With the success of The Expendables, it was only a matter of time before the big stars of the 1980s started releasing solo movies. Bruce Willis is working on a new Die Hard film to be released later in the year. Arnold had his go with Last Stand. Now it’s Stallone’s turn with Walter Hill’s adaptation of Bullet to the Head based on the graphic novel of the same name.
The amount of clichés that come out of this movie somehow make the film more charming and endearing than trying.Stallone plays Jim, a gun for hire. His partner is killed as a part of a double-cross at the hands of mercenary Keegan, played by Jason Mamoa. He is hired by Robert Morel, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. His ultimate goal is to level the ghetto of the town and turn it into high-rise condominiums so that he’ll make a fortune. All it needs is a kidnapped daughter and it will have every plot point from a 1980s action film ever-oh, that’s not until the second act.
Even though all of the characters have a glaringly low amount of creativity to the point where names are pointless, each one is still endearing in their own way. You love Jim as the tough former Navy man who shoots first and asks questions later. You sympathize with his impromptu cop partner Kwon, played by Sung Kang, as the two of them constantly but heads over the morally gray line of the law versus what is right and what is wrong. The audience is compelled by Keegan; the unstoppable juggernaut of a mercenary as we anticipate the final confrontation. Each one of the actors puts their own unique spin on these archetypes and plays the role with a great deal of passion and conviction that makes it enjoyable and entertaining.
As for the settings, they are rather blasé and uninspired. We are shown a small city within striking distance of New Orleans, but they fail to utilize anything that would be considered scenic or even remotely recognizable. The film may very well have taken place in any large metropolitan city in the United States and it would have made absolutely no impact to the story whatsoever.
Considering the potential for an emotional tug by making the crime boss appeal to a more specific audience, it is disappointing with the route that they did take. With any action movie, the real key is the final fight. After all, the movie spends a great amount of time building the capabilities and abilities of both of these men, and has them tearing through numerous nameless henchmen along the way – as well as avoiding each other’s attempts to kill them – to demonstrate their skills. The fight itself is rather innovative by deciding to use axes and knives as opposed to just bear fists, guns or some other more common implements. The camera work, though irritatingly close at times, is well done and allows for a full viewing of the ensuing brawl.
There were a few disappointing elements to the film, however. For one, even though you’re not specifically rooting for the villain, to see the master plan completely fall apart with a minimal amount of interference from the heroes feels cheap and anti-climactic. Not to mention it would have been more impressive to see Adewale and Stallone and Mamoa all go head to head against one another in a brawl instead of Adewale being so unceremoniously dispatched. Despite the often-entertaining clichés, it makes the flow of the story predictable.
This movie delivers on everything that it promises; great action, interesting albeit cookie cutter characters and a story that, although isn’t original is simplistic enough to follow while simultaneously complicated enough to keep it somewhat interesting. Anyone who would have an interest in seeing a throwback to the classic action movies of yesteryear will get a definite thrill out of this film. It isn’t without its flaws to be sure, but they are easily overlooked in the grand scheme of things. It isn’t going to be a great film of the ages, but it is worth the price of admission to be sure. Two and a half stars out of four.