Review: Bullet to the Head (The Noisy Ballad of Repeat Offender)

Bullet to the Head

For all the badasses Stallone has played, he looks ridiculous in a mug shot—or at least he looks ridiculous in the slapdash photoshopped mug shots that act as a perverse year book of his character’s 26 arrests in Bullet to the Head.

These pix are our entre to Jimi Bobo (Stallone), a career criminal in Crescent City whose survival seems to prove living crooked is the only way to get sh*t done in NoLa. When Detective Kwon (Sung Kang, Fast and the Furious, Better Luck Tomorrow) reaches New Orleans, looking for the men who killed his AWOL partner, he finds Jimi before he’s left the morgue.

Though the men are on opposite sides of the law they both have it out for an African power broker (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) with the right men in his pocket to turn slums into condos and strip malls (officially the white-collar criminal’s raison d’etre of 2013). The renovation of Crescent City is surprisingly incidental in Walter Hill’s adaptation of Alexis Nolent’s French graphic novel—what’s more prominent is the hilariously offensive racist and ageist banter between Kwon and Bobo, and the emphasis Bobo places on action while Kwon explains the handful of ways his disassembled smartphone “could be a weapon.” (Both Bullet to the Head and its antihero are all about the gulf between “could be” and IS.)

Jason Momoa plays a mercenary hired to kill Jimi and their first fight in a bar bathroom is heart stopping. Walter Hill has lost none of his directorial prowess! Sure, Momoa walks around looking like Tim Roth in Planet of the Apes but during the fights, Conan is gripping, confident in a way that’s both playful and unseating. With only few exceptions, the main cast have all had some downtime from center stage: Christian Slater, playing a slimey Chicago attorney, hasn’t been missing from Hollywood so much as stuck in the B-grade-basement, starring in direct-to-DVD titles like Assassins Run and Assassins Bullet.

One supposes Kang’s had it a bit better since his recent turn in Ninja Assassin (do you see a titling trend?) but weren’t it for the Expendables franchise, we’d think Stallone had retired. I suppose that’s part of what Stallone (or Kang, or Slater, or director Hill) bring the self-conscious table: it’s tenacious not to give out during the dry spell. Might not make them criminals but they are getting away with something.

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About Sara Vizcarrondo

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Sara Vizcarrondo is a freelance film critic out of San Francisco. She runs Opening Movies at Rottentomatoes, teaches film/media studies at DeAnza college and writes on film for Popdose and The SF Bay Guardian.

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