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Bullet to the Head

2012 | 92 min | R | 1.85:1

Bullet to the Head


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User reviews

2 user reviews

Movie appeal

Comic book29%



Theatrical release date

 01 February, 2013
 01 February, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Screenshots from Bullet to the Head Blu-ray

Bullet to the Head Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, January 31, 2013

After his career crumbled in the early 2000s, Sylvester Stallone went on the defensive, returning to characters and genres that provided his biggest successes, using this safety net to engineer his own creative path as a writer/director. The second wind resulted in “Rocky Balboa,” “Rambo,” and “The Expendables,” three solid pictures of undeniable popcorn appeal and unexpectedly potent atmospherics, restoring some wattage to the star’s marquee value. “Bullet to the Head” (shot before last summer’s “The Expendables 2”) is a return to Stallone’s actor-for-hire bad habits. It’s an entertaining wad of macho goofballery, no doubt, but without a tight grip of creative control and the element of surprise, this actioner comes up short in lasting appeal.

Deep in the heart of New Orleans, hitmen James (Sylvester Stallone) and Louis (Jon Seda) have just completed a job, killing a reckless cop in possession of secrets that could topple crime lord Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). Looking to tie up loose ends, Morel sends enforcer Keegan (Jason Momoa) to take out the duo, with James using his instincts to escape and regroup with a plan of attack. New in town is Detective Kwon (Sung Kang), a Washington D.C. cop looking for answers concerning the initial hit, only to find local authorities aren’t willing to cooperate. Locating James, Kwon proposes an alliance to disturb Morel’s criminal syndicate, hoping to arrest anyone involved. For James, the quest is more personal, with his own safety in jeopardy as Keegan returns to finish the job. With Lisa (Sarah Shahi), his estranged daughter, in the line of fire, James calls on his killer instinct to thwart Morel’s plans, while Kwon futilely clings to the belief that justice will be served.

“Bullet to the Head” is an adaptation of a French graphic novel, which is why it walks and talks with a little more muscularity than the average actioner. Screenwriter Alessandro Camon has the difficult job of identifying the important areas of the story and connecting the characters, most only identified by last name, and those tend not to stick. It’s not an especially labyrinthine tale of double-crosses, but there’s a choppy quality to the narrative that suggests certain encounters were cut for time, rendering the mission more urgent for the players than the audience. Despite adding needless complexity to a basic routine of revenge, Camon captures the moment with chewy dialogue and a few passably motivated showdowns that find James slamming enemies around with an encouraging smashmouth ferocity. “Bullet” is agreeably beefy, aided by Stallone’s knowing, Frankenstein’s Monster-esque poise as the targeted assassin, goosing the picture with his deliciously year-long line readings and confidence, with James showing little patience for his temporary partner and his Dudley Do-Right attitude. Barbed banter and light racism ensues.

“Bullet to the Head” also marks the return of Walter Hill to the director’s chair, who hasn’t made a feature film since 2002’s “Undisputed.” The “48 Hrs.” and “The Warriors” helmer is up to his old tricks with this picture, infusing the journey with a blazingly bluesy score and a concentration on manly pursuits, imagining James as a bourbon-gulping, tattooed mastermind of murder who’s not afraid to shoot first and ask questions later. Keegan is also an unstoppable hulk, using his size to his advantage, which leads to a climatic fight between the bruisers using antique fire axes, but you probably already knew that was coming. Hill likes the sound of men pounding other men (Lisa isn’t spared any punches either), which tends to work in the film’s favor, reducing the experience to essential elements of violence and intimidation while the plot takes a much needed breather. “Bullet to the Head” isn’t a particularly inventive effort, but when guns are drawn, knives are brandished, and fists fly, it’s captivating enough to pass for a joy ride. Besides, not many movies this year are going to offer the visual of Stallone smacking around a rabid Christian Slater (here as Morel’s squirrely associate). That’s almost worth the price of admission.

Hill enjoys dabbling in oddity to keep “Bullet to the Head” interesting, at one point slapping a El Medico Mask on James as he infiltrates a costume party in his street clothes -- a scene that almost seems like it was made up on the day. The peculiarity is enchanting, but the picture eventually runs out of steam and sharp insults between James and Kwon, limping to a finale that doesn’t really resolve much. “Bullet to the Head” is a film for those who enjoy their steak bloody and their xenophobia served piping hot, making it for specialized moods. It’s not a moviegoing evening selected on a whim.

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Momoa, Christian Slater, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Brian Van Holt, Sung Kang
Director: Walter Hill

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