BULLET TO THE HEAD Review

The three week Expendables solo project run comes to an end after The Last Stand, Parker, and now Bullet to the Head (though it could pick back up next week if you consider A Good Day to Die Hard a solo film for Bruce Willis). This final film in the three week rampage of bullets and brawn may or may not suffer from a bit of fatigue in the throwback action style that has now become so current and cool. Though Stallone is much smarter than anyone gives him credit for and still upholds the bar on which action movies are made to the highest he could possibly achieve this film suffers from a serious case of déjà vu as it echoes every cop or police procedural that you can see on cable TV week in and week out. Still, we know that to go into a Stallone film with as brash a title as Bullet to the Head is to expect exactly what it promises and to that degree the film delivers on all levels. Stallone's career was going nowhere fast as we entered the new millennium and so he proved to the studios he was still a valuable asset by adding films to his Rocky and Rambo franchises and then really revived his career by writing, directing and rounding up an all-star cast of current and yesteryear actioners for The Expendables. In doing this he has allowed himself and his older colleagues to return to making the movies they have a special place in their heart for. Though neither Arnold Schwarzenegger's nor this effort were able to find much of an audience in their opening weekend each of these films seem destined to be fun enough when considered against the rest of these guys filmographies.

Jimmy Bobo (Sylvester Stallone) and Detective Kwon (Sung Kang) investigate the murders of their partners.
Directed by Walter Hill who is famous for films such as 48 Hrs. and The Warriors and based on the French graphic novel Du plomb dans la tete by Alexis Nolent the movie centers around James Bonomo or Jimmy Bobo (Stallone) as they call him. A lifelong criminal, Jimmy has known nothing else and continues to evade prison time while knocking off whoever he is paid to knock off from the unseen guys above. After an opening sequence that straight up lets us know the film will not be shying away from its title Jimmy and his partner Louis (Jon Seda) retire to a bar for the night when it becomes clear this job was intended to be their last. After seeing his partner die Jimmy naturally needs to seek some kind of vengeance as he liked Louis pretty well and worked with him for a good enough amount of time to justify some, you guessed it, bullets to the head. Turns out, the guy Jimmy and Louis were paid to hit that fateful night was an ex-cop from Washington D.C. who was kicked off the force but also had a partner needing to find some answers and the people responsible for his death. Set in New Orleans the setting is a welcome character as it doesn't seem as bland as it would if located in New York or LA. This also allows for Jimmy to not only be a person of great help but gives him an edge over detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang of the third through sixth Fast & Furious films). The two join forces and it is evident Hill tries to create that buddy cop chemistry present in his own 48 Hrs. as well as plenty of Lethal Weapon style action films that make them memorable. The jokes come fast and predictable as Stallone acknowledges the outlandish aspects of his age and doing what he is doing while undercutting Kwon by making as many racist jokes as he can come up with while insulting his lack of violent resolution methods.

In the films "comedy" lies the ability for us to enjoy the film without completely laughing at it, we regard it as a kind of parody of itself rather than believing it actually is stupid. That the movie realizes what it is and is self-referential in a way to our main characters age and limitations we understand it is in on the joke, that it realizes as well as we do how ridiculous the whole thing is. This is a refreshing bit that has run through all these guys films lately beginning with the first Expendables film, but that is also what makes it easy to love and easier to embrace with your credibility still intact. It is pure, unabashed fun with no limitations.

As Bobo, Stallone looks a bit more limber and able than Schwarzenegger did in his return to the big screen last month and he certainly isn't the one attempting to fit into his senior years and settle down in a small town but instead is ready to go full throttle for the old school way of doing things no matter how many men it means he has to shoot through the head. The guy looks good and despite being a mere four years away from seventy we believe that his lack of sympathy would allow him to survive the encounters he comes to confront even if much of the storyline becomes as ridiculous as the mentality of the movie itself. There is a scene where Stallone bears his grizzled chest as he fist fights a guy in a bathhouse and it is clear that he refuses to let his physique go to waste and his upper body is absolutely solid and large while he seems to limp around on a pair of twig legs that hint at the age behind the face that has been kept up with surgery and even coloring. I bring his appearance up not only because his age comes in as an acknowledged factor in the film but also because the film shows the progression of Stallone through the years in a series of mugshots. A progression we've all seen, but is rather sad and disturbing in seeing how much has changed in the actor but at the same time, how very little.

Lisa (Sarah Shahi) is kidnapped by Keegan (Jason Mamoa)  in Bullet to the Head.
Overall, there really isn't much more to say about a movie called Bullet to the Head. You know one hundred percent from the title whether or not you will have any interest in seeing the film or not and if it is your kind of thing you will be handsomely rewarded. There is a fun bit played by Christian Slater (I don't know the last time I saw a movie in theaters that featured Slater) as a corrupt lawyer in league with the head boss man Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) who is plotting some type of scheme to take over a good portion of New Orleans and make himself lots of money. It is as typical as that, but there are little bits that stand out and make it a rather enjoyable ride. The most obvious of these is Jason Mamoa as Morel's head cronie that finds a pleasure in his job that goes beyond the need for money. Mamoa is the guy you might have seen stomping around in that complacent Conan the Barbarian remake two years ago but as much as he tried to infuse that film with charm he is given a much tastier palate to work with here and speaks very little. When the movie somehow works its way down to the final, unavoidable fight scene between he and Stallone and they pull out a couple of axes I was literally clinching my fists. This was mostly for the reason that I saw no way Stallone was going to shoot his way out of this one but was instead going to just give up and take an axe to the head. In the end, the film has one too many endings and almost takes itself too seriously but if there is one emotion that should not be associated with this type of film it is that of a serious tone. This is full blown degenerate junk, but it is entertaining junk.