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Bullet to the Head

January 28, 2013
Bullet to the Head

Bullet to the Head may well hold the dubious distinction of being the single worst — and worst-thought-out — Sylvester Stallone movie of all time. And yes, I remember Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Appallingly written and haphazardly directed by Walter Hill, what few scraps of entertainment value it has to offer are available in better quality and larger quantity in any number of other action films, like Hill’s own 48 Hrs.

James “Jimmy Bobo” Bonomo (Stallone) is a gritty hit man. No, he’s the gritty hit man. His back story consists of being arrested for one bit of malfeasance or another for the last four and a half decades. We know this half because of Jimmy’s droning monologue and half from having it read off of a rap sheet on a cop’s BlackBerry.

Said cop is Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang), down in New Orleans from Washington D.C. on the trail if his disgraced ex-partner who, coincidentally, Jimmy killed shortly before his own partner was killed off to hide the trail back to whoever ordered the hit. Or maybe I shouldn’t have said why he was killed, since the script treats that as some sort of revelation despite it being stunningly obvious to anyone who has ever seen a movie before. Still, they take the time to explain it in gory detail.

Much of this explanation comes from Marcus Baptiste (Christian Slater) — the local wealthy degenerate lawyer working with corrupt African developer Robert Nkomo Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) — in what has got to be the easiest interrogation ever. The most perfunctory threats lead to at least three giant dumps of exposition, one after another. Morel, on the other hand, spends his info-dumps explaining the psychology and motivation of his hired mercenary, Keegan (Jason Momoa). Again: none of it is anything we didn’t already know. When people say, “show; don’t tell,” this is what they’re talking about.

Oh, and there’s also Jimmy’s daughter, Lisa (Sarah Shahi), who exists solely to act as amateur nurse, then get naked, then get kidnapped. And the running gag of Jimmy’s casual racism standing in for character development. And the two overbuilt guys wrestling in a Turkish bath-house that probably wasn’t intended to play as homoerotically as it did.

But hey, we’re not here for literature; we’re here to see Sly Stallone kick some ass, right? If only we could. Chaotic editing renders each and every fight seen unwatchable. The film even wastes its biggest draw: a climactic axe-fight between Stallone and Momoa. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but two brawlers with fire axes has got to be ridiculously awesome, right? No, nothing’s awesome when you can’t see more than a split second of it at a time.

There is plenty of room in film for dumb or even silly action, and Stallone and Hill have each made entertaining movies in their days. But to phone it in this badly and expect audiences to enjoy what scraps they’re given is an insult.

Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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