James Bonomo (Sylvester Stallone) is a New Orleans hitman whose partner (Jon Seda) was just murdered in a double-cross. Washington D.C. detective Taylor Kwan (Sung Kang) is sent to Louisiana’s capital city to investigate the death of his former colleague (Holt McCallany). Bonomo and Kwan form an unlikely alliance after they discover the two killings are somehow linked.
After the two star-filled Expendables films, Stallone obviously felt it was time to test his merit as a one-man show with Bullet to the Head. Unfortunately, audiences didn’t respond so well to his first solo outing as an action anti-hero. It’s a real shame, because the movie is an entertaining return to the high-octane and high body count days of the 1980s and 1990s.
I’m not saying Bullet to the Head features only Stallone providing all the excitement. It’s very much a buddy-cop film and co-star Kang provides plenty of thrills himself. Nonetheless, Stallone is obviously the one carrying all the star power.
We can debate all day whether he’s right or wrong in his use of steroids. Let’s just talk about the surface issue here. Stallone looks darn good for a guy who could be a great-grandfather. He’s ripped and his upper body resembles a King Cobra about to strike. He doesn’t look half-bad in a fitted three-piece suit, either.
Stallone does what he does best in Bullet to the Head. He plays a tough guy with a calm demeanor who doesn’t say much. Instead, he lets his fists and guns do the talking. He might have a stunt double that does all his fighting for him, but Stallone still moves effortlessly in every scene. You never stop once to ask whether Director Walter Hill yelled cut and put someone else in to fight Jason Momoa or any of the other guys his character gets into scraps with.
Director Walter Hill uses Bullet to the Head as a reminder to audiences that he once made violent action films like this for a living. He’s the same guy who gave us such classic popcorn flicks as both the 48 Hrs. movies, The Warriors, Red Heat, and others. I’m not going to say that this is better or worse than any of those films, but it’s an enjoyable way to blow 90-minutes after a hard day at work or on a Saturday afternoon.
Bullet to the Head works hard to earn its R rating. Like any good action film from the 1980s, there’s plenty of violence. The blood spray from gunshot wounds and actual onscreen carnage is much heavier here, though. There’s also plenty of nudity and loads of bad language. Its everything one would expect from these types of movies.
The DVD version of Bullet to the Head includes a couple extra features. There’s audio commentary provided by Director Walter Hill. It contains a behind-the-scenes featurette as well.
If it weren’t for the cell phones and computers, Bullet to the Head could easily be mistaken for any of the great action movies of the 1980s and 1990s. The Louisiana setting is a welcome change from the typical LA or New York City locales we see in these movies. There are points where things get a bit predictable, but instead of being annoying they provide a warm feeling of nostalgia.