Despite turning 67 years old later this year, Sylvester Stallone will probably keep doing what have made him an international star over the past four decades: action movies. And I’ll probably keep watching them, even after getting through a yawner like Bullet to the Head, in which Stallone plays the same sort of role he’s had throughout most of his storied cinematic career.
Bullet to the Head puts a New Orleans hitman named Jimmy Bobo (Stallone) in an unlikely alliance with a D.C. detective (Sung Kang) in order to lay some vengeance-driven smack down. The generic good-guy-teams-up-with-bad-guy plot isn’t interesting at all and doesn’t make you care about the protagonists because the characters are marginally developed. Instead, you’ll wonder when something cool will happen. When the action occasionally does get good, it’s over before you know it, like a strip show that suddenly ends right before the actual stripping. The exception is the satisfying and well choreographed climactic showdown. It’s just that the plodding trip to get there is a little over an hour but feels like two.
The chemistry between Stallone and Kang, like the action, sputters every time you think it’s gonna take off. Stallone is actually intelligible; I surprisingly caught every word he said, no subtitles necessary. He not only shows that he has the most jacked upper body for any senior citizen (with arms bigger than my legs and veins you can stick your thumbs in), but he can still hold his own as an action star. Just pick better movies, Sly! Sure, director Walter Hill has delivered some hits like 48 Hours and cult classic The Warriors, but those were over 30 years ago.
Kang was unexceptional, and his part could’ve been anybody. Same with Sarah Shahi as your typical action movie’s token supply of curves (got no problem with that… rrrrrrr). Christian Slater is spectacular compared to the last time he was in a movie that (barely) made it to the big screen (Soldiers of Fortune), meaning he was decent in his supporting role here. Finally, one of the villains is played pretty well by Jason Momoa, last seen with a few more speaking lines in the Conan remake.
Aside for seeing how ripped Stallone still is and a neat in-film mugshot series to see how he’s aged over the past 40 years, there’s nothing in Bullet to the Head that separates it from standard action crime fare. It’s not so overtly bad that you’ll prefer an actual bullet to the head, and it’s definitely a tier up from The Expendables 2, but that’s not saying much considering the all-star action extravaganza was one of the worst movies of 2012. Even if you’re a hardcore Sly fan, you should think about waiting for Bullet to the Head to get to your local Redbox or Netflix.
Bullet to the Head gets 2 out of 5 stars.