Bullet to the Head

Updated: 13 Feb 2013

Time Out says

Rating: 3/5

Dir: Walter Hill
(2013, 91 mins). Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Sarah Shahi, Jason Momoa, Christian Slater.

Leaner and meaner than the Expendables’ escapades, Bullet to the Head makes a superior ode to Sylvester Stallone’s star power and aging yet still mysteriously bulked musculature. Down to the buddy-cop banter (including irreverent racial and old-man cracks), the movie plays like a disposable but well-crafted action vehicle from the ’80s. Or maybe its origins reach earlier, to the Western: New Orleans hit man Jimmy Bobo (Stallone) teams up with uncorruptible, PDA-addicted cop Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) to solve a murder linked to a real-estate scam that stretches into the world of politics. Jimmy is out for revenge—these guys hired him for a job and then set him up, killing his partner. Kwon, furtively reporting to his superior officer, just wants justice. The question of what will happen when Law and Lawless are the last men standing gives their pairing an edge.

Veteran filmmaker Walter Hill (The Driver, The Warriors) directs with a brusqueness that’s exceedingly rare. The seamy NOLA flavor helps: A costume party eases our heroes’ entry where they aren’t wanted; a bathhouse confrontation, while not a patch on the one in Eastern Promises, is as stylish as one might ask. Tongue-in-cheek humor is also an asset, with Christian Slater’s weasel lawyer hilariously eager to compromise and a showdown between Jimmy and a mercenary (Jason Momoa, from the Conan the Barbarian remake) fought not with guns but axes. “What are we, Vikings?” Jimmy asks him before the brawl. No, just old-school. Ben Kenigsberg

Tags: Film