The year is 2013, Sylvester Stallone is 66-years-old and there remains an apparent market segment that wants to see him run around in his underwear (yes, this happens) punching people. His latest vehicle, Bullet to the Head is less a movie and more a testament to the ego of an unnaturally bulked up, tattooed, beef-jerky-like senior citizen who still thinks he has what it takes to blow stuff up, fight guys with — as the TV spot redundantly puts it — “deadly axes” and slaughter tons of bad guys. This is America, and it’s fully within Mr. Stallone’s rights to mumble his way through another movie, and I certainly can’t fault him for getting a paycheck. But, I’m not even going to suggest there’s a conceivably decent — or at least fun — movie buried underneath that premise. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, Bullet to the Head is hardly that movie.
Last week, I reviewed Parker. The week before that, I wrote about The Last Stand. The week before that it was Gangster Squad. What’s the connection? Each of those movies created the same general grievances that I have with Bullet to the Head. They’re cheap, jumbled, self-serious attempts at action moviemaking. Conceivably — and most likely — it’s unimaginable for an aging Stallone and his persona to be seen as anything less than the über-badass he’s spent decades cultivating. So the idea that we might get a fun, flippant action movie is lost in the wind. In its place is a film nostalgically stuck in the good old days of the ‘80s and early ‘90s, where everything blew up real nice and men solved their problems by who had the biggest pecs.
In a just world, this movie would’ve been sent straight to DVD, but Stallone’s recent vague resurgence put an end to that. The plot is both simple and needlessly convoluted. Basically, it’s a revenge film with Stallone as the awkwardly named James Bonomo, a hit man who wants to get back at the guys who offed his partner, and who’s being helped by a cop (Sung Kang, Fast Five) who wants to bring down the same thugs. Beyond this, however, the film is a jumble of plot twists, tied up around a crooked lawyer (a blessedly brief appearance by Christian Slater), a nasty mob boss (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, The Thing), a sadistic hired killer (Jason Momoa, Conan the Barbarian) and having something to do with government bribes and corrupt cops. All it manages to do is bog down an already dumb film in nonsensical story while we twiddle our thumbs waiting for the next confusing, chopped up action scene.
Director Walter Hill — who’s best known for The Warriors (1979) and 48 Hours (1982) — has been around for ages, but seems to have forgotten how to shoot an action sequence. What we’ve got in Bullet to the Head is the usual tired shaky, indecipherable camera work and over-eager edits — a huge problem when action is the whole point of your movie. Add it all together and the end result is a movie that’s dull, confusing and aesthetically drab, propped up by an action star who’s no longer cut out for this stuff. Rated R for strong violence, bloody images, language, some nudity and brief drug use.
Playing at Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, United Artists Beaucatcher Cinema 7