Warner Bros. // 2012 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Matt Dicker (Retired) // July 19th, 2013
Revenge never gets old.
I grew up in the era of action stars like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Though I can be a harsh judge of films, I'll always have a soft spot for the type of big, dumb action movie that were so common in my childhood, and I give extra leniency to these efforts. Bullet to the Head certainly tested my generosity.
When hitman Jimmy Bobo's (Sylvester Stallone, Cop Land) partner Louis (John Seda, Homicide: Life on the Street) is killed in retaliation for the murder of a policeman, Bobo reluctantly teams with detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang, Fast Five), in hopes of getting revenge on the killer, hitman Keegan (Jason Momoa, Game of Thrones). Kwon seeks to find the head of the criminal enterprise, Robert Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Lost). As the pair works through the criminal underworld of New Orleans, Keegan chases the two on behalf of Morel and lawyer Marcus Baptiste (Christian Slater, Heathers).
Bullet to the Head is based on the French graphic novel Du Plomb Dans la Tete by Alexis Nolent. Though I haven't read it, I have to imagine there was something compelling about it that led the producers to want to adapt it. Whatever it was about Nolent's work that attracted them was almost certainly lost in translation to the screen, as the resulting film is a jumble of tired clichés and characters with thin motivations without the humor or exciting action that have redeemed so many similar films.
The film begins promisingly enough with a bullet tearing through the title cards, and I had hopes that the film would be a fun, kinetic action film in the vein of Shoot 'Em Up. Instead, what we get is a film that is tonally lost. Stallone and Kwon have next to no chemistry and seem to be in entirely different films, with Stallone offering the wisecracks found in buddy comedies while Kwon acts as if in a gritty crime drama.
Even the most ridiculous and silly of action films can be redeemed by a few good sequences or fight scenes. However, the set pieces in this movie are completely forgettable, with every fight scene suddenly ending with a gunshot before it really get started (though I'm not sure I wanted to see much more of a nearly nude wrestling scene in a Turkish bathhouse).
It is also surprising that between Christian Slater and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Hill couldn't coax out a decent villain. Slater is fine in his few scenes, but his character is little more than a weak hedonist without motivation. Akinnuoye-Agbaje is too over the top to be a realistic villain and too uninteresting to be a fun villain, a perfect reflection of the tonal problems throughout this film. As a result, the duty of the villain falls on Jason Momoa's shoulders, and though his physical stature and menacing stare makes him a credible antagonist to Stallone, he has nothing to work with to make his character anything more than a physical presence.
Of course, no action film is complete without a final fight scene, and Bullet to the Head tried its bets with an axe fight between Stallone and Momoa. It's easy to laugh at the thought of Sylvester Stallone fighting with a fireman's axe, but I have a natural predisposition toward such scenes that made me giddy at the idea. The scene is a terrible disappointment, however, as the two men take turns swinging the axes in an open space, never using the environment around them. Hill shoots the fight with no visual flair, and what we're left with is yet another wasted opportunity and formulaic fight scene.
Movies such as this require top-notch video and audio quality, and there's nothing to be disappointed in with the high quality 1.85:1/1080p HD transfer. The film takes place mostly at night, and the dark colors are deep and rich on screen. The sole bonus feature is pretty lame, a short featurette with interviews from key cast and crew that adds little if any worthwhile information. Standard def DVD copy and an UltraViolet download option are also included.
He's had more than his fair share of stinkers over the years, but it's good to see Walter Hill back in the director's chair. Though he's done a little television work of the highest quality in the interim, he's been absent from the cineplex since 2002's Undisputed. Anything that returns the director of The Warriors, Crossroads, and 48 Hrs. to the big screen is welcome.
Movies in the style of Bullet to the Head are allowed to be many things -- over-the-top, stupid, ridiculous, childish -- but the one thing they absolutely can never be is boring. I am perfectly willing to overlook the weaknesses, and there are many, but I can't overlook the fact that the movie is an absolute snooze. The Blu-ray promises that "revenge never gets old," but everything about Bullet to the Head gets old real quick.
Guilty of complete unoriginality.
Review content copyright © 2013 Matt Dicker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy
* UltraViolet Download
* Official Site
* Facebook Page