Top positive review
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“When I want your opinion, I will buy you a brain.”
on 19 June 2014
Delayed, rescheduled and eventually thrown away by Warner Bros. in the States after they ended their long running partnership with producer Joel Silver amid much acrimony and faring no better in the rest of the world, Bullet to the Head isn’t going to take its place alongside Walter Hill’s best work but it’s far from his worst. The kind of efficient action thriller that was the industry’s meat and drink in the 70s and 80s but which few bother to see on the big screen these days, it sees him returning to the New Orleans setting of his directorial debut The Streetfighter/Hard Times and the later Johnny Handsome in a modern-day tale of a cop (Sung Kang) whose corrupt ex-partner was murdered teaming up with the hitman (Sylvester Stallone) who did it and whose own partner was murdered by his unknown employers to find out who’s behind it all. We find out long before them thanks to an astonishingly clumsy bit of exposition when Christian Slater’s underworld lawyer is suddenly introduced twenty minutes into the picture to explain the plot to Jason Momoa’s hired muscle in almost kindergarten terms that just screams last-minute-reshoot-after-audiences-got-confused-in-the-previews, but then this isn’t a whodunit: it’s a mismatched cop’n’crook buddy movie with plenty of old school action that’s probably not spectacular or absurd enough for the Michael Bay crowd but offers plenty of enjoyment for those nostalgic for the kind of films they used to have to lie about their age to get in to see when they were growing up.
There’s much macho banter (“You had me at f*** you”) to remind you that even if he hadn’t made a theatrical feature for ten years this is still the same Walter Hill who made 48 Hrs, Stallone taking the bear-like Nick Nolte cut-to-the-chase fists-and-guns approach to crime solving while Kang’s unwanted ethnic foil extols the virtues of his Smartphone to chase up leads and impart exposition to the audience when Christian Slater isn’t around. The action is pleasingly low-fi - callous shootings, a couple of explosions that don’t take out entire city blocks, fights with fists and axes (“What are we, ****ing Vikings?”) - Hill shooting it in a lean, unfussy classical style rather than opting for over-edited shakeycam so that you can see every punch and bullet land. Stallone’s on good form, adept with the world-weary wisecracks and displaying more than enough charisma to compensate for Kang’s deficiencies in that department (he’s a solid foil but a fairly forgettable screen presence) while Momoa makes a particularly good relentless villain who loves his work far more than money. There’s nothing new here and you’ll have no problem predicting every single plot twist, but it’s such a solidly crafted walk down memory lane that fans of old school action movies probably won’t mind at all.
Sadly aside from a good widescreen transfer there's not much to get excited about on the Blu-ray - just a brief featurette.