Based on the graphic novel “Headshot” (Du Plomb Dans La Tete) by Alexis ‘Matz’ Nolent, Bullet to the Head has taken years to finally make it to the screen. Unfortunately, all that time doesn’t add up to a well thought-out, well crafted film. While Sly and the cast look great, and the film has some seriously beautiful moments of cinematic mayhem (thanks to Last Man Standing’s Lloyd Ahern II), Bullet to the Head is the kind of action film you’d pass by on cable and take a peek at, if you’re immobile from the flu. Sly is fun as always, but the story itself is dead in the water, with characters that are killed off so quickly the audience never has time to figure out if that was a bad guy or a poor sucker caught in the crossfire.
With the team of Sylvester Stallone and director Walter Hill (48 Hrs.), I was hoping for a grand ol’ flashback time at the movies with this one. But the story — a hitman teams up with an out-of-town cop in order to right a few wrongs — is only so much window dressing to justify the blowing away of a ton of extras and supporting cast. They’re all fodder for Sly’s hitman James “Bobo” Bonomo and Sun Kang’s Taylor Kwon. I loved Kwon in Fast Five, and here he tries his best to inject some sensibility into the film. But as this film tries to be a pure adrenaline rush with as little plot as possible in-between, he’s got little to work with.
If I sound like a wet blanket that hates all action films, I apologize. In fact, I’m a huge fan of the ol’ 80s greats, and even the 80s not-greats. (Cyborg, anyone? Anyone?) But Bullet to the Head lacks that odd, goofy joie de vivre that those films had. Even with Sly tossing off those one-liners he’s famous for, it’s just not the same enjoyable ride. Instead, it feels like a bunch of sourpusses tried to horn in on Sly’s parade without him knowing. Except he did know; Sylvester Stallone oversaw the re-writes for the script, and may have even had a hand in tweaking the thing. I wish he’d been more Rocky here…or even more Over The Top. Ah well.
Even the bad guys here — headed by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost) as a guy who gave a payoff to a congressman so he could build condos in a poor section of New Orleans — are nothing more than a few stumbling blocks to get over, so Sylvester Stallone can kick Jason Momoa’s ass. And a fine ass that is. At least we get to see Jason in a tank top at the end of the film. (It’s not his Game of Thrones loincloth, bu it’ll do.) Like Kang’s cop, Momoa’s hired killer Keegan is a character with an intriguing backstory. Same with Bobo’s med-student-turned-tattoo-artist daughter, played by Sarah Shahi (Fairly Legal). But do we get to really know them? Nope. That’d take away precious seconds of time that could be spent blowing people away. Not that blowing people away in action movies is a bad thing, but like everything there needs to be balance. Let me give a crap first, then the final scenes are something…how you say…that I’d give a crap about.
If you’re hoping for a slam-bang tribute to one of the great 80s masters of action movies, this one ain’t it. If you’re hoping to see a bunch of stuff get blown up, and watch Christian Slater get blown away? Have at it, but you’ve gotta know that with Bullet to the Head you’re getting brain-dead cinema from the get-go. Stallone, and Nolent’s original novel, deserve better.