Review: Bullet to the Head – Aims low, hits target
Sylvester Stallone continues his 21st century comeback with the film adaptation of a noirish French graphic novel called, “Du Plomb Dans La Tete,” or as translated to English, “Lead in the Head.” For obvious reasons the American producers went with the title, Bullet to the Head, but the name change didn’t make the end result turn out any more intelligent.
Set in the city of New Orleans, Stallone plays a hit man nicknamed Jimmy Bobo, a moniker that is more befitting a clown than a hardened killer, but then again he’s not the type of character one would make fun of – because Bobo has no problem killing anyone – with the exception of women and kids. Yes, he’s a hit man with a code of ethics.
The story begins as Bobo and his partner, Louis (Jon Seda), assassinate a bad cop; a hit financed by a couple of nefarious real estate developers, Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Baptiste (Christian Slater), who want to illegally tear down a housing project or some such contrived plot machination that is just an excuse for our (anti)hero to strut his 66 year old stuff for ninety minutes or so.
When trying to collect their payment for killing the bad cop, Louis is killed by another hit man named Keegan, played by big Jason Momoa of the infamous Conan the Barbarian remake. Bobo then finds himself paired up with a police detective, Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang from the Fast & Furious films), who was partners was the cop originally killed by Bobo & Louis. Are you still with me?
So, you might be asking yourself, “Why didn’t Morel & Baptiste just hire Keegan to kill the bad cop in the first place and avoid the messy middlemen?” Don’t ask! If you require your movies to make logical sense, then this Stallone vehicle is probably not the movie for you. If you think about things like, “Why does Stallone need to strip down to his skivvies just to kill a guy in a bathhouse?” Then you’ll probably want to take a pass on this flick.
Seeking revenge and justice, the unlikely pair of Bobo and Detective Kwon goes up against dirty cops, nude partiers and multitudes of bad guys while seeking out Morel & Baptiste; who eventually kidnap Bobo’s sexy tattoo-artiste/medic daughter, Lisa (Sarah Shahi), as well. It all results in a climatic axe battle between Bobo and Keegan and you can guess who wins.
I’m not real familiar with this movie’s comic book source material, but it appears as though the part of Detective Kwon was created for the film just so Stallone’s character would have an Asian punching bag to rip on over the course of the story. I’ve read reports that this was done to increase the overseas demographic appeal for the movie, but snagging that audience and then insulting them seems like a nutty idea.
So, now that all of that nastiness is out of the way, I have to say that I’m a fan of Stallone and I love the fact that he and his geriatric cohorts (Arnold Schwarzenegger & Bruce Willis) are still in the action movie business. I’ll give the man credit for still being able to pull off portraying a cinematic badass. He boldly swaggers through Bullet to the Head like he was still in his thirties – chest puffed out and oozing machismo with a screen presence unmatched by any modern celluloid hero wannabe.
This film is helmed by veteran action film director Walter Hill (see 48 Hrs. and The Warriors) and I was hoping for quite a bit more out of him with this movie. I don’t expect Stallone movies to be high-concept art and Bullet to the Head certainly delivers on that count, but I do expect that the pass I give for substandard filmmaking will be made up for with, at least, mindless entertainment value. Otherwise it’s a complete bust.
In other words, a movie can be stupid-bad (intentionally or unintentionally) but can still be a fun film to watch (see Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters). Bullet to the Head certainly hits that first mark, but just doesn’t quite get there on the second – even by Stallone standards. I’m still rooting for the Italian Stallion and trust that he has some great movies left in him, but this isn’t one of them.