Movie Review: Bullet to the Head


In Bullet to the Head, anti-gun rights guy Sylvester Stallone plays Mumbles from the old Dick Tracy series. OK, he mostly just sounds like him. Sly is a New Orleans hit man named James “Bobo” Bonomo. Taking care of Big Easy bidness with partner Louis Blanchard (Jon Seda), Bobo’s career goes off the rails after a contract on one Hank Greely. Why Greely? Like Lord Alfred Tennyson, Bobo’s is not to wonder why. Surprisingly (or not if you’ve ever watched a movie before) Bonomo spares the life of a prostitute soaping-up the goods in the shower while Bobo goes ballistic with a silenced Colt Woodsman. (Head shot, ‘natch.) Bobo is a killer with a shiny gun, a face like a burn victim and a heart of gold . . .

A few hours after capping Greely, the happy hitmen are winding down at a Crescent City zydeco bar, waiting for their contact to arrive with the payoff. While Bobo is draining the snake in the salle de bain pour hommes, a cruelly handsome giant (Jason Momoa) guts Bobo’s BFF like a fish. Then the big dude goes after Bobo, who’s still hanging out — literally — in the men’s room.

The rollicking good time had by the 6’4” giant and the diminutive 66-year-old steroid abuser sets the tone for the rest of the movie: two doods rolling around the floor of a backwoods Louisiana roadhouse toilet busting walls and toilets like they’re made out of cheap plywood and brittle plastic (they are).

Bobo and scary knife guy (a.k.a., Keegan) survive the Battle of the Porcelain Convenience, sparing the movie crew from unemployment. The contract killer and the contract killer are both tasked with killing a bunch of people before they can meet-up for their final attempt to push the boundaries of homoerotic violence.

How 'bout that body language? (courtesy geekenstein.com)

In the intervening gap, Washington, D.C. cop Taylor Kwan (heroically underplayed by Sung Kang) arrives to provide some comic relief. Bobo’s killed Kwan’s partner (Greely), who Kwan didn’t like, conveniently enough. Other than the fact that neither man breaks a sweat in America’s ninth most humid metropolis, Kwan and Bobo have nothing in common. So . . . they team up! Who saw that one coming?

Bullet to the Head is as predictable as a Swiss train. The movie tries to relieve the monotony with kink. There’s quasi-sexual repartee with a beautiful braless tattoo babe—who turns out to be Bobo’s daughter. And some naked hitman action after a bust-up in a Turkish bathhouse (above) with a cute girl watching, ending with a Beretta 92FS. The interrogation scene with Jack Nicholson’s clone (above) threatens to go all Tarantino, but finishes quickly with a Winchester 1894.

Am I giving too much away? I didn’t name the movie. Nor did Bullet to the Head invent the cop-and-crook-forced-to-work-together genre. It’s a slightly more violent version of Walter Hill’s 48 Hours. The same Walter Hill who directed Bullet to the Head. Thirty-one years later, Hill gets the action right—including dancing red dots and Glocks a plenty—and the buddy part wrong. Equally, the performances are [Judge] dreadful.

Sylvester Stallone may have a lifetime achievement award from the American Somnambulist Society, but he’s capable of better work. One word: Copland. It’s painful watching Sly in pain, unable to turn his head or a phrase. Or maybe he was as constipated as the dialogue.

Sung Kang, the actor who elevated “Fast and Furious – Tokyo Drift” from the ridiculous to the sublime, turns in a performance that’s as flat as bin dae duk. Kang seems carefully coached in the art of not upstaging Stallone; an easy task for which he deserves an Academy Award. I guess he’ll just have to settle for five million dollars and a couple of points.

Wielding an FNP-45 Tactical in FDE with an open red dot sight as an EDC, Jason Momoa is the show stopper Sly didn’t see coming. Yeah, that Jason Momoa. From Baywatch. And the remake of Conan the Barbarian. With those credentials you’d expect Momoa to suck eggs. Instead he sucks the air out Stallone’s scenes. If Momoa can avoid death by Viper room and scripts like Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, his action movie career is assured.

That said, anyone who’d agree to be seen on screen with the world’s wimpiest red dot optic perched atop a Kel-Tec KSG bullpup shotgun runs the risk of starring in a wretched comedy. Luckily, the hit squad that follows Keegan’s lead into Bobo’s bayou safe house cut loose with Heckler & Koch UMPs, restoring ballistic honor.

No such luck for Bullet to the Head. It’s a solid action adventure movie that’s reeks of missed opportunities. All this movie needed, really, was a script and characters that someone, anyone, would care about.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Model: Bullet in the Head
Caliber: Magnum dopus
Length:  91 minutes
Action: Galore with plenty of gore and blood on the floor
Finish: Sequel, anyone?
Price: About $30 with popcorn and a soda

RATINGS (out of five bullets):

Style * * * *
Who knew that sudden death was an art form? The body count is somewhere between Commando and The Thin Red Line. The fight scenes are well choreographed, especially the final showdown – with axes — between Stallone and Momoa. The nighttime firefight is a thing of beauty.

Reliability * *
Stallone delivers exactly what you expect from Stallone, which means that all his dialog should be subtitled. For such a stylish and engaging actor, Sung Kang is a major disappointment. The supporting cast is much better, especially Jason Momoa who almost steals the show.

Overall * * * 1/2
There are worse ways to waste time and money, but the fact that this film was released on Super Bowl weekend tells you everything you need to know.