Choppy and bordering on incoherent, “Bullet to the Head” is Sylvester Stallone’s answer to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “The Last Stand,” an action exercise in “Here’s how we used to do it.”
2 (out of five stars)Director: Walter HillCast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Momoa, Sung Kang, Christian Slater, Sarah ShahiRated: R for strong violence, bloody images, language, some nudity and brief drug useRunning time: 1 hour, 31 minutesWhat did you think?: Offer your opinion of the film.
Sly one-ups Arnold in that old-school regard by bringing in Walter (“48 Hours”) Hill, king of action directors when Stallone was in his glory days: the 1980s.
But “Bullet” isn’t remotely as direct as its title. It shows all the hallmarks of a movie that’s been recut and changed directors (Wayne Kramer started the film). Characters, relationships and motivations seem shortchanged. And it’s every bit as dated and dumb, in different ways, as “The Last Stand.”
Still, Stallone brings the burly and the breezy to this turn as a New Orleans hit man teaming with a cop (Sung Kang) to track down the guys who set him up and got his partner killed.
Jimmy “Bobo” Bonomo (Stallone) has borrowed his “code” from the anti-hero of John Woo’s “The Killer”: “No women, no kids.” A hit he carried out led to repercussions. A knife-wielding brute of a mercenary (Jason Momoa) killed his partner, and Jimmy has to do something.
So does this out-of-town cop. Sung Kang often finds work in the films of his pal, Justin Lin (the “Fast and Furious” movies). As Detective Kwon, he steps into the spotlight and shrinks from it. The editing makes the character an undermotivated mystery. The performance is charisma-free.
It doesn’t help that Jimmy and everybody else trot out the race card for the Korean-American cop.
“Don’t condescend to me, Kato.” “Nice going, Odd Job.” “I’ll be waiting, Confucius.”
But again, this is old school: Ethnic actors are for belittling, bad guys are for shooting, and women are for rescuing and gratuitous nude Mardi Gras parties and shower scenes.
The plot has to do with “Crescent City” corruption — they never call New Orleans by name. And Christian Slater’s character, a lawyer, should have been named “Mr. Exposition.” He gets to blurt out all the intrigues and conspiracies.
Stallone’s Jimmy curses as if he’s been saving up for the occasion, growls at his partner’s cellphone addiction and makes simple everything Kwon sees as complicated. (“Guns don’t kill people. Bullets do.”)
The partners feud, make threats about “when this is over,” and Kwon fails, utterly, to hold up his end of the bargain.
But Hill knows how to stage a rumble, and when the hit man and the mercenary tangle with axes, it’s epic.
Jon Seda as Louis in “Bullet to the Head.”×
Director Walter Hill (from left), Sylvester Stallone and Sung Kang on the set of “Bullet to the Head.”×
Sylvester Stallone (left) as Jimmy and Sung Kang as Taylor Kwon in “Bullet to the Head.”×
Sylvester Stallone (left) as Jimmy and Jason Momoa as Keegan in “Bullet to the Head.”×
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Robert Nkomo Morel in “Bullet to the Head.”×
Christian Slater as Marcus Baptiste in “Bullet to the Head.”×
Sarah Shahi as Lisa and Jason Momoa as Keegan in “Bullet to the Head.”×
Sarah Shahi as Lisa and Sung Kang as Taylor Kwon in “Bullet to the Head.”×
Director Walter Hill (left) and Sylvester Stallone on the set of “Bullet to the Head.”×
Director Walter Hill on the set of “Bullet to the Head.”×
Jason Momoa (left) as Keegan and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Robert Nkomo Morel in “Bullet to the Head.”×
Jason Momoa (from left) as Keegan, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Robert Nkomo Morel and Marcus Lyle Brown as Detective Towne in “Bullet to the Head.”×
Christian Slater (left) as Marcus Baptiste and Sylvester Stallone as Jimmy in “Bullet to the Head.”×