Excellent. Hill is one of the masters, he wrote the rule book for the contemporary action movie.
That was Bullet IN the Head
Just realized that and edited it even before your post . MY BAD….
I had the same thought the other day: “Wasn’t that the name of a John Woo movie?”
Maybe it only seems like Walter Hill and Sylvester Stallone worked together before “Bullet to the Head.” After all, the director and the iconic action star sound like an ideal pairing, and nothing here will dissuade fans of their suitability as a team. Stallone may tinker with everything on his outside, but (who’d a thought?) it’s the inside that counts, and by now, playing a tough hitman with a strong ironic edge comes as natural to him as gunplay does to a Hill pic. Warner Bros. release should generate a decent chunk of change following an early February opening.
To claim the dialogue is written to comfort the narratively challenged would be mere quibbling, as the pic’s chief pleasure lies in its store of funny lines, which Stallone tosses off with genuine brio. Scripter Alessandro Camon is a long way from “The Messenger,” which is just fine, since “Bullet to the Head” knows and enjoys the kind of film it is: a kickass actioner driven by personality rather than plot. The only real error of judgment was pairing Stallone with Sung Kang (of the “Fast and Furious” franchise), which is like serving a jumbo-everything cheeseburger next to a poached chicken sandwich with lettuce (hold the mayo). Sure, they’re supposed to be mismatched, but Kang can’t quite hold his own.
James Bonomo, aka Jimmy Bobo (Stallone), is a jaded hitman with a long rap sheet and little tolerance for the law. He and partner Louis (Jon Seda) bump off corrupt ex-cop Greely (Holt McCallany), which results in Louis getting whacked by former mercenary Keegan (Jason Momoa, “Game of Thrones,” “Conan the Barbarian”). Det. Taylor Kwon (Kang) thinks there’s a link between the two bodies and tracks down Bobo, who saves the cop from an assassination attempt by other police officers on the take.
Kwon is wounded in the skirmish, so Bobo brings him to tattoo artist and one-time med student Lisa (Sarah Shahi, decorated and decorative), who’s also, no surprise, the tough guy’s daughter. Once mended, Kwon and Bobo reluctantly team up to get answers, with the trail leading to hotshot lawyer Marcus Baptiste (Christian Slater). At a costume party thrown in to provide the requisite T&A (neither plot nor atmosphere are strong suits), the odd couple learns that Keegan and Baptiste work for Robert Nkomo Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), an unscrupulous developer looking to make a killing off a real-estate project.
If the idea of a ruthless condo builder sounds less than terrifying on paper, it’s equally uninspired onscreen, but Hill and Camon aren’t especially interested in the whys and wherefores. Like the costume party scene, and an earlier half-hearted chase sequence through a crowded New Orleans street parade, the explanations are mere filler designed to link violent explosions with more important buddy elements, which give the pic some kind of distinction. A fair amount of jokiness is derived from the gap in tech knowledge between Luddite Bobo and smartphone-toting Kwon, though unsurprisingly, given both star and helmer, it’s not whether you can download a database but how you wield a knife that matters here.
In the latter department, Stallone and Momoa are the winners, culminating in a well-choreographed axe battle that allows auds the satisfaction of a ringside seat for an action nerd’s match made in heaven: Rocky vs. Conan. Otherwise, Stallone is like a knowing mentor to Kang’s lightweight, generously allowing him his moments but then taking charge of the screen; one can almost hear him say, in that extraordinary voice (more boulders than gravel), “Move over kid, here’s how it’s done.” That goes for the zingers as much as the punches, equally potent and satisfying.
“Bullet” is Hill’s third film set in the Big Easy (he even revisits the old power station he shot in “Hard Times”), though the lensing merely showcases the city in a generic “CSI: Miami” way, furthering the sense that the helmer’s engagement with the project lies largely with his star. Editing and music push forward the action without inducing dizzy spells or headaches.
Camera (color), Lloyd Ahern II; editor, Tim Alverson; music, Steve Mazzaro; production designer, Toby Corbett; costume designer, Ha Nguyen; art director, Kelly Curley; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital/SDDS), Lee Orloff; sound designer, Dane A. Davis; supervising sound editor, Mark Larry; re-recording mixers, Tom Ozanich, Terry Rodman; special effects coordinator, John S. Baker; visual effects supervisors, Glenn Cote, Lubo Hristov, Mark Dornfeld, Danny Braet, Gregory Liegey, Don Lee, Phil Feiner; visual effects, Travis Baumann, Christopher Custodio, Christov Effects and Design, Custom Film Effects, Freestyle VFX, Lola VFX, Method Studios, Pixel Playground, PJF Prods.; fight choreographer, Don Tai; stunt coordinator, J.J. Perry; assistant director, Milos Milicevic; casting, Mary Vernieu, Venus Kanani, JC Cantu. Reviewed at Rome Film Festival (noncompeting), Nov. 14, 2012. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 91 MIN.
Hollywood Reporter Liked it too!!
Sylvester Stallone smacks and jokes his way through Walter Hill’s latest action thriller.
Like the amped up comeback tour of two rockers who had their heyday sometime in the mid-’80s, Sylvester Stallone and director Walter Hill (48 HRS., The Warriors) join forces for a hard-hitting exercise in beefy, brainless fun with the New Orleans-set actioner Bullet to the Head.
Taking its B-grade scenario à la lettre, this assassin-cop buddy movie aims to accomplish little more than delivering tons of kinetic wham-bam fight sequences and LOL one-liners, which Stallone recites from a face that seems literally frozen in time. Independently financed and released domestically early next year by Warner Bros., Bullet should target decent crowds, especially abroad, though will play best on the small screen.
Adapted by Alessandro Camon (The Messenger) from the French comic book series by Matz, the film shifts the setting from New York to New Orleans (tax credits, anyone?), though that location is never officially named — and, like many things in this fast and easy shoot ‘em up, such details don’t really matter.
An opening assassination scene, replete with a prostitute and lots of cocaine, introduces us to Jimmy Bobo (Stallone), a tired and heavily tattooed hitman who’s seen it all but still can pack a nasty punch. When Jimmy’s partner (Jon Seda) gets sliced up by a muscle-bound meathead (Jason Momoa) with expert mercenary skills, Jimmy vows revenge. He teams with an out-of-town detective, Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang, Fast Five), who’s been sent to investigate the murder of his former partner — who turns out to be the very man Jimmy took down.
If this sounds complicated, it isn’t, and once those major plot points are dispatched with, Bullet to the Head dishes out 90 minutes of old-school mayhem, accompanied by plenty of comic banter between the aging thug and his Korean protege. It’s as if Stallone and Kang were swapped in for Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in yet another Another 48 HRS., with Bobo showing Kwon the ropes while insulting his ethnic origins to no end, even if it’s clear we’re in bromance territory from the get-go. (As Stallone’s character lovingly tells his disciple, “You had me at f—- you.”)
After much face smashing, the two renegades eventually catch wind of a local conspiracy involving government contracts, converted condos and Christian Slater, who makes a short but fun cameo as a local sleazeball with a few zingers of his own. As is required in this sort of nuts-and-bolts material, all the characters wind up at an abandoned power plant, where the big showdown goes down with bullets and battleaxes and some more jokes from the peanut gallery.
We’re clearly in Expendables territory here, though unlike those rather drawn-out affairs, Hill keeps his movie lean and mean, cutting straight to the punchlines while administering violence in quick and crunching doses. Bobo refers more than once to his old age, but Stallone can still throw himself into a good fight (courtesy of stunt coordinator JJ Perry), though he’s more convincing kicking butt or dropping one-liners then when he’s garbling a voice-over that, at least for the audience at the film’s Rome fest premiere, was probably more coherent with Italian subtitles.
The Louisiana-shot production doesn’t exactly do justice to its purported $55 million budget, though the locations are colorful and well-utilized, while the hard rock score by Steve Mazzaro fits this joyride perfectly.
The trailer makes it look laughable.
I’ll check it out.
55 mill? it looks so cheap. and it’s not like Stallone commands 20 mill a film anymore.
He is the show.
I bet he commands 15-20 mil
his recent output has been gold
Not bad. A little generic in terms of plot and.visuals, but it was entertaining. It was good to watch Sly play a more ‘bad ass’ criminal type with an attitude.
I thought it was great and I agree Stallone is different than he has been in a while, cannot remember the last time he convincingly told someone to fuck off
he did all the heavy lifting here, comic relief plus the straight man
“55 mill? it looks so cheap.”
Hardly a lot of money by today’s standards, and even so a large portion of that is probably due to it being such a troubled production. The original director “left the picture” (got fired), the had to recast a major role because it was felt they needed someone “more ethnic” to broaden the demographic, etc., etc.
By the way, the relative plainness of the look of the film was what Stallone wanted. He said in an interview: “the other director just didn’t work out; it was becoming way too technical and visual and visual, I wanted old school. I thought, ‘Walter Hill’.”
“Hardly a lot of money by today’s standards, and even so a large portion of that is probably due to it being such a troubled production. "
I made that comment before i knew that Sly got around 20 million to be in the film.
Nevertheless, the average B-grade direct-to-dvd action film with a star costs between 10-15 million. 55 million is a lot of money for one of those type of films; and make no mistake, even with Hill behind the camera, that is precisely what Bullet To The Head is.
As for bland visuals, again, Hill didn’t bring it like he used to back in the day. The framing/blocking and general shot composition etc was not a patch on his best work.
The axe fight was very well done though, and it’s nice to see a modern action film with frame lines.