Bullet to the Head is just the kind of movie the title suggests. It is a straight-forward action film that is low on plot and dialogue, but high on body count and action sequences.The film is directed by action genre icon Walter Hill, and feels like the perfect throwback to his great action flicks from the 70’s and 80’s.
The film features a screenplay by Alessandro Camon based on Alexis Nolent's French graphic novel Du Plomb Dans La Tete. It stars Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, arah Shahi, Christian Slater, Jason Momoa, Jon Seda, Holt McCallany, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. It was produced by fellow action icon producer Joel Silver.
Thanks to its New Orleans setting and Stallone’s gravely voiceover narration, Bullet to the Head has elements of noir and reminds of some of the great crime/detective films of the 1940s. The film opens up with an introduction of Stallone’s character, a hitman James "Bobo" Bonomo.
Bobo has been in and out of prison and has had a long career on the other side of the law. Along with his younger partner Louis Blanchard (Seda), Bobo takes out crooked cop Hank Greely (McCallany), but leave a local hooker alive. Bobo has a code and doesn't kill women and children.
While waiting to receive their payment, Bobo and Blanchard are double crossed – which results in Blanchard being killed by former mercenary turned hitman Keegan (Momoa). Rather than run, Bobo decides to track down the people who hired him for the hit, and get revenge for the death of his partner.
The audience is then introduced to slick Washington D.C. Detective Taylor Kwon (Kang) - who arrives in New Orleans to investigate the death of his partner Greely and discover who Greely was working for before his death. Kwon is the opposite of Bobo.
He is a cop in the modern age who can access anything with his cellphone and would rather question a suspect than simply shoot him in the head. Naturally, the two are paired up in an attempt to track down Keegan and the people he works for.
Things get more complicated when Kwon is injured and Bobo is forced to take him to Bobo's daughter, tattoo artist and former med student Lisa (Shahi). Despite Bobo's growls and threats, there is clearly chemistry between Kwon and Lisa. Thankfully this is a Watler Hill film and any romance between the two will be extremely limited so we have time for more bullets to people's heads.
The film moves at a predictable pace with Bobo and Kwon discovering some sensitive material after they “question” local criminal/society member Marcus Baptiste (Slater), and are forced to exchange it in return for Lisa – who was kidnapped by a very unhinged Keegan.
The final action sequence (which features Stallone and Momoa fighting with axes!) wraps up things nicely, and ensures there is room for a Bullet to the Head 2 – but I wouldn’t hold your breath for that one.
Despite its limitation and “by the book” formula, I loved Bullet to the Head. The film greatly benefits from Walter Hill’s straight-forward direction and the veteran director hasn’t missed a step when it comes to putting violence right in the audience’s face. This is an action film called Bullet to the Head, and Hill makes sure the action sequences live up to that title.
Stallone is perfect in the role of Bobo (even if you never thought he would play a character named Bobo), and shows he still has the goods to be an action star despite his age. His narration at times feels sluggish and his one-liners dated, but they both work for the character. Bobo is a man who lives a life of violence and is permanently stuck in the past.
The film is hurt by the Keegan and Kwon characters not being developed enough to matter. Keegan is supposed to be a clear threat to Bobo, and someone he possibly can’t beat. However, other than the opening bar scene, he never really seems more than just the average slightly unhinged film bad guy. Kwon is supposed to be the slick by the book cop, but he could have been any cop that happened to track Bobo down.
Momoa and Kang are both good in the film, but their characters are never given enough screen time to fully develop or matter. Momoa has the size and intensity to make Keegan threatening, but he is almost laughable in his line delivery and reasoning for wanting to fight Bobo.
Kang’s role is so diminished any other actor could have played the part. He has a great screen presence in the Fast and Furious franchise, but wasn’t given enough time to truly own the role of Kwon.
On Blu-ray, the film features a slick feel to it that matches its New Orleans setting. Hill makes the most of the city and its surroundings to fill every frame of the film with atmosphere and color.
It is a little light on special features, but does include a great look at how they made the movie, and shot the action sequences. The feature has some truly funny moments as Hill and Stallone talk about the difficulty of shooting some of the scenes.
Bullet to the Head won’t please everyone, but fans of Hill and Stallone will find plenty to love in the film. It is simply a straight forward action flick that doesn’t try to be more than a good time. Hill is a master at the genre and it is great to see him back in the director’s chair. It isn’t the best film from Hill or Stallone, but is still worth taking the time to watch.