First Arnold, now Sly. What a violent flashback to the 1980s January is turning out to be. In Bullet to the Head, the Italian Stallion stars as a hit man (shocker) who, after his client turns on him (shocker), sets out to get his revenge (another shocker). The twist: he forges an unlikely – as in really unlikely – partner with a by-the-book cop.
The buddy dynamic, surely one of the most unrealistic duos ever attempted, really doesn’t work, but director Walter Hill makes up for it with a tight, bloody and entertainingly violent story. On the flip side, the cringe-inducing dialogue makes you want to put a bullet to your own head.
Sung Kang plays Taylor Kwon, a Washington D.C. police detective who for reasons I missed ends up in New Orleans investigating a crime. Because he’s out of his jurisdiction, he thinks it is appropriate to team up with the hit man he knows just murdered a man and proceeds to spend the next hour and a half threatening to arrest Stallone, all the while following the man around as he kills people to get closer to the truth. The concept is almost as ludicrous as the dialogue, which even in its simplest form Kang struggles to deliver with sincerity.
Stallone has decades of dealing with such dialogue, however. While even he looks pained making silly remarks about Asians and smart phones, Stallone does what he does best: making the most of an ugly situation. Hill, whose last film of any note was 1996’s Last Man Standing, delivers several bone-crunching action scenes involving knife fights, fist fights, gunfights and explosions, and it is in these scenes that Stallone shines.
Meanwhile, Jason Momoa (Conan the Barbarian) comes out of nowhere and delivers an entertaining, even likable performance as an evil henchman who has his own agenda. The final battle between Momoa and Stallone is worth the wait.
Bullet to the Head is not a great movie, but you already knew that. It is, after all, a Sylvestor Stallone action movie. But if you can get past the silly concept and terrible dialogue, there is an entertaining, deliciously violent movie to be found. That is, if you can get past the silly concept and terrible dialogue.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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