Bullet to the Head is yet another forgettable action flick. For some, it might be a fun callback to 1980s action but for myself, I found it to be poorly made with awkward storytelling and poor casting with Sung Kang, who I generally find to be a charismatic actor (and was the only good thing in Tokyo Drift) but he had absolutely no chemistry as Stallone’s quasi-adversary.
Genre(s): Action, Crime
Warner Bros. | R – 92 min. – $35.99 | July 16, 2013
Directed by: Walter Hill
Writer(s): Matz (graphic novel); Alessandro Camon (screenplay)
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christian Slater, Jason Momoa
Theatrical Release Date: February 1, 2013
Features: Featurette, DVD Copy, UltraViolet Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.78
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 16.2 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 2.5/5
Returning to the silver screen after a 10 year hiatus, Walter Hill directs Bullet to the Head is based upon a French graphic novel but like the title, it comes across as just another generic movie. If instead of Sylvester Stallone it was Jean-Claude Van Damm or Val Kilmer, nobody would’ve been surprised to see this go straight-to-video. It did receive a theatrical release and managed a paltry $9.48 million at the box office (after a miserable $4.5 million opening weekend).
The story focuses on aging hitman James Bonomo (SYLVESTER STALLONE) who, upon the film’s opening, goes with partner Louis Blanchard (JON SEDA) for their latest hit on a disgrace Washington D.C. detective, Hank Greely. The hit doesn’t quite go off without a hitch but the job gets done, though Bonomo allows a hooker who was in the shower to live but don’t worry, this plot point doesn’t come back to bite him in the ass. The pair later goes to a bar to receive payment and instead get double-crossed leading to Louis’ demise and Bonomo barely escaping from the clutches of fellow hired killer, Keegan (JASON MOMOA).
Arriving to New Orleans is D.C. detective Taylor Kwon (SUNG KANG), a no nonsense fellow who is in town to investigate Greely’s death, his former partner who went rogue and stole confidential files. Kwon is quickly is put on Bonomo as one of the killers and with Bonomo wanting to avenge the death of Blanchard, the two form an extremely uneasy alliance where Kwon wants nothing more than to arrest Bonomo while Bonomo wants nothing more than to kill Kwon for being a cop. Trust me, this is no buddy cop flick, 48 HRS style… their hatred for one another is palpable.
After Kwon gets shot in the arm during their investigation, Bonomo takes him to tattoo artist Lisa (SARAH SHAHI) who happens to be his quasi estranged daughter. She patches Kwon up and as one could predict, there’s a spark between Kwon and Lisa… In any case, as you might guess, Bonomo and Kwon continue riding around town, picking up leads and, much to Kwon’s horror, leaving a body count behind.
The investigation leads to a local businessman Robert Morel (ADEWALE AKINNUOYE-AGBAJE) and his financial whipping boy Marcus Baptiste (CHRISTIAN SLATER). See, Morel has some grand plan to buy up slums, tear them all down and build upscale condos and businesses in its place. All I can say is, Lex Luthor would be proud of the scheme. Over-the-top fights and bullets to the head ensue.
Bullet to the Head can be viewed a few ways. First, the script, and I suppose the graphic novel it’s based upon (‘Du plomb dans la tête’ aka ‘Headshot’), is weak and features ho-hum and hum-drum fight scenes I’ve seen a million (+1) times before. Another way to look at it, it’s an homage to the great straight-up action films of the 1980s. The third way is it’s just another action movie that if not for Sylvester Stallone, it would’ve been headed for a quick and painless death on home video instead of the quick and laughable death in its short theatrical run.
For his part, Sylvester Stallone comes out all right and actually plays a unique character, one who has a dead-set number of principles, none of which he really sets aside even when partnering up with Kwon. It’s actually a daring role as the guy is not very likeable but with that old Stallone charisma, you don’t hate him as much.
The supporting players are all B and C-level talents but to be fair, they don’t have a whole heck of a lot to work with. Sung Kang has gained exposure thanks to the Fast and the Furious franchise and while I think he’s a fine actor, and even though their character aren’t supposed to get along, the chemistry between him and Stallone just was not there. I think it would have been beneficial to have Kwon played by somebody a bit older, and then he could’ve been a force.
Sarah Shahi, who some might remember from “Fairly Legal” and a handful appearances on “Person of Interest” is a surprisingly bland character, although I suppose compared with the others, has the best back-story as somebody with a complicated history with her father; Jason Momoa playing the what I guess is the primary villain has the screen presence but his acting skills still need work, but compared with other wannabe action stars (John Cena), might have the best chance to succeed; and Christian Slate marks his first theatrically released film in 8 years and, well, it’s Christian Slater and a limited/thankless role.
Directed by Walter Hill, Bullet to the Head is a harmless film but should have been much more fun than it ultimately was. The editing is choppy and the scene transitions were awkward. Early on, writer/director Wayne Kramer (Running Scared) was set to direct with Thomas Jane playing opposite Stallone, but due to disagreements with the film’s tone, Kramer was replaced and with him, Jane was ultimately replaced. I am curious to see what a Kramer-directed movie with Jane would’ve been like.
Ultimately, Bullet to the Head is merely another dumb action movie. There’s really not a whole heck of a lot to it with Stallone being Stallone with I guess a darker edge than we normally see. This is the kind of movie one might want to see on a slow Saturday but don’t expect anything special or even memorable.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.0/5
This release comes with a semi-glossy slip cover. Inside are the retail DVD Copy and an UltraViolet Digital Copy download code.
The solo feature is Bullet to the Head: Mayhem Inc. (9:21; HD) a basic behind-the-scenes ‘making-of’ featurette showing some of the stunt work by Stallone and some comments by members of the cast and crew.
Preview – Gangster Squad
VIDEO – 4.0/5
Warner Home Video fires a single shot and releases Bullet to the Head on Blu-ray presented with a 1.78 widescreen aspect ratio (was 1.85 in theaters) and a nice looking 1080p high-definition transfer. The picture looks relatively good with some fine detail levels and stark blacks during the nighttime scenes. I didn’t notice any signs of artifacting, pixilation, or banding and the colors seem well balanced per the director’s intentions (as the exposure is intentionally oversaturated in places).
AUDIO – 4.5/5
From the opening with the Warner and Dark Horse logos, this 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track has plenty of oomph. The action sequences allow this lossless track to shine through but the dialogue levels are also well done with nice clarity throughout. This may not be an awe-inspiring track, but it is more than satisfactory for the genre.
OVERALL – 2.5/5
Overall, Bullet to the Head is yet another forgettable action flick. For some, it might be a fun callback to 1980s action but for myself, I found it to be poorly made with awkward storytelling and poor casting with Sung Kang, who I generally find to be a charismatic actor (and was the only good thing in Tokyo Drift) but he had absolutely no chemistry as Stallone’s quasi-adversary. That being said, it’s not a horrible movie but definitely something that would’ve gone direct-to-video had it not been for Stallone.
The Blu-ray released by Warner Home Video is pretty basic with a solo EPK featurette and presentable video/audio transfers.