Director Walter Hill returns behind the lens for the latest Sylvester Stallone action film Bullet to the Head, also starring Sung Kang and Jason Momoa. Bullet to the Head is a callback to the mean-spirited and cheap-looking action films of the late 80s/early 90s, utilizing a basic plot and simple characters to pack a punch and keep the audience entertained throughout most of the film. There’s no tricks up its sleeves or moments that reinvent the genre, but Bullet to the Head still gets away with far more than it should because of Stallone’s seasoned performance, Hill’s steady direction and Jason Momoa’s intimidating presence as the film’s mysterious bad guy.
James Bonomo (Sylvester Stallone) is a hitman that doesn’t really care for the cops too much. One night while out on a hit his partner gets killed and he soon finds himself with his back against the wall and no one to trust. He has an idea of who wants him dead, but he’s not exactly sure how many people he’s going to have to kill until he feels “safe” again.
An out-of-town cop by the name of Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) comes in to solve the case and he too realizes that no one can be trusted. The two meet up after a series of events that force them to work together in order to bring down whoever it is that wants them both dead.
Throw in a macho henchman by the name of Keegan (Jason Momoa) and you have all of the ingredients for a good old-fashioned revenge flick, directed by the returning Walter Hill; who hasn’t directed a featured film since 2002 and starring the usually-good, but sometimes so-so Sylvester Stallone.
Bullet to the Head is the second film of the year that pits an aged and out-of-the-spotlight star from the 80s in a familiar setting for a film that most-likely would have done solid numbers back in the 80s or 90s, but turned a weak profit in 2013. The first was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand.
Bullet to the Head doesn’t fair as well as The Last Stand, because unlike that movie Bullet to the Head is much more focused on being a traditional picture that holds almost no surprises. The Last Stand had creative camera movement and hyper direction, while Bullet to the Head keeps the comedy dry and the action mean.
The film comes off as cheaply made and that actually helps give it a proper look and feel. The bloody shootouts are almost always done up with too much CGI, which I don’t approve of, but accept given the circumstances. The film’s main character isn’t your typical bad ass hero, but instead a cold hitman that doesn’t trust a damn soul and lives by a very strict code of conduct. Stallone plays this with his usual brand of tough guy antics, which means a few jokes come forcefully sprinkled in over the endless amounts of “look how tough I am” dialogue that really can only work with a guy like Stallone.
Sung Kang plays the stereotypical sidekick role with enough charisma and energy to establish that he’s the “new school” versus Stallone’s “old school”. The two don’t really share any chemistry and that’s kind of the point, but it’s always fun watching one save the other, only to follow it with a wise-ass remark.
The film’s best kept secret is the physical specimen known as Jason Momoa. His on-screen presence alone makes guys like Stallone look small and weak and it helps that Momoa knows a thing or two about acting. He proved that he could hold his own in Conan the Barbarian, but with Bullet to the Head he’s allowed much more free space to open up and have fun. He chews up most of his fighting scenes literally, while proving that he can sell a smirk and a mysterious smile with ease. Momoa’s actual character doesn’t run that deep, but he makes him memorable and worth secretly rooting for.
Bullet to the Head is ultimately a film that should have been made and released over a decade ago. Walter Hill does nothing to the film to make you think otherwise, which is also part of its simplistic charm. I couldn’t help pointing out parts of the film that were just too silly or dumb, yet I kept clapping for Stallone whenever he’d get into one of the film’s various well-choreographed action sequences. The general mean-spirited nature of the film is refreshing, especially when not one single character is actually someone that you should be rooting for, aside from maybe Sung Kang.
The rest of the film is predictable, cheap-looking and generally relies on too much CGI, yet you still might find yourself fully engaged in the film, because of Stallone and because of Momoa. The two carry the weight of the film on their shoulders with ease, proving that it still takes skill to deliver an action film.
WB’s 1080p video transfer represents the film’s cheap production values almost all too well. This transfer is extremely soft and washed over, making most of the set pieces appear as dull and lifeless. Most of the action sequences suffer from looking grimy and inconsistent. I’d normally complain more about this kind of transfer, but it does add to the general look and feel of the film. Everything about it looks and feels cheap, so why should it shine on Blu-Ray? Still, they could have done a much better job.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is an improvement from the film’s weak and suffering picture transfer. Bullets fly from every single channel, while dialogue is kept locked up on the front channels. This is an action film, which means the back channels serve mostly for the explosions and gunfire, without much of anything else making its way through. This is a balanced and effective track without a doubt.
Here’s a list of bonus material:
- Mayhem Inc. (HD) – A 9-minute feature that highlights the film’s simple intentions through various behind-the-scenes looks and interviews with director Walter Hill and stars Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Jason Momoa and a few other members of the cast and crew. This isn’t a bad feature at all, but one that is extremely short and far from detailed.
- DVD Copy
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
Walter Hill’s Bullet to the Head is something that is going to get some solid rentals from those looking for another Stallone B-movie. Everyone else will probably want to stick to watching this one on cable, because it offers up nothing new or exciting for modern action fans. WB’s bare bones Blu-Ray release only helps cement that fact, with a shoddy video transfer and a loud and engrossing audio track. The lack of real bonus material also helps this one sink even lower on the shelf. Rent it and be entertained, but don’t expect long-lasting value.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.