Movie Review: Bullet to the Head
By Matthew Huntley
February 6, 2013
It could just be I was expecting too much from Bullet to the Head. Going into it, I thought that because it starred Sylvester Stallone and the trailer and ads went out of their way to focus on his age (he’s now 66-years-old), the movie would be a slick, self-aware farce with aims to undermine B action movies while simultaneously paying heed to them. It would be fun and ironic and Stallone would be a good sport by letting it poke fun at his never-ending attempt to stay relevant in the action genre, despite his getting on in years. After all, if Arnold Schwarzenegger could do it well enough just two weeks ago with The Last Stand, why couldn’t Stallone, who has always been Arnie’s friendly cinematic rival?
But even though the movie will come across as a joke to viewers, neither Stallone nor the filmmakers seem to be in on it. Stallone once again takes himself too seriously, something he suggested with the The Expendables movies. It still seems he’s only interested in making straight-up action pictures, devoid of any irony or tongue-in-cheek humor, which is fine, but the aging star hasn’t made a good one in a long time, and Bullet to the Head might actually be one of his worst. Of course, Stallone can’t take all the blame; it’s a team failure, from director Walter Hill, screenwriter Alessandro Camon and the rest of the cast. You’d think one of these people would have recognized just how bad a movie they were making. If they didn’t, that’s not as funny as it is sad.
To describe the plot seems futile because, really, at the end of day, who cares what Bullet to the Head is about? Even if it succeeded as mindless action, the plot would be beside the point. In any case, Stallone plays an assassin-for-hire named Jimmy Bobo, who’s been arrested over 20 times across the country and has served his fair share of prison time. He nevertheless keeps at his current profession because it’s all he’s ever known. Plus, he only has two rules: he doesn’t kill women and he doesn’t kill kids. If the movie does anything right, it’s that it doesn’t pretend Bobo is a hero or that we necessarily have to like him. He’s a ruthless killer and the movie refrains from glorifying his lifestyle as if we’re supposed to admire it. It also doesn’t give him the expected character arc of turning over a new leaf and suddenly becoming a good guy.
After Bobo and his partner Louis (Jon Seda) take out their latest target, they retire to a seedy New Orleans bar, where another meathead named Keegan (Jason Momoa), who’s working for the same people as Bobo, kills Louis. Thus begins Bobo’s investigation of a double-crossing scheme that leads all the way up to a corrupt businessman, Robert Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), who of course walks with a cane, and his fast-talking lawyer, Marcus Baptiste (Christian Slater). Baptiste lets us know, rather obviously, about a file that incriminates Morel for bribing a congressman to buy land in order to secure a housing contract, or something or other. He also wears a flash drive around his neck that details Morel’s other illegal payoffs around New Orleans (yes, Baptiste really does wear this around his neck, which makes it easily accessible for anyone who wants it).
It seems pointless to go any further into how all the characters eventually connect because, frankly, nobody cares. The bottom line is that Bullet to the Head is a lowbrow revenge picture, with Bobo working his way through all the players that led to his partner’s death. He’s joined by D.C. Detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang), who, despite always going by the book, reluctantly teams up with Bobo to take out the really big fish, though he makes it clear Bobo isn’t absolved of his own crimes. “When this is all over, we’ll deal with our business.”
The movie doesn’t quite venture into buddy-cop territory, although it seems like it should given how frivolous that material is. It pretty much hits a point of no return when Bobo and Kwon stop at a mask shop so they can disguise themselves at Baptiste’s costume party. It has the nerve to play scenes like this straight, with no sense of irony or goofiness. We stare at the screening asking ourselves, seriously? And of course the movie has a good-looking woman in it, who just happens to be Bobo’s daughter (Sarah Shahi), a tattoo artist who, by default, can only fulfill the following roles: a) sexy eye candy; b) kidnapped victim; c) love interest for Kwon.
With its low standards and even lower ambitions, Bullet to the Head has all the makings of a direct-to-DVD movie. Unless you’re a fan of cringing, it’s best to skip it. This is a regular bad movie because of its lousy acting, convoluted plot and hackneyed action scenes, but it becomes the worst kind of bad because it’s also dull. It offers nothing to get worked up about. Even at a mere 92 minutes, it’s painful to endure. I’ll say one thing about it, the title is appropriate. Unfortunately, it feels like the audience is taking the bullet.