REVIEW: Sylvester Stallone's 'Bullet to the Head'
BY MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Friday, February 01, 2013
The face is that of a gnawed-on piece of bratwurst, kicked to the side of the midway at the Tulsa State Fair. The voice, a guttural rumble resembling a spoken belch, is something like that of a Gloomy Gus who should be answering the door at the Addams Family house.
But the body is that of Sylvester Stallone from almost any era, a hardened piece of steel at age 66 that makes us believe that he can continue making macho mistakes like “Cobra” and “Assassins” for years to come, which he has effectively done with “Bullet to the Head.”
For better or worse, this is the Stallone that audiences have come to expect, blasting away in his golden years like he did a quarter-century ago and firing off dialogue that feels just as old.
“Assassins” found Stallone as a hired killer looking to retire in 1995. Now 17 years later and playing a guy not likely to be collecting any Social Security checks, his new take on a hit man looks content to carry out contracts.
Forget Metamucil; what apparently keeps James Bonomo (a.k.a. “Jimmy Bobo” in the crime community) regular is a shot of Bulleit bourbon and plugging a few guys a week.
I know you won’t believe this, but Jimmy plays a New Orleans hit man with a partner, and when they are set up and his partner is whacked, Jimmy is out for revenge.
When it turns out that a cop from out of state saw his partner killed by the same bad guys, Jimmy and the Korean detective (Sung Kang, who played Han in four “Fast and the Furious” films) team up. You didn’t see that coming, I know.
What are they up against? There’s the insufferable money man (Adewale Akinneoye-Agbaje from “Lost”) spouting historical references and classic literature when deciding who to kill next and buying New Orleans property on the cheap to redevelop; his smug lawyer, played by Christian Slater in all his whiny, nasal-voiced glory; and a killing machine with no conscience, played by Jason Momoa, the beefcake who failed to turn last year’s “Conan the Barbarian” reboot into a franchise.
All spoilers aside, these guys all die violently (yes, it’s usually a bullet to the head, duh), although not soon enough despite this dreck clocking in at a mere 91 minutes.
“Bullet to the Head” isn’t about offering viewers any surprises; it’s about putting bullets in heads, and it accomplishes this mission efficiently.
Director Walter Hill hasn’t directed a picture in a decade, and it’s been 20 years since he made something watchable (“Geronimo” with Wes Studi and Jason Patric). Long gone are the days of “The Warriors” and iconic imagery, or “Johnny Handsome” and smoky mystery, or the superb crime-comedy mix of “48 Hrs.,” Hill’s film that he’s most trying to emulate here.
Stallone’s hit man is old, the Korean cop is young, and so it goes as to their contrasts. One is friendly, one is cranky. Veteran vs. newcomer. Tech-savvy vs. caveman. Two men living by the rules of the very different worlds in which they live.
But even Stallone, without anyone as magnetic as his “Expendables” co-stars to perform against, tires of this cliched, predictable scenario with a third act that is the very definition of an anti-climax.
The best that can be said about “Bullet to the Head” is that it never pretends to be anything more than the shoot-first killfest that it is, but even Sly looks bored.
So why should we care?
Find all of Michael Smith's movie reviews, plus showtimes and more at tulsaworld.com/movies.
Bullet to the Head
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Momoa, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi
Theaters: AMC Southroads 20, Cinemark Tulsa, Cinemark Broken Arrow, Starworld 20, RiverWalk, Owasso, Eton Square
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Rated: R (strong violence, bloody images, language, some nudity and brief drug use)
This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Christian Slater, left, and Sylvester Stallone in a scene from "Bullet to the Head." FRANK MASI/AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures