HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Bullet to the Head
HTS Overall Score:75
Being that Arnold made his comeback with an action film, it seems only fitting that another great action legend make a throwback to the good ole days of 90’s action movies. While Arnold has definitely aged poorly, Stallone has kept himself in fantastic shape (especially when you consider that’s he’s almost TWICE my age and still has muscles on him that are as big as my waist) and as a result comes across as a much more imposing figure than the aging politician. When I heard about “Bullet to the Head,” I got extremely excited. Not only were we getting an old school revenge flick, but they were going back to an old school action director as well. Walter Hill has made some fantastic films back in the 80’s and 90’s, “48 Hours” being a notable one, and I looked forward to his artistic input. The film was originally to star Thomas Jane opposite Stallone, but Walter Hill wanted some diversity so Jane was outed and they chose Jason Momoa to take his place as the hulking ex-Mercenary. The results are surprisingly interesting. While I expected more from Hill, it definitely feels like a gritty 90’s actioneer, complete with bad (yet oh so good) one liners and evil, mustache-twirling villains, but the chemistry that made some of Hill’s earlier pieces works so well just wasn’t there with our main heroes. I can’t tell whether the actors didn’t get along, or whether Hill’s directing was a bit too rusty to pull it off.
Stallone plays Jimmy Bobo, an aging, but still at the top of his game, hitman who’s just been double crossed. After completing a job with his partner Louis (Jon Seda), the hitmen are ambushed at the drop point and Louis ends up dead with a knife in his belly, leaving a very ticked off Jimmy Bobo. At the same time, it seems that the “job” they pulled off was an ex-cop gone bad, and that has drawn the attention of that cop’s old partner, Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang). Kwon makes the connection between his dead partner and Louis, shows up in the morgue a few hours after the stabbing, and tracks down Jimmy. It seems that Taylor and Jimmy have the same endgame for the time being: both want to see the men who hired Jimmy pay for what they’ve done. So starts the beginning of a rather uneven partnership. Jimmy is rough and brutal, playing by the rules of the street, and Kwon tries to play by the nice, simple rules of being a cop, and both worlds can’t seem to play nice with each other. Tracking down Jimmy’s handler, they realize that there’s much more than meets the eye. It appears that they were hired by a wealthy lawyer (Christian Slater) who’s in bed with a criminal from Africa trying to bribe his way into huge military contracts and making copious amounts of profit along the way. To Jimmy, this means nothing, all he wants is revenge, plain and simple, and being that the guy who killed his partner is also the bodyguard and assassin of this African gentleman makes the pot even sweeter. The problem is, of course, that Kwon not only wants to take out the bad guys, but take down Jimmy at the same time. Conflicted about his two goals, Kwon has to learn to live with Jimmy in the interim as they try and take down the criminal masterminds behind his partner’s death and live with the actions he’s forced to take dealing with Jimmy Bobo.
The mismatched, buddy formula, is a tried and true cliché, but can work very well if done properly. Here, it’s not done as well as one would expect from the director of one of the most famous criminal/cop buddy movies. The movie itself plays out fine, the action is raw and gritty, the one liners are so bad that they’ll make you giggle out of the sheer awesomeness, and there’s enough gunfire to take out a small military installation, but the flaw in the film comes down to Stallone’s and Kang’s chemistry together. Alone, they work just fine, but together they seem very uncomfortable on set and their chemistry is at an all-time low. They just didn’t make a believable “couple,” so to speak. It’s kind of funny, but the bad guy and Stallone had better chemistry. The fight scene at the end with Momoa and Stallone was nothing short of epic (It’s hard NOT to be epic when you have two muscle bound behemoths swinging axes at each other like Vikings in a death match) and Momoa’s sneering and intimidating figure played well with the life hardened older warrior quite well. I love Sung Kang to death. His work in the “Fast and Furious” series is excellent and you can see that the guy has the acting chops to pull it off, but for some reason he couldn’t mesh very well with Stallone. I’m not sure whether it was the direction or whether there was something on set that affected their chemistry but it definitely drew the film down a bit.
The villains portrayal was a nice throwback to the days of old when villains were evil for the sake of being evil and twirled their mustaches to show it. Christian Slater hasn’t gotten much work lately, except in DTV films, but he can pull off sleazy like no other, and here he’s as oily as they get. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje plaid the money hungry African mob boss to T and just oozed that sort of evil delight that someone with enormous power loves to flaunt around.
The film has a lot going for it, and is a blast from beginning to end, even with the kind of stilted interaction between Jimmy Bobo and Taylor Kwon. The shootouts are fast and often, filling the screen with more bullets than most armies will fire off, and hand to hand combat scenes that are as ridiculous and fun as they can be. Definitely a better film than Arnie’s “Last Stand,” it’s just plain fun from beginning to end, and with a harder edge to boot.
Rated R for strong violence, bloody images, language, some nudity and brief drug use
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=12109[/img]Being that this is another throwback to the good ole days of the 90’s, the picture quality isn’t as pristine as it could be. Walter Hill’s actioneer is grainy and mixed with a nice bit of haze over the top, giving us that old fashioned 90’s feel. Grain is intact, for the most part, with some uneven levels during some scenes. There’s some inherent softness to the film, but nothing too wild. The color palette is a bit on the earthy and muddy side, lots of browns, yellows and oranges caked on. Facial tones are spot on, though, and contrast is excellent for the most part. There’s a few scenes where the color saturation and contrast are a bit out of whack, but nothing that’s going to cause major irritation. There’s a few scenes of color banding that caught my eye, but I had to really look for them, otherwise there was no signs of any digital artifacts. Black levels were deep and inky, with some great shadow detail. Because of the inherent softness to the filming styleb facial detail was good, but suffered a little bit as a result. Part of these “issues” were done stylistically to give it a more retro look, but the video score tended to suffer due to those inherent “issues”. A good encode with a faithful transfer is all that we can ask for, and that’s what we were given.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=12107[/img]Now the audio, on the other hand, was EXCELLENT. I like a good old fashioned, in your face, loud, aggressive and bombastic action oriented audio track for films like these. Loud, bombastic and all of those other adjectives were what we got too. “Bullet to the Head” explodes out of the gate with a roaring audio track that fires on all 4 cylinders. From the first scene, the LFE channel lit up like the fourth of July with and aggressive rumble that didn’t want to quit. Gun shots sounded like cannons and explosions ripped the walls down. Bullets would whistle across all 5 channels with ease, and I swear a few stray bullets from the movie whistled over my shoulder. Surround usage was excellent and completely immersive. Dialogue was spot on, we would hear Stallone’s guttural mumbling with perfect clarity and the balance was perfect, no need to turn the volume up and down due to an overbearing track that drowns out dialogue.
• Bullet to the Head : Mayhem Inc
“Bullet to the Head” is not a perfect film, but it is most definitely a fun revenge flick, with a throwback feel of the 90’s for extra fun. It’s dark, it’s gritty, it’s got the cheesy goodness of a buddy film, albeit with a few flaws that drag it down a few notches. The picture quality is representative of the times of which they were going for, but the audio is top notch. The extras are a real disappointment, because I would have loved to have heard a commentary with Stallone and Walter Hill describing setbacks they had with the film, but this is still a recommended buy for us action die-hards.
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Jason Momoa, Christian Slater
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: Alessandro Camon
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 92 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: July 16th, 2013
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Recommendation: watch it
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