SYNOPSIS: After watching their respective partners die, a New Orleans hitman and a Washington D.C. detective form an alliance in order to bring down their common enemy.
REVIEW: Walter Hill, director of the cult classic The Warriors, has also directed another massive action star of the 1980s and 90s - Arnold Schwarnegger in the 1988 Red Heat. Now its Sylvester Stallone's turn to be under Hill's tutelage as a character that Sly is very familiar with - a hitman. Bullet to the Head is based on a screenplay by Alessandro Camon (The Messenger) from the graphic novel "Du plomb dans la tête" by Alexis Nolent.
James Bonomo a.k.a. Jimmy Bobo (Sylvester Stallone, The Expendables 2) and his associate Louis Blanchard (Jon Seda, Larry Crowne) to hotel to take on a contract hit against a former cop Hank Greely (Holt McCallany, The Losers) filling himself with booze and drugs. After the success of the assassination Bobo and Louis go to a bar to get paid. While Jimmy is in the restroom Louis is approached and killed by a professional muscular assailant. Then the powerful ponytailed man attacks Jimmy ho barely escapes. Enter Washington DC Detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang, Fast Five) in pursuit of the man who killed Greely. When he sees Louis' body in the morgue with Greely, Kwon puts together that this local hitman had something do with the contract to kill Greely.
Hunting down Jimmy, a known associate of Louis, Detective Qwon asks Jimmy to work together to bring down the bigger fish - the unknown men who actually contracted the Greely and Blanchard hits. When Detective Kwon is attacked, Jimmy steps in and decides that maybe this is a bigger deal than he thought. Although reluctant to work together - with completely different moral codes - the Detective and Jimmy start investigating and moving up the ladder to who actually contracted the hits.
Using their own methods, they realize the hits were just one component of a much bigger scheme reaching all levels of government officials, cops, and more. Even with Kwon and Jimmy working together, their combined talents may still not be enough to prevail against what lies in front of them.
Sylvester Stallone doesn't look like he has lost any step at all in his action film career. With the recent success The Expendables and The Expendables 2, Stallone has continued to reinvent his career as a top grossing action hero. While Arnold Schwarzenegger took too much time off for politics before returning for the aptly named The Last Stand, Stallone has managed to keep it all together and looking like he can still kick some serious ass. Regardless of how many shot were fired or how the fight scenes were choreographed, Stallone still looks ripped and ready to go. At this pace, Stallone will continue to rake in box office profits for a few more years to come. Stallone uses his strength - literally and figuratively - to make the best action flicks possible.
Jimmy Bonomo is just what you would expect from Stallone. The character is a sarcastic wise ass ready to back up every word he utters. Add in gunfire, some crazy close quarters combat, and some clichéd dialogue, and you have all the best elements needed for a completely enjoyable action popcorn movie. Kang's Kwon gets some good fight work in too, but he seems a little outmatched by the presence of Stallone's Jimmy.
As with every good action hero movie or superhero movie the protagonist is only as good as his villains. In Bullet to the Head we are treated to three bad guys. That doesn't mean that Stallone's Jimmy and Kang's Kwon are outmatched because they're outnumbered. What it does mean is that the bad guys just have more firepower and manpower. The lead boss man is former exiled South African Robert Nkomo Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, The Thing) looking to make money in real estate no matter what. At his side is a weasel in fox's clothing in the guise of Marcus Baptiste (Christian Slater, Soldiers of Fortune). But the real challenge comes in the form of the man known as Mr. Keegan playing with power and finesse by Jason Momoa (Conan the Barbarian). Mr. Keegan is a man not to be trifled with, dangerous because even his employers don't understand his true motivations.
Bullet to the Head is action-packed start to finish. Don't be surprised if somebody jumps out of their seats even before the production and studio logos finish on the screen. Just as the title implies there's plenty of lead flying around to find their way into the cranium of men There are moments where the sheer firepower to dispatch a person is overkill but it makes for great entertainment. Every fight scene, from Kwon fighting in a parking garage, to Jimmy facing down his contact Ronnie Earl (Brian Van Holt, Cougar Town) in a Turkish bath, to the fire ax wielding climax between Mr. Keegan and Jimmy, Some of the best action comes not with a gun but with well-placed fists.
The relationship between Jimmy and Kwon is a showing of diversity, each trying to keep the upper hand. One uses the letter of the law whole the other uses the way of the gun. Both think they are right - and they both may be right - but two alpha males on opposite ends of the moral spectrum can't occupy the same space for too long. It makes for a reasonably tense drama as well as some humor. Add in a possible love connection between straight-laced Korean Kwon and Jimmy's daughter Lisa (Sarah Shahi, I Don't Know How She Does It) and one may have a recipe for disaster.
Based on a graphic novel, Bullet to the Head is probably the perfect project for Stallone to dabble his action craft in. The runtime is a fast 91 minutes, giving Stallone just enough time to have several fight scenes, explosive gun battles, and a reasonably put together story to make the flick worthwhile.
Bullet to the Head is set in the backdrop of coastal Louisiana. The story uses a few story elements of the locale, from Jimmy's man cave shack on the bayou, to a masquerade party with costumes and masks, to a crooked real estate deal taking advantage of the depressed post-Katrina, current recession era region.
Bullet to the Head is a popcorn worthy action flick from an established action star still making good action flicks. After 91 minutes of this fast-paced thrill ride, you may need snuggle up to a bullet to the head, but in a good way!
★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5 | Movie - DVD
Rated: R Strong violence, bloody images, language, some nudity and brief drug use.
Release Date: February 1, 2013
Runtime: 1 hour 31 minutes
Director: Walter Hill
Writers: Alessandro Camon, based on the graphic novel "Du plomb dans la tete" by Alexis Nolent
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jason Momoa, Jon Seda, Holt McCallany, Brian Van Holt, Weronika Rosati, Dane Rhodes, Marcus Lyle Brown, Andrew Austin-Peterson