Crooks fend off fanged fury in this dog of a crime thriller.
Anyone curious about what Reservoir Dogs would look like if it were actually about reservoirs or dogs might want to check out Bullet Head, the bazillionth offspring of Quentin Tarantino’s standard-setter. That’s because the trio of crooks—holed up in a dank, abandoned storage facility after a botched heist—are threatened not just by strife among themselves but also by a large, ravenous mastiff that killed its way to the top of an illegal dog-fighting ring. (For the record, the beast’s name isn’t Bullet Head but De Niro, and it claimed supremacy by besting the tag team of Eastwood and Mitchum.)
Bullet Head, however, can’t decide whether it’s a showcase for soulful criminal introspection, a canine-amok horror flick or (as repeatedly indicated in the closing credits) a plea to sympathize with and rescue dogs forced into underground combat. Costars Adrien Brody, John Malkovich and Rory Culkin fit easily if unsurprisingly into their respective types: the ringleader struggling for control, the world-weary veteran and the strung-out junkie. It’s understandable why these actors were attracted to writer-director Paul Solet’s script, as it gives them opportunities to deliver flowery, metaphorical speeches accompanied by Tarantino-esque flashbacks. Harder to determine is what led Antonio Banderas to take the thankless role of the dog’s keeper, who becomes a textbook case of Roger Ebert’s Fallacy of the Talking Killer (why orate when you can simply pull the trigger?).
Solet has turned out a very slick product and handles some of the action with brio, particularly a chase-across-buses set piece. But with too little freshness for crime-drama devotees, too many furry corpses for animal lovers and a thoroughly predictable wrap-up, Bullet Head ultimately screws the pooch.
Cast and crew