Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Bullet to the Head (2012)

New Orleans. After a hit, someone who we will later learn is a big bad mercenary named Keegan (Jason Momoa) murders the partner of freelance killer James Bonomo aka (delightfully) Jimmy Bobo (Sylvester Stallone) in a bar. Jimmy barely escapes with his life and decides to do what killers in movies do when they are sure their employers have fucked them over. There’s a little killing spree in the making, but first point of business is to actually find out who hired him because the hitperson business usually works through middlemen. To complicate matters, Jimmy has to team up with a cop (spit). Said cop, one Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) owns a cell phone. Which, in combination with his job, is more than enough reason for Jimmy to come up with some awkward and ill-fitting racist jibes, him being the kind of racist who can’t even get the races he’s against straight. However, the script declares they’ve gotta team up and do the old buddy thing, so they do.

There’s much violence, some business with Jimmy’s daughter (a sadly underutilized Sarah Shahi), and then some more violence.

For my tastes, it has been a decade or two since Walter Hill, once one of the best directors of stylized action movies (and more) in the USA, has made a really great film (not to be confused with Great Films, in which I don’t believe). It’s still nice to see him working regularly as a director again, though, and while Bullet to the Head certainly isn’t a masterpiece, it is a very entertaining minor work by an old master. It is not as weirdly – and to my eyes pointlessly – experimental as his newest film The Assignment but on the other hand it is pleasantly straightforward, its plot never coming to a screeching halt for scenes of Sigourney Weaver (bless her) rambling without point or end.

Here Hill does get back to the old buddy action movie formula, though the script (apparently based on a graphic novel) isn’t terribly funny or interested in doing anything of note with the old formula. Sung Kang and Stallone are perfectly serviceable as bickering tough guy couple but there’s little chemistry between them, and their dialogue just isn’t terribly interesting. Of course, Stallone does look like the avantgarde project with painted-on eyebrows of a slightly mad sculptor, so chemistry probably isn’t in the cards between him and any even vaguely human looking member of our species. This doesn’t mean Stallone isn’t fun to watch here – he still has screen presence but it has grown pretty damn weird in his old age and really doesn’t lend itself to any kind of nuance beyond presenting him as some sort of force of nature or mad science, which actually work in his favour in the film at hand.

Hill somewhat makes up for that by giving nominal big bad Adewale Akinnuyoe-Agbaje a lot of scenery to chew, providing Jason Momoa with many an opportunity to glare (he even gets into a glaring duel with Stallone later on), and having Christian Slater pop in for a visit.

Otherwise, it’s classic American action directed by a classic American action director, who still edits circles around some of the young guns. Bullet to the Head is a fun flick, is what I’m saying, and while I am a bit sad that it isn’t more than that, I’m not going to complain about merely being entertained by ten or so well-done action scenes.

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