In the New Orleans underworld, James Bonomo (Stallone), a.k.a. Jimmy Bobo, is a hit-man who lives by a certain code of ethics: he does not kill women or children. After Jimmy’s partner, Louis (Jon Seda), is killed by a ruthless mercenary (Jason Momoa), Jimmy wants revenge. He finds an unusual ally in the form of Detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang), and their investigation leads to a wider conspiracy involving an African gangster (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje) and network of corrupt politicians and police officers. The extra credit is not, ironically enough, for the Korean actor Sung Kang, even though he is very good, but instead the film’s director. I walked into “Bullet to the Head” with an open mind, hoping that Mr. Stallone could keep up the good track record he’s had in the last couple of years (the last “Rambo” and both of the “Expendables” movies), but when I saw the words ‘directed by Walter Hill’ in the opening credits, I knew I was in for a good time.
2013 has already brought back two of the coolest, if not the coolest action heroes: Schwarzenegger and now Stallone. The funny thing about it all is that Stallone already had his returning movie last year with the Expendables 2 as it mainly focused around him. Anyways, the trailer to the movie, as many may have said, looked absolutely horrible and I didn’t really have any intention of seeing this, despite Stallone being my second favorite action star. Now, I’m kinda glad I saw it. This won’t get any awards, but the film is well made and the performances from the actors are good enough to move the story between the action scenes.
So, what is bad about the film? Well, there is plenty. It’s a shame that Alessandro Camon’s adapted screenplay is awfully formulaic. Make no mistake, there’s nothing wrong for coming up an action genre that relies strictly by the formula as long as the filmmakers knows how to pump up sufficient amount of good entertainment. Unfortunately, everything in BULLET TO THE HEAD is too shopworn to qualify this as a worthwhile action thriller. Speaking of action, most of them are nothing more than a series of unimaginative shootouts and fisticuffs. Still, Jason Momoa is physically daunting as the fearless Keegan and he proves to be a great villain who doesn’t require to emote or act a lot. His best scene is no doubt the one involves the climactic axe fight against Stallone.
The action is spread thinly around, and occurs intermittently whenever they reach another link in the chain leading up to the top. There are no big car chases or shootouts here, but plenty of very nasty and brutal hand to hand fights between Sly and various opponents (including the highlight final Axe duel between Sly and Momoa) where the sound is turned up to 22 and every punch and crushing impact makes the whole cinema shake. There is no sex, but plenty of naked flesh on display, especially at Slater’s high class Mardi Gras orgy in Venetian carnival masks (another extra little stereotype) that male viewers can enjoy. All in All, it is a quick, sleek, no-nonsense ride through familiar noir territory in the company of familiar characters played by familiar actors. It won’t change the world, or become a classic, or even linger very much in the memory, but it is entertaining and does what it says on the label, so for a night out, it will do nicely (so long as you don’t expect too much).