Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Momoa, Christian Slater, Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Sung Kang | Written by Alessandro Camon | Directed by Walter Hill
Bullet to the Head is the latest film to star ass-kicking pensioner Sylvester Stallone. He plays Jimmy Bobo (really), a hitman with morals – don’t they all – who gets himself in a right old tiswas after his partner is killed by Game of Thrones and Conan the Barbarian’s Jason Momoa after a routine job. Tech-savvy (ie, smartphone-owning cop) Taylor Kwon looks into the murder Bobo committed and decides to team up with the crim in order to find out who’s really behind all the killing and intrigue and why. Kwon is played by Sung Kang who has starred in a number of Fast and Furious films and was cast as Thomas Jane was not ‘ethnic’ enough. Former NFL cheerleader Sarah Shahi plays tattoo-artist totty and Bobo’s daughter Lisa and Christian Slater turns up as a well-connected sleaze who’s clearly watched Eyes Wide Shut too many times.
Bullet to the Head defies rigorous analysis and that’s probably the highest compliment you can give it. It’s a meat and potatoes action flick in which folks get shot, punched and stabbed, there’s tokenistic nudity for the female actors, our heroes crack wise and everyone goes home happy. It doesn’t do anything badly enough to really stick in the craw and even does some things rather well – Stallone and Momoa’s axe-fight faceoff, for example, is wincingly impressive.
This slightly unexpected level of decentness can perhaps be attributed to director Walter Hill, the man behind such classics as The Warriors, Streets of Fire and Brewster’s Millions, who helms his first feature film since Undisputed, ten years ago. There is a cheap and cheerful yet slick and stylish feel to the film, reminiscent of eighties exploitation. Credit is also probably due to the apparently well-regarded source material, a French graphic novel by Alexis Nolent and Colin Wilson.
If we’re being uncharitable, we could call the film out on its weak roles for women, its predictability and unoriginality and the fact that its funny lines aren’t really all that funny. We could question the fact that the basic structure of the film is Kang asking someone on his phone for the name of a bad person, him Googling them, Stallone beating them up and then repeating. We could wonder why no one in the film sleeps for about three days. But let’s not be uncharitable. Bullet to the Head may not be the picture to spark a revolution in action cinema, nor may it be your new favourite film or even represent the best work Stallone has done recently. It is, however, a perfectly enjoyable film and a likable distraction from the fact that our own lives don’t feature nearly enough axe fights, tattoo parlour bullet removals and Bulleit Bourbon product placement.
Bullet to the Head is released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 3rd.