dialogue between Stallone and Kang feels a little bizarre at times.  I did laugh at some of their exchanges but it was more because of the misguided script and Jimmy Bobo’s hilarious attempts at making fun of Kwan because of his asian heritage.  Then there is the costume party scene which is easily the standout segment of the film for me.  Bobo and Kwan (that should have been the title of the movie) are searching for Christian Slater’s character and find him at a costume party.  They decide to use the opportunity to disguise themselves so they can better infiltrate the party.  So they go shopping for masks to wear (yes, there is a small goofy montage of Stallone trying on various masks) and each selects their own.  They return to the house wearing their masks and procede to “stealthily” abduct a drunk Christian Slater.  It’s a pretty funny sequence that is unintentionally hilarious; though there is a small part of me that feels like the filmmakers and cast are in on the joke, at least to a certain degree.  There is a lot of humor in the movie that feels like it rides the line of actually funny and unintentionally so.

My biggest complaint about the whole film is the atrocious soundtrack from Steve Mazzaro.  The film takes place in New Orleans and Mazzaro tries to give the movie some Orleans flavor by having a bluesy rock score.  I understand the decision behind what they were going for with the music but it is just plain awful and does nothing for the movie but make me wish for some silence.  I honestly believe if they switched the music out for something more action-thriller-generic then I would have enjoyed the movie even more.  Bullet to the Head would be a movie I would probably watch again but the soundtrack makes me want to avoid it.

All in all, Bullet to the Head was just okay.  I think I enjoyed it more than Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand, if I’m comparing it to another action star of yore release, but then again I’m a really big Stallone fan.  It’s not quite what I’d hoped to see out of a Walter Hill/Stallone collaboration but it still manages to have its moments of fun amongst its more boring elements.  It’s B-grade cheese mixed with some fun action.  That’s enough to hold me over until the next Stallone film.

by Ben McBride

Bullet to the Head poster


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