Movie Reviews

'Bullet to the Head' (2013) Movie Review

Trying hard to look like it's not trying. It didn't work.

Sylvester Stallone and Jason Momoa in Bullet to the Head
Sylvester Stallone and Jason Momoa in Bullet to the Head
Photo: Warner Bros.

Bullet to the Head tries so hard to play like a throwback '80s actioner, while not appearing to look like its trying, it's laughable. I've also been worn so thin on films with aging characters baffled by technology that the egregious lengths Walter Hill's new film goes to tell me how much information can be found on a smartphone that I wanted to pull mine out of my pocket and stomp it into a thousand pieces.

'Bullet to the Head'
Review
Grade: D

Bullet to the Head"Bullet to the Head" is a Warner Bros. release, directed by and is rated R for strong violence, bloody images, language, some nudity and brief drug use.

The cast includes , , , , and .

For more information on this film including pictures, trailers and a detailed synopsis .

"You wouldn't believe how much information I can find on this thing," D.C. detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) says to New Orleans hitman James Bonomo (Sylvester Stallone) as the two drive down the road in one of their many drive-and-talk sit downs. You see, Bonomo, or Jimmy Bobo as he's known on the streets, just killed a man and was quickly double-crossed. His partner is now dead and Kwon is in town to try and kill the head of the snake and instead of booking Bobo for the crime he knows he's commit. Yes, he's going to team up with him because teaming up with a hitman with a loooong criminal record, that just lost his partner and wasn't paid for a hit gone bad is always a good idea.

So the two drive around New Orleans, Kwon uses his police credentials to pull up information (he calls them "speed checks") on local bad guys who Bobo proceeds to "interrogate" and then kill. You'd think someone back at headquarters would begin to wonder why everyone Kwon is looking up eventually ends up dead, but to think too much would take you out of the film. What's that? Too late? Well, you were warned, even if for that split second. Your fault.

Getting back into the thick of things, people are being killed as Kwon and Bobo set out on their "investigation" with Kwon clearly serving as an accessory to multiple murders and yet he continues to tell Bobo how he'll have to answer for his crimes some day. Things lead here and there, a big bad guy (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) is at the top of the food chain, he has a weaselly businessman (Christian Slater) in his pocket and a mercenary (Jason Momoa) at his disposal. Oh, and he's stupid enough to make a deal for a flash drive, forgetting how easy it is to copy flash drives. You know, on those newfangled computers everyone has been talking about.

I understand, in a movie like this you're not supposed to look at the details so closely. You're supposed to just sit back and enjoy the bloodshed. In that case, tell your characters to shut up! Even Slater's character, at one point, says something to the effect of, "Thank God for Google!" Yes, Kwon, stop telling me about all the great information you were able to find on your smartphone and how great it is. If you want to stop being a cop and go work at T-Mobile be my guest, just leave me out of it.

Hill contracted Steve Mazzaro for his first feature film score after a variety of small jobs including The Dark Knight Rises and the video game Assassin's Creed III, but that billing makes it seem like he may be an up-and-comer. I swear, if I hear any more tick-tick-ticking of drum sticks, generic guitar licks and drum loops I may go insane. Mazzaro may have been scoring a porn film with a hitman "subplot" for how cheap this sounded.

The film's editing was equally cheap up to, and including, a scene of a falling shirt in slow motion and flashy freeze frame iMovie-esque cuts. Stop trying so hard!

At 91 minutes, this easily could have been stripped down to 80 or less and it may have been a whole lot better. Get rid of all the unnecessary chatter. These guys aren't interesting in the slightest.

Walter Hill is best known for films such as 48 Hrs. and The Warriors. He's a '70s and '80s man and based on appearances it would seem he's trying to force his style into today's modern films instead of just doing what he does best. It's a film that reeks of a lack of confidence and someone trying to do something they aren't comfortable with. Looking over his entire filmography, nothing plays like this, up to and including the Alien films he wrote and produced and as far back as his screenplay for Sam Peckinpah's The Getaway.

It's a shame this is the kind of film making directors and studios feel is necessary for today's audiences as this very easily could have been a lot more gritty, a lot less talky and a whole lot better had they gotten out of their own heads and stopped trying to make what they thought people wanted and instead made something the world of cinema needs.

GRADE: D
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  • Good Grief

    For some strange reason I have an image of Kwon checking his smartphone and, when asked why he checks it so frequently, responding with, "I'M DOING A RESEARCH!"

    Good review, Brad. I'm all for mindless action films (again, I love "The Raid") but this one just didn't look like it was providing anything new.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/EPayneDDS/ EPayneDDS

    Watch this watch that:

    "Bullet to the Head" or "The Last Stand"

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/cooder/ cooder

    that is one mean spirited review. i saw this film and had a blast.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/EPayneDDS/ EPayneDDS

      Maybe Braf just didn't appreciate the filmmakers taking a giant dump on cinema.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/EPayneDDS/ EPayneDDS

        *Brad. (Come on iPhone, WTF is "Braf"?!)

        • http://www.twitter.com/GregDinskisk GregDinskisk

          Braf is a soft drink served in Indochina to poor orphans. It's also a type of seal!

    • Jake17

      #GoodComments

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Xarnis/ Xarnis

    I watched the trailer for this one a while back, and it looked awful. It seems like that is the case. I'll skip this one.

  • http://shloggshorrorblog.blogspot.com/ Shloggs

    "You'd think someone back at headquarters would begin to wonder why everyone Kwon is looking up eventually ends up dead, but to think too much would take you out of the film. What's that? Too late? Well, you were warned, even if for that split second. You're fault."

    I love you, your site and especially the podcast Brad, but this paragraph doesn't make a lick of sense from a structural standpoint. I get that you're trying to be conversational, but it gets jumbled and hard to follow your meaning at the end. Also, I think you meant to use "your" instead of "you're" in the last sentence.

    It's clear from this and The Last Stand these films aren't your cup of tea. I happen to enjoy them both, Bullet to the Head more than The Last Stand. It's strange you harp on the old guy technology jokes so much here. I was relieved it was such a small part of the film, really only comprising that one stupid cell phone conversation and a couple throwaway jokes here and there. I was glad it wasn't the carrot that wagged the geriatric like it was in The Last Stand.

    I also appreciated that Stallone was the clear star of this film and it didn't dither about with useless sub-plots and extraneous characters like TLS did. I appreciated that BTTH was an honest genre picture instead of a reflexive, self aware meta-commentary on the genre or baggage of its star. I didn't think this film was trying too hard at all. I felt it started from an honest place as a legitimate action film and developed organically from there.

    EPayneDDS' referring to Brad not enjoying the film because of "the filmmakers taking a giant dump on cinema" is ludicrous. The film was put together by talented, accomplished, hard working people in front of and behind the camera. I'm willing to wager you haven't seen the film to make such an unnecessary and nasty comment.

    I get if this type of fare doesn't appeal to you guys, but come on now. It's an efficient, if rote, tough guy action film. It isn't high art, but I found it immensely entertaining and enjoyable. That's more than fair if you didn't, I just felt like offering my opposing view.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Kwon is on his phone the "entire" film, doing "speed checks". Then, they go find the guy he "checked" on and Bobo kills him. Kwon is now an accessory to murder. This happens more than once. The movie is only 91 minutes long and I would wager a guess he is on the phone or doing something with his phone for about 30 minutes of it.

      As for the paragraph you refer to, the point was a progression while watching the film from thinking at all to the point it's too late. With this film, if you think for even the smallest of moments the movie will be ruined.

      My opinion of course, and we just clearly disagree on the overall entertainment value.

      • http://shloggshorrorblog.blogspot.com/ Shloggs

        I see your point and can't argue about our disagreement concerning the entertainment value. I of course found it ludicrous that Kwon would go along with such a cold blooded killer, but no more ludicrous that Momoa would be able to walk into a bar and kill 9 dudes single handed or that two grown men could have such an exquisitely choreographed ax fight out of the blue. I suppose I just accepted such things happen in the action genre universe, and for you, that caveat isn't good enough.

        I'll grant you Kwon was on his phone the whole time, but I was more pleased that Stallone didn't have more to say to complain about it specifically. It was just the gateway to address their different styles and the familiar bickering shot off from that starting point. Then, the phone just became a convenient exposition device, which is a common trope in most movies. Usually in action films, they talk to someone looking stuff on a cpu back at the station. I'm glad they cut the needless middle man character that would have created out of the equation.

        You're right though, I did groan every time he mentioned "speed checks", but I thought it added to the silly fun as opposed to detracting from the perceived realism, which I would argue the film wasn't concerned with in the slightest. For me that was fine, but I could see how that would bother some.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

          I can actually go along with Kwon's teaming with Bobo, but no if he's going to bitch about it the whole time and complain about what the hitman does. If a dog is barking at you, don't put your hand in it's mouth unless you want to get bit. Momoa's character, however, was what he was, a guy that could kill 9 guys at once and he never betrayed that character.

          The way I tend to look at a film is that each creates their own inner logic, but when you betray that logic and act against natural human instinct based on what has been created I slowly begin to loose interest and become frustrated. We've all seen enough movies to forgive them from time to time for taking shortcuts, but I can only forgive a film so much before we're the ones owed the apology.

    • jello

      Totally agree

  • Scott

    The pic used for this article made me laugh because I could only think about that Will Ferrell "bat fight" video on Funny or Die.