Have you been wondering what happened to all of those paint-by-number, buddy action films from about 30 years ago that lately can only be found at 2AM on a movie channel you get as part of your digital cable bonus pack? Some of that genre was defined by director Walter Hill (The Warriors, 48 Hrs., Red Heat, Trespass) and he’s bringing that sensibility back with Bullet to the Head.
Starring Sylvester Stallone (another mainstay of that era that keeps coming back for more) and Sung Kang, they pair off in a similar fashion to that of Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy only the roles are slightly reversed. Stallone plays the criminal that will punch, stab, and shoot his way towards a solution while Kang is a fairly by-the-book cop who teams up with Sly out of necessity. Their chemistry isn’t such a classic pairing, as neither are chatterboxes and the only key differences between them their age and their professions; this will hurt the lasting impression of the movie but I doubt anyone expects this to be something to revisit years down the line.
On the plus side of the film is its willingness to be violent. Stallone shows no hesitation in bringing the pain and that bloodlust is even more apparent in Jason “I was the new Conan” Momoa who plays the villain. They both enjoy using their muscles for great effect and popping off rounds of ammunition. The climactic axe fight is also a welcome touch that harkens back to the films of Hill’s heyday.
Adding to my own personal interest is the inclusion of Sarah Shahi as Stallone’s tattooed daughter. Her character has about as much development as I do class but she’s darn purty to look at so using her as a cliché plot device didn’t do much to bother me. Christian Slater also gets a small cameo and listening to his Nicholsonian articulation brings back fond memories.
Clocking in at an hour and a half, there thankfully isn’t a lot of time to veer off the main plot and if all you’re looking for is a throwback to simpler times, then Bullet to the Head will scratch that itch. And if anyone wondered who would win between the two aging action heroes, it’s far, far better made than Arnold’s latest, The Last Stand, so give 2013 to Cobra (hell, he’s actually been winning the last 15 years). There’s nothing new on display and this movie can easily wait for the home market but it delivers on its premise and knows exactly what kind of film its supposed to be and doesn’t apologize for it.
Bullet to the Head hits theaters on February 1, 2013 and is rated R for strong violence, bloody images, language, some nudity and brief drug use.