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Rocky and Conan tangle in director Walter Hill’s old school action movie “Bullet to the Head”, a film so old school you might think you’ve been transported back to the ’80s without realizing it. Depending on what you’re bringing to the movie, that’s either a good thing or a very bad thing. For me, it’s somewhere in the middle. While I appreciate Hill’s return to his glory days, “Bullet to the Head” is a bit of a clunker. It’s not fun enough for me to consider it a nostalgic guilty pleasure, but at the same time there’s not enough here for me to consider it anything but that. Which is a problem, in case you’re wondering.
Sylvester Stallone plays a New Orleans hitman name Bonomo (he goes by Jimmy Bobo), whose partner (Jon Seda) gets shanked by the new Conan (Jason Momoa) at a bar after one of their jobs. Bobo swears vengeance, but things get complicated when out-of-town cop Taylor Kwon (“The Fast and Furious’” Sung Kang) shows up looking for his ex-partner. That, uh, ex-partner was the guy Bobo and his buddy just killed at the beginning of the film. Kwon is what you would call a one-trick pony, and Kang is ridiculously underused. Hell, you wonder if the character wasn’t just tossed in there at the last minute so Stallone’s Bobo could drop racist Asian jokes on him. But hey, Bobo is a lovable Luddite racist, so I guess it’s okay.
There’s a whole side plot about Bobo’s daughter played by the gorgeous Sarah Shahi, a tattoo artist (who is covered in tattoos herself, which is, yes, pretty hot) who falls for Kwon and vice versa. Or at least, they’re supposed to. There’s not much there, and it’s really the fault of the script, which does so little with Kwon that at certain points Kang looked like some background player who wandered into the foreground and didn’t get out of the way fast enough. Seriously, he’s just sort of … there. It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Stallone gets all the good jokes (most of it at Kwon’s expense) and the film’s pathos. Christian Slater has a small but amusing role as a go-between for the bad guys, and makes you long to see him as the lead in a big-budget movie just one more time.
As action film goes, “Bullet to the Head” looks like a direct-to-DVD movie that somehow muscled a theatrical release thanks to the cinematic resurgence currently being enjoyed by its leading man. It’s a film that might fly in the ’80s or even the ’90s, but in 2012 it’s just not all that impressive. Momoa plays a mercenary who kills for the enjoyment of it, and there’s something about a corruption plot involving evil bad guy Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, whose character has a limp, and I kept wondering what that was all about. Really, that’s the most interesting thing about Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s character. He limps. It sure the hell isn’t his Lex Luthor like land scheme that involves knocking everyone off willy nilly.
The Blu-ray looks good, with just the right amount of dirt, grit and grunge, as befitting the film itself, which takes place mostly at night or in dark rooms, with the showdown in one of those abandoned factories (another staple of the ’80s action movie). But if you’re looking to grab the Blu-ray Combo Pack for the special features, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Warner Bros. took a bath with the movie when they released it early this year, and they have responded in kind by giving fans of the film … a 9-minute featurette called “Bullet to the Head: Mayhem Inc.”, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. And that, as they say, is that.
Needless to say, don’t expect anything resembling real-world logic in this one, kids. If you keep that in mind, “Bullet to the Head” isn’t too bad. It’s not great, either, mind you, but if you’re in the mood for some brainless old school action, this is your movie.