Between Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “The Last Stand” and Sylvester Stallone’s “Bullet to the Head,” it seems that now is the time for a resurgence of 80’s-inspired action flicks. Bullet to the Head is a complete throwback to the old-school genre, relying heavily on the tropes that made it so popular. It is mindless, action-packed fun with a few comic one-liners. There are some great fight sequences – one of which involves axes – and will probably please moviegoers who want to be reminded of Stallone in his prime. It was a little “doughnuts for dinner” for my taste, but served its purpose nonetheless.
The premise of the movie is a little clichéd: two unlikely characters have to get past their differences and work together in order to find some kind of justice. They each have qualities that the other incessantly mocks, which results in back-and-forth banter. Much of this banter revolves around Stallone’s age and Taylor Kwon’s race.
The movie begins with Jimmy Bobo (Stallone) and his partner (Jon Seda) carrying out a hit on a target. Shortly thereafter, Seda’s character is murdered by the knife wielding, muscular Keegan (Jason Momoa) while Jimmy Bobo escapes and is left to plot his revenge.
In the meantime, Detective Sung Kang (Kwon) is in town to investigate the murder of his own former partner, who we discover is the same man that Jimmy killed in the opening sequence. Sung Kang seeks out Jimmy in the hopes that they can help each other solve their related cases. And thus an unlikely bromance is born. Sung Kang wants to solve the case by the law; Jimmy Bobo ignores the law and instead fights or kills whomever he needs to for information. They eventually discover an elaborate conspiracy, helmed in part by criminal Robert Nkomo Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and lawyer Martin Baptiste (Christian Slater in a great cameo).
A few action sequences, a kidnapping of a damsel in distress (Sarah Shahi), and a few more jokes lead to the final showdown, complete with masterful weaponry and more sly remarks. This movie is definitely not lacking in quick, no-nonsense violence, though perhaps it is slightly lacking in plot.
Walter Hill, director of 48 Hours, Streets of Fire and Red Heat, makes his comeback to the genre with this movie. He infuses just the right amount of fast-paced violence to keep the action moving forward. This works well with an older Stallone, who still packs a mean punch. Stallone’s line delivery is believable in the action sequences, though the fact that his face now barely moves while he’s uttering his lines is a little distracting. His buddy-comedy plays decently off of Taylor Kwon, though they don’t quite have the same chemistry as some of their predecessors (some of whom were directed by Hill himself). Jason Mamoa as Keegan gives the best performance of the bunch, in my opinion. I truly believed him as the lethal villain.
Though a little nostalgic, I think fans of the 1980’s action genre will enjoy this homage to the glory days. It fits the right mould for it to be a success with audiences by giving them exactly what they’re expecting. It’s enjoyable, brainless fun – and sometimes that’s all you need.