‘Bullet to the Head’ Movie Review – Empty Stakes
Emphasizing the “graphic” in “graphic novel,” Walter Hill’s Bullet to the Head is one gore-y picture. It’s unsurprisingly based on a French graphic novel (Du Dlomb Dans La Tete). The explicit content is unapologetic, and while this alone may not be a huge problem, Hill and company should probably apologize for a lazy story. Perhaps some content revision would’ve stopped it from being such a procedural action film.
Set in New Orleans, an unlikely duo featuring a hitman, Jimmy (Sylvester Stallone), and a Washington D.C. detective, Kwon (Sung Kang), team up to help exact revenge on a corrupt crime organization that has done both of them wrong. The rugged hitman and straight-laced cop start at the lowest levels and work their way up the food chain, crossing paths with a slimy millionaire (Christian Slater), a lying crime lord (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and a brutal killer (Jason Momoa).
Much like your favorite TV cop drama, Bullet to the Head doesn’t introduce any real wrinkles to the formula. At just 91 minutes, it felt like a two-part TV special to be honest, and this definitely isn’t a compliment. The conflict is introduced in the opening scene, and as the action increases, the story is forced to deal with all conflicts one-by-one.
Unfortunately, there is no depth to any of it. And worse, there don’t appear to be any real stakes behind the conflict. The entire story (rise and fall) seems to be evident from the onset.
Not helping the cause, either, are the lead performances. I understand that Stallone has never tried to be an award-winning actor, but he’s becoming a caricature. He’s playing the same person every time, and it’s really hard to take him seriously. It’s also hard to take the main relationship (between Jimmy and Detective Kwon) seriously because their chemistry is completely non-existent. We all love a nice bromance, but you shouldn’t expect one here.
You could go through the checklist of crime drama clichés, too. The hot daughter (who, in this case, doesn’t own a bra)? Check. The good cop/bad cop archetypes? Check. The insane shooting accuracy? Check. The political underpinnings? Check. The list continues…
The only thing you do get to see that most TV shows can’t show you…is the gore.
And parts of this aspect do make up the better stuff. The movie has interesting flashes of graphic-novel-esque shots. Even though I’ve never read (or heard of) the novel it is based on, Bullet to the Head does succeed during these quick flashes. Also, Hill is known for creating Westerns, and even though this is a modern-day action film, the Western roots bleed through.
Quality-wise, there are plenty of holes in Bullet to the Head. What hurts the most, even more than the clichés and the lack of chemistry, is the overall laziness. There is very little to keep you invested in the story. For those that argue the film is just supposed to be “fun,” you may be missing the point about movies: the story. With the story in mind, the film cannot be taken seriously, even for a second.
Perhaps I should take a line from the movie (“if I wanted your opinion, I’d buy you a brain”) and let you judge it for yourself. Bullet to the Head opens this weekend in wide release, if you saw it, comment below.
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