Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
Director: Walter Hill
Running time: 91mins
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Jason Momoa, Christian Slater
AS SUBTLE as its title would suggest, Bullet to the Head’s saving grace is that it only just stumbles over the 90-minute mark. It is, however, still long enough to exhaust the patience of even the most ardent Stallone fan.
Aged hitman Jimmy Bobo (Sylvester Stallone) and Korean-American cop Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) are the unlikely duo, teaming up to avenge their respective partners. As they close in on the criminals responsible for the killings, Bobo’s daughter (Sarah Shahi) is kidnapped, giving him even more reason to enact vengeance. In essence, it’s an hour and a half bursting with fighting, shooting, fighting, brooding musclemen and an unhealthy amount of explosions. Add on top of this blood splattering, nudity, and a copious amount of foul and abusive language and it’s staggering that this is only a 15 certificate.
During his career, Stallone has shown glimpses of talent (particularly in the form of Rocky (1976) and Cliffhanger (1993)), but this is not a film the 66 year old revels in. His rippling physique has been taken to an unnatural extreme, and the imbalance between his slim legs and bulging upper body leaves the audience fearing for his stability throughout.
It’s easy to forget, but he is one of only three men to be Oscar nominated for best actor and writing in the same year (for Rocky; 1976), sharing that honour with cinema legends Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles.
The cast may not be one taken straight off the A-list, but many will recognise the lesser known members. Jason Momoa, who plays uncompromising mercenary Keegan, is best known for his role as Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones. Many will know Sung Kang for his recurring role in the Fast franchise, and it’s clear that fans of the latter are the target audience for this action flick. A small role for Christian Slater brings some quality acting to the screen, but he is unceremoniously disposed of before he can have any real impact.
Walter Hill’s stature in the action/thriller genre is not under threat, but the success of 48 Hrs and Driver seem to be long behind him. Bullet to the Head is his first directorial outing in six years and, on this evidence, his sabbatical hasn’t served him well. Even the screenplay from Alessandro Camon, Oscar nominated in 2009 for The Messenger, fails to impress.
What’s more, the cinematography is tired and just boring. It attempts nothing out of the ordinary besides sharp, yellow freeze frames, but after the first dozen they become nothing more than an annoyance.
Product placement has been a part of commercial cinema for a long time (remember the Pan Am logo on Kubrick’s shuttle in 2001: A Space Odyssey?), but the tireless Blackberry plugging left me wondering just how much of the $55m budget the telecoms giant stumped up.
The movie delivers exactly what it promises to, just in a shoddy and unimaginative fashion. By the end, a Bullet to the Head didn’t sound like a bad idea.