After more than 90 minutes of trite dialogue and predictable plotting, Bullet to the Head might make audience members want to … well, it’s not quite that bad.
This ultraviolent action drama set in the New Orleans criminal underworld is adapted from a French graphic novel and features Sylvester Stallone mumbling his lines even more so than usual.
Stallone plays a middle-aged, heavily tattooed hitman named Jimmy Bobo, whose history includes 26 arrests on various crimes and a general disregard for authority. But when Jimmy’s partner (Jon Seda) is killed by a rival assassin (Jason Momoa), he becomes set on revenge.
Enter Kwon (Sung Kang), a detective from Washington, D.C., dispatched to the bayou to sort out the details after a cop was murdered. When they discover that their searches overlap, Jimmy and Kwon become unlikely allies in their quest to bring down a common enemy.
Stallone and director Walter Hill (48 Hrs.) are both action-film veterans with decades of experience, and together they still know how to stage some slick and lively action sequences, between all the shootouts, fistfights and stunt work on display here. There are some scattered moments of throwback fun, especially as the film transitions into more of a buddy comedy in the second half.
The film was dogged by production delays and rumors of excessive tinkering by Stallone, who reportedly was responsible for a late director switch that brought Hill aboard. However, neither star nor director is at his best amid this lackluster material.
The primary downfall in the screenplay by Alessandro Camon (The Messenger) is that it takes itself too seriously, something the audience simply cannot do, given Stallone’s pumped-up tough-guy posturing and heavy-handed narration that includes such unintentionally funny lines as: “I don’t trust anybody. That’s how you stay in the game. And on this one, the game got rough.”
Perhaps the tone of the source material doesn’t translate well to the big screen, or perhaps the film simply tries too hard to become a hard-boiled film noir.
Either way, Bullet to the Head is a star vehicle for Stallone first and foremost, giving him a potentially intriguing antihero character surrounded by a story that shoots blanks.
Rated R, 91 minutes.