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"BULLET TO THE HEAD"
(2013) (Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Action: A hitman and a cop team up to track down the killer of their respective partners and uncover corruption in New Orleans.
PLOT:
In New Orleans, Jimmy Bobo (SYLVESTER STALLONE) and Louis Blanchard (JON SEDA) are hitmen who have been partners for a while. Their latest contract is to kill a crooked Washington, D.C., cop named Hank Greely (HOLT McCALLANY) who has followed a trail of bribery and extortion to a local gangster named Morel (ADEWALE AKINNUOYE-AGBAJE) and wants his cut.

Jimmy and Louis are successful in their assignment and await payment at a local bar. Morel, though, has another contract killer waiting for them there. His name is Keegan (JASON MOMOA), an utterly remorseless and extremely efficient assassin who kills Louis and nearly kills Jimmy. Eager to avenge his partner, Jimmy teams up with D.C. cop Taylor Kwon (SUNG KANG), the upstanding former partner of Greely who has come to town to find out the truth behind his friend's murder.

Their investigation leads them to Lisa (SARAH SHAHI), Jimmy's tattoo artist daughter; Ronnie Earl (BRIAN VAN HOLT), a criminal middleman who it seems double-crossed Jimmy and Louis; and Baptiste (CHRISTIAN SLATER), a corrupt local attorney with ties to Morel. The investigation also produces a trail of blood, as Jimmy slaughters his way through the town to get to the truth.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
The new "Bullet to the Head" succeeds purely as an example of what it is. It's a big, dumb, loud, extremely violent Sylvester Stallone revenge flick. There are no pretensions. It makes no apologies. It pulls no punches. Lord, does it pull no punches! It starts right from the very second of film where a bullet rips through the studio logo and the production companies' logos responsible for this flick. Heck, it starts before that.

It's called "Bullet to the Head," people! If you line up at the box office and pay cash money to see a movie called "Bullet to the Head," don't walk out of it complaining that there was no intricate plotting or subtle, nuanced, character work. You get what you pay for with this one. And if you know what you're paying for and the film delivers, that's kind of a beautiful thing, isn't it?

The plot is simple. Stallone plays New Orleans hitman Jimmy Bobo. They killed his partner. He's gonna kill them. And that's pretty much it, folks! Yeah, there are a few wrinkles here and there. The "they" is a greedy real estate developer (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), looking to cover up a web of dirty deals and political payoffs; his crooked attorney, Baptiste (Christian Slater), who loves to throw nekkid lady parties in the French Quarter; and Keegan (Jason Momoa), the vicious hitman they hire to kill Jimmy and his partner (Jon Seda) and anyone else who looks at them funny. Stallone's Jimmy also teams up with a D.C. cop named Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang of the "Fast and Furious" movies), who is in the Big Easy to investigate his partner's murder.

Walter Hill is the director of note here, and he is clearly trying to recapture a little of that ol' '80s buddy movie magic that he was responsible for 30-plus years ago when he helmed the original "48 Hours." Here, though, he doesn't have a personality as dynamite as the young Eddie Murphy was in 1982 to play with. Kang plays it all a bit too cool for my tastes and lets Stallone completely dominate him on screen in a way Nick Nolte never really did in the earlier cop-crook team-up.

Fortunately, Sly makes up for it in one of his hardest-edged performances in years. Bobo is an absolute brute, and Stallone never allows the character to become hammy. This is one angry as all #*$% killer, who lumbers through the picture brutalizing various New Orleans lowlifes, quickly and efficiently getting the information needed to propel him -- and the movie itself -- to the next scene.

You really can't take your eyes off Stallone in this picture. He gives a great action star performance. He has kept active in films, too, so there's no rust here a la Arnold Schwarzenegger in the recent "The Last Stand." And he does have chemistry in the film -- it's just with Momoa's equally vicious Keegan. Their climactic duel with firemen's axes is pretty much the most awesome thing ever.

Now, of course, I realize many of you who come to ScreenIt.com are probably very opposed to such violent, R-rated fare. I get that. If the film and its marketers were doing anything to dupe the public into thinking this film is anything that it's not or that it is for kids or teens in any way, I would call it more to task. Instead, as I wrote earlier, it's pretty proud of what it is and is not being sold to anyone other than those who are craving a lean, mean, no-nonsense action flick with Stallone in the lead.

And there is plenty of room here for sequels, too. And they won't have to be called "Bullet to the Head 2" or "Bullet to the Head 3." They could call the next one "Knife to the Throat" or "Screwdriver to the Ear," and people would get that it's a Jimmy Bobo sequel. Or if the back-and-forths in Washington over gun control are still going on, they could soften it just a bit and call it -- oh, I dunno -- "Kick to the Crotch." Because not even Congress can legislate our God-given right to put boot to groin when the situation calls for it. I give this film a solid 6 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed January 28, 2013 / Posted February 1, 2013


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