Directed by: Walter Hill
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Christian Slater, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Sarah Shahi and Jason Momoa
Plot: When Jimmy Bobo (Stallone) is set up and his partner is killed, he sets out to get payback. When his quest for revenge makes his path cross with Detective Kwon (Kang), the two form a reluctant partnership.
I once said on this website that the cinema doesn’t make simple action films anymore. This film kind of proves that this is a good thing. Bullet to the Head is so riddled with clichés and familiar storylines that it can be a frustrating watch at times. We have corrupt cops, the reluctant buddy partnership and even Stallone’s daughter getting kidnapped by the bad guys in the final act to round the action up.
Stallone, in fairness, handles the film well. It opens with his rumbling voice, echoing the dark Noir hero (I would have liked a little more Noir squeezed into this movie), narrating the action as it goes along. The script is awful, but Stallone has a way of making the worst lines seem cool. Sure, his character is riddled with clichés, but they don’t seem ridiculous on Stallone. While this film doesn’t compare to the classics, like Demolition Man and Rambo, this film is fairly typical Stallone, meaning that this film could become a cult for the die-hard Sly fans.
The other half of the team-up is where the film falls apart. Sung Kang (best known as Hans in the Fast and Furious franchise), was the actor I was most looking forward to seeing. It turns out that he is the biggest disappointment of the movie, leaving behind the cool charm of Hans and becoming a frustrating cop stereotype. Most of his lines are so cliché that they are cringe worthy : “This changes nothing: when this is over, I am still taking you in!” The character is hollow and needed a lot more work. I am not sure if it is the writer’s fault or Kang’s. I am willing to blame both: they should have met somewhere in the middle.
The villains are where the film picks up slightly. Christian Slater is far too good an actor to be in this movie. He handles the role well, even if his character is just another bad guy to get shot. The main antagonist, Adewale Akinnuoye – Agbaje is a menacing, interesting character, which is why I was so annoyed when the director seemed to get bored with him. Without giving away the ending, it feels like the storyline builds up a great character and then simply gets rid of him. There could have been a good climax there and it was wasted for a more ‘macho’ close.
Thank god for Jason Momoa then: he is the best thing about this film. He plays the anti-Stallone, the muscle hitman working for the other team (is it just me or does he remind anyone of Chris Hemsworth on steroids). He seems to be the only actor who actually looked at his character and thought: ‘I can do something interesting here.’ Sure, he is little more than a nasty piece of work, stereotypically bound to his honour, yet Momoa plays it well, creating a wickedly nasty character. Maybe in years to come, this film will be seen as Stallone passing on the torch to the younger action hero, as he ends his career and Momoa begins his.
The fighting (the main thing to see in an action film), is also quite disappointing. It feels staged and enjoys the use of extreme close-ups, even though it becomes difficult to follow what is going on. Again, the kidnapping of the daughter is also annoyingly routine: Sarah Shahi is given little more to do than get rescued. Thankfully the final battle between Stallone and Momoa is worth watching, but it is too late in the day to save this movie.
Basically I wouldn’t watch this film at the cinema. It is more of a DVD for the collection. Bullet to the Head will become a staple addition to the Stallone box-set. It could become a film marking the beginning of Jason Momoa’s career. History might shine more fortunately on this film than right now is.
Final verdict: Too many cliches and the action doesn’t live up to expectations. However, it still delivers as a routine Stallone movie.
Next week: I Give It A Year