With a name like Bullet to the Head you know the new Sylvester Stallone movie isn’t a romantic comedy. Although he paraphrases the most famous rom com line of all time, “You had be at BLEEP BLEEP!” the movie is nothing but an ode to testosterone.
Set in the gritty underbelly of post-Katrina New Orleans, the story concerns Jimmy Bobo (Stallone), a career criminal and hired gunman. He’s right out of Central Casting, a tough guy who has his own set of rules—he never kills women or children. “That’s how you stay in the game,” he says, “and in this one, the game got rough.”
Very rough. After one gruesome hit job Jimmy And his partner Louis Blanchard (Jon Seda) relax at a bar—of course Sly drinks Bullet bourbon–only to be attacked by a hired goon. Louis is killed but Jimmy escapes, and is forced to do the last thing he ever though he’d do; team with a cop (Sung Kang) to find why he was double-crossed and his partner was murdered.
Directed by veteran Walter Hill and shot in Mano-A-Mano-Vision, this unlikely buddy movie wears its Y chromosome proudly on its sleeve. From the Rambo homage—head slowly peering out of the water—to the axe fight (that’s right, I said they fight with axes) this is the true definition of an anti-date night movie.
Film noir style, the movie begins at the end and then happens in flashback, complete with loads of punching, disemboweling, gratuitous nudity and bullets to the head along the way. If that appeals to you, so will the movie.
But know that it’s also a clunky affair, with no realistic point of view or character development or any of those other fancy-dancy things taught in film school. It’s simply a framework for the action scenes, and as such, works pretty well.
These movies have their own twisted morality—for the most part the right people get the bullets to the head–but the hired assassin, who delivers most of said bullets, because he’s played by Stallone, gets to be the hero. If there was more to him than muscles, guts and glory it would be tempting to call him an anti-hero, a man who lives by his own honorable code of ethics, but that would be giving too much credit to the character. This guy gets away with what he gets away with simply because Stallone is the biggest star in the movie. That makes sense in Hollywood, but it isn’t good storytelling.
Couple that with “hilarious” race baiting dialogue between Stallone and the Asian cop Taylor Kwan—”Nice going Oddjob,” or Jimmy’s habit of calling Kwan Confucius—which seems like a throwback to an earlier, less enlightened time and you have a movie with the subtlety of a kick to the face.
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