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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Review: Bullet to the Head

Please Shoot Me!

By Chris Sabga

Release Date: February 1, 2013 – U.S.
Rating: R
Genre: Action, Crime
Running Time: 92 minutes
Director: Walter Hill 
Writers: Alessandro Camon, Alexis Nolent, 
Colin Wilson
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, 
Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, 
Jason Momoa, Christian Slater

Taking a bullet to the head would be preferable to watching this movie. At least then you'd be spared from having to endure 92 minutes of "Bullet to the Head." Seeing Walter Hill's name up on the screen evoked feelings of pleasant nostalgia for me, but the director of "48 Hrs." has seen much better days.

It starts off with a bad narration: "Sometimes you gotta abandon your principles to do what's right." I can't tell if it's trying to capture the feeling of a hard-boiled pulp story or just attempting to be intentionally cheesy. It fails on both counts.

There are also ridiculous one-liners like "give him a band-aid and a blow pop" that are presumably meant to be funny and witty, but Stallone's wooden delivery kills whatever effect these quips are supposed to have. This type of material might have worked in the hands of another actor – perhaps Nicholas Cage, a younger Bruce Willis, or maybe even Schwarzenegger – but the mumble-mouthed "Sly" can't pull it off.

The basic setup: an aging hitman, James Bonomo (Stallone), forms an uneasy alliance with a Korean-American detective, Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang), because they both share the same enemies.

Kwon is a Korean Boy Scout type who spends more time reloading his cell phone minutes than his gun. It goes beyond a regular smartphone – it may as well be an Einstein phone, because he does everything on it. He brags that he couldn't do his job without it. It gets obnoxious after a while. Jack Cates (Nick Nolte's character from "48 Hrs.") would have shoved that annoying phone down Kwon's throat and introduced him to real police work!

The bad buys include Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Mr. Eko on "Lost"), Keegan (Jason Momoa, who was "Conan the Barbarian" in the 2011 reboot), and Baptiste (Christian Slater).

Slater, such a powerful force in "Heathers," looks like he wants to cry any time he has to recite some of these awful lines. I'm rooting for him to make his big comeback role, but this isn't it.

Akinnuoye-Agbaje is a skilled actor who always tries something a little bit different with each part he plays. This time he's bald, clean-shaven, and a bit pudgy – but that's not enough to overcome a flat character and bad script.

Momoa shows charisma and potential; hopefully he'll get to apply that to a better film soon.

Stallone's character also has a daughter, Lisa (Sarah Shahi), a tattoo artist who ties the story together in various ways. It's a promising performance.

"Bullet to the Head" has many issues, but its cardinal sin is that it's boring. Forget about a fun "so bad it's good" action movie – this just plods along.

It also doesn't help that the screen looks like it's coated in oil. It's dull and drab to an excessive degree. Why are today's filmmakers so afraid of a little color? But this is worse than most.

By the end, I'll admit I cared just a smidge about the relationship between the two partners and the daughter, but they're stuck in a movie that's impossible to give a damn about.

"Bullet to the Head" is a disaster: cheesy but never funny, ridiculous but never over-the-top, and bad but never a guilty pleasure. It's a complete waste of everyone's time.

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