When I walked into the theater to see “Bullet to the Head,” I expected just another B grade, comic-book-to-film adaptation about vigilantism, and I wasn’t far off the mark. With a lead duo of Sylvester Stallone and Sung Kang, I had no idea what was in store as far as acting is concerned. Instead, I anticipated that the apex of this cinematic retelling of Alexis Nolent’s graphic novel, “Du Plomb Dans La Tête,” would probably be its action scenes, especially given Stallone’s reputation.
Jimmy Bobo (Stallone) is a skilled, deadly hitman whose partner Louis Blanchard (Jon Seda) is murdered after their most recent job dispatching a corrupt policeman named Hank Greely (Holt McCallany). He is forced to team up with a Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang), who is in New Orleans for the investigation on Greely’s death, when the young detective gets too close to the truth behind villainous lawyer Robert Morel’s (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) shady dealings. They embark on an undertaking for retribution and justice.
In short, this movie is boring. There is little done by director Walter Hill and the writers to keep the viewer surprised and on the edge of their seat. Every last significant moment pertaining to the plot is basically announced loud and clear in the preceding scenes. I found myself unraveling the greater part of the story within the first 30 minutes, which says a lot about the movie’s oversimplified narrative.
Moving deeper into the plotline, it’s difficult to shake a feeling of déjà vu; it’s almost as if this monstrosity was stitched together from a combination of old cop and tough-guy films—and poorly, I might add. Stallone’s demeanor heavily reminded me of his prime, and how it’s been 30 years since then. Paired with a sci-fi director whose prime in cinematography was also in the 80s, “Bullet to the Head” definitely carries an air of the outdated, or at the very least, something that’s been done before.
Characterization is seemingly absent from the film, and as a result its characters remain strangers to the audience by the end. The writers go into virtually zero detail when it comes to revealing who these people are. Jimmy Bobo’s moral code and its sharp contrast to Kwon’s is briefly glossed over, but they are almost entirely aligned according to the overused model of tough guy and cop, respectively; there is little more to be seen there. Even one of the primary antagonists, Keegan (Jason Momoa), is written almost to the tee of a typical crime movie villain: an unrelenting killing machine, with a bloodlust that outweighs material greed.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of “Bullet to the Head” is what should have been its most important asset—acting. With a superstar like Sylvester Stallone, good acting should be a given. However, after sitting through Stallone’s poorly articulated one-liners, one after another, in union with Sung Kang’s overall mediocre performance onscreen, I gave up on the acting and hoped that the action would at least be up to par, which it surprisingly is towards the conclusion of the film.
“Bullet to the Head” can be represented by its box-office success, or lack thereof. On opening night, it earned a measly $1.7 million in comparison to Schwarzenegger’s most recent flop “The Last Stand,” which still made $7.2 million the weekend of its nationwide release. This raises the question: Why is “Bullet to the Head” so far behind other action movies in ticket sales? Simply put: it stinks.
It’s more than apparent that Stallone is past his golden age, and it’s starting to look the same for Sung Kang. My advice: if you want to see a Stallone movie, save yourself the heartbreak and cash, and rent “Rambo” instead.
Rating: 2 stars