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die hard is a xmas movie | by maryann johanson

Bullet to the Head (review)

Bullet to the Head red light Sylvester Stallone Jason Mamoa

I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): trailer looked idiotic

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)


“We gonna fight or do you plan on boring me to death?” Sylvester Stallone mumbles to the bad bad guy just before their final climactic fight. Too late! Bullet to the Head has long since put a bullet of boredom in your noggin.

How does a legendary director such as Walter Hill make a movie this shockingly inept? This is is damn near the most unwatchable piece of junk I’ve seen that hasn’t gone straight to DVD or late-night cable. It’s barely even a movie, in fact — it’s more like a meatbrawl, just dozens of anonymous beefy lunkheads beating one another up or, more often, shooting one another in almost random sprays of blood and bullets. And it’s no better, frankly, when the movie attempts to unanonymize the lunkheads, because we are offered no reason to care what happens to the several cartoonish characters heading up what passes for the plot.

Stallone (The Expendables 2, Rambo) is the good bad guy here, hired killer James Bonomo whose Golden Rule is “no women, no children,” so he’s a nice, honorable hired killer, you see. He’s been double-crossed on his latest job, and on the way to getting revenge he runs across cop-out-of-water Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang: Fast and Furious 5, Live Free or Die Hard), also seeking the same bad bad guys Bonomo is after. Kwon is, I’m pretty sure, the worst law-enforcement officer ever, between his complete willingness to participate in violent felonies and his penchant for referring to himself as “Taylor” when talking to his cop colleagues on the phone: “Hey, it’s Taylor,” he says when calling into his department, as if he’s calling his mom. Also: he’s just plain stupid and incompetent. Also also: Hired killer Bonomo and cop Taylor team up? To take down some people who are even worse than they are? Does that happen? Even in crappy movies like this one as a bad excuse for a twist on the buddy movie?

Taylor’s on-the-spot psychoanalysis of Bonomo as a guy with a daddy-inferiority complex. Stallone’s extruded-plastic demeanor. The laughable narration. The unbelievably stilted acting from everyone… except, perhaps, the always reliable Christian Slater (Bobby, The Deal) as one of the bad bad guy. The charisma-free cast… including, unexpectedly, Slater, in this case. Holy crap, the trying-on-funny-hats montage. Bullet to the Head should be laughable. This is a movie that wants to be hardboiled but ends up more sorta of soft-shelled. And yet it’s snooze-inducing.

Hill’s last work was the marvelous TV Western Broken Trail which was as sensitive and surprising as it was brutal, so we know he’s capable of better. Stallone knows how to be an appealing lunkhead — see: Rocky and the more recent Rocky Balboa. We can’t even blame Bullet’s provenance in the comic-book realm (this is based on the graphic novel Du plomb dans la tête by Alexis Nolent) because there have been too many good movies based on too many good comic books.

So what the hell happened? What did no one involved seem to give the tiniest crap?


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Bullet to the Head (2013)
US/Can release: Feb 1 2013
UK/Ire release: Feb 1 2013

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated BH for the bullet to the head it inspires the viewer to desire
MPAA: rated R for strong violence, bloody images, language, some nudity and brief drug use
BBFC: rated 15 (contains strong bloody violence and strong language)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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