Runtime: 1 HR, 31 MIN
Director: Walter Hill
Writers: Alessandro Camon, Alexis Nolent
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Jason Momoa, Christian Slater, Jon Seda, Brian Van Holt, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Since his triumphant return to stardom with 2006′s Rocky Balboa Sylvester Stallone has been enjoying a career resurgence thanks mostly to audiences reliving the past with him. Whether it was the aforementioned Rocky Balboa, Rambo, or the two Expendables films, he’s been surviving mostly on borrowed time and time may have just caught up with him.
When an aging hitman loses his partner in a double cross he’s forced to partner with a cop whose lost his partner to the same criminals. Together they must piece together a conspiracy to find out who murdered their partners and get them justice if they don’t kill each other first.
Your enjoyment of Bullet to the Head is going to depend a lot on how much you enjoy bad action films of the 1980s. If you can’t stand them then you’re probably going to hate this movie with a passion, if you love bad 80s action then you’re probably going to tolerate Bullet to the Head but I doubt you’re going to love it. This movie is drenched in the 80s to a fault; for every positive there’s a negative that outweighs it.
Right from the start Bullet to the Head exemplifies the worst qualities about ‘buddy cop’ films. Dialogue between Stallone and Sung Kang almost always boils down to what you’d expect in a bad buddy cop film; lots of Asian jokes being lobbed at Sung, endless old men and their technological ignorance jokes being tossed towards Stallone. There’s also lots of little jabs about Stallone being a criminal and Kang being a sissy cop, very little of it is interesting and worst of all it’s rarely funny.
Director Walter Hill is very familiar with the ‘buddy cop’ action flick; he directed 48 Hours and its sequel, Schwarzenegger & Belushi’s Red Heat, and the Bill Paxton & William Sadler versus Ice-T & Ice Cube classic Trespass. He’s a director that’s been around the game for a long time and he knows his way around the action genre, but he’s seems to have a lost a step or two over the years. Hill hasn’t adjusted with the times and Bullet to the Head suffers because of it. Anyone familiar with Hill’s Red Heat will have a sense of déjà vu when Stallone has a very homoerotic fight in a bathhouse with a suspect. The film clumsily relies on Kang making a phone call or finding information via his Blackberry (this movie’s release was pushed back nearly a year) to connect the dots or the dots aren’t connected at all. Each scene change is accompanied by a cheesy gold flash transition that would feel more fitting in a NCIS spinoff than an action movie being released in 2013.
Despite the laundry list of complaints there are a few things Bullet to the Head gets right. The cast is actually quite good; Stallone gives the kind of performance you would expect, it’s on par with his performance in the Get Carter remake. Fast & Furious co-star Sung Kang isn’t terrible, but he’s seems a little too meek to be partnered with Stallone. Jason Momoa (2011′s Conan The Barbarian) is the film’s chief henchman, he emits a slightly less creepy Brian Thompson vibe from Cobra. He’s not a very strong actor, but he’s physically matches up well with Stallone. The film’s best supplemental casting decisions come in the form of Christian Slater and LOST’s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje; it’s nice seeing Slater in something that’s actually being released in theaters and Adewale is just crazy enough to be entertaining.
The other nice thing about Bullet to the Head is the fact that it really earns it R rating. There’s plenty of naughty language, right off the bat the violence is gratuitous, and for those that enjoy nudity there’s a good amount of that as well. With that said, none of those three things make Bullet to the Head a good film but it does make it more tolerable.
Bullet to the Head might be the first step back towards cinematic oblivion for Stallone. It’s weak story and direction hamper the film’s few positive attributes like its cast and rating. There’s always the possibility that in twenty years Bullet in the Head will be some kind of ironic film classic like Cobra, but we’re a long way from that point now.