Directed by: Walter Hill.
Written by: Alessandro Camon based on the graphic novel by Alexis Nolent and Colin Wilson.
Starring: Sylvester Stallone (James Bonomo), Sung Kang (Taylor Kwon), Sarah Shahi (Lisa), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Robert Nkomo Morel), Jason Momoa (Keegan), Christian Slater (Marcus Baptiste), Jon Seda (Louis Blanchard), Holt McCallany (Hank Greely), Brian Van Holt (Ronnie Earl), Weronika Rosati (Lola), Dane Rhodes (LT. Lebreton), Marcus Lyle Brown (Detective Towne).
It’s easy to see what drew director Walter Hill and star Sylvester Stallone together. Both are icons of the action genre, whose best days are decades in the past. With Bullet to the Head, the duo seems content to pretend it’s still the 1980s when this kind of muscle-bound, lunk headed action movie was popular – and according to Spike TV still is. As a throwback to the 1980s, Bullet to the Head is actually pretty good – there is a reason why Hill is widely regarded as master of the genre, and there is a reason why Stallone was once one of the biggest stars on the planet. But that’s all Bullet to the Head is – a throwback to an earlier era of action filmmaking that some of us have already had our fill of.
The movie stars Stallone as James Bonomo, an aging hitman, who along with his partner, is given the contract on ex-cop Hank Greely. They pull the job off like pros – except they don’t kill the prostitute he’s with – but when they go to meet their contact to collect the rest of their money, Bonomo’s partner is killed, and he is attacked by Keegan (Jason Momoa). Greely’s old partner from DC (Sung Kang) arrives to look into his murder (why? I have no idea, since he appears to not really have liked the guy), and quickly figures everything out, and also figures out the local cops aren’t overly interested in figuring things out. So he contacts Bonomo and offers to team up with him – that why, they can find out who set up their old partners together. Of course, it involves police corruption, a slimy lawyer (Christian Slater) and a crime kingpin (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje) – and of course, Stallone’s hot daughter (Sarah Shahi) will get herself in trouble.
Had Bullet to the Head been a great throwback to the 1980s, it would have been a fun time at the movies. After all, some of those 1980s action movies are pretty great – at least as guilty pleasures. But Bullet to the Head isn’t really a great throwback – it plays more like one of those 1980s action movies that have long since been forgotten, that you come across at 2 o’clock in the morning on cable when you are battling insomnia. The film is largely forgettable and completely illogical – really can anyone explain anything that Sung Kang’s character does in the entirety of the movie.
The film is diverting. I was never really bored by it – Hill can still direct an action sequence, even if at one point he seems to be cribbing from David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises (with fewer penis’). You can almost see Hill smiling during the final showdown between Stallone and Momoa, which goes beyond ridiculous – and has fun doing it.
But ultimately, what Bullet to the Head shows is why these movies stopped being made in the first place. They just stopped being all that much fun.