Movie review: Stallone up to old tricks in 'Bullet to the Head'
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Editor's note: "Bullet to the Head" was not previewed for Pittsburgh critics.
Choppy and bordering on incoherent, "Bullet to the Head" is Sylvester Stallone's answer to Arnold Schwarzenegger's "The Last Stand," an action exercise in "Here's how we used to do it."
Sly one-ups Arnold in that old-school regard by bringing in Walter ("48 Hours") Hill, king of action directors during Mr. Stallone's glory days -- the 1980s.
1 1/2 stars = Average
R for strong violence, bloody images, language, some nudity and brief drug use.
But "Bullet" isn't remotely as direct as its title. It shows all the hallmarks of a movie that's been re-cut and changed directors. Characters, relationships and motivations seem shortchanged. And it's as dated and dumb, in different ways, as "The Last Stand."
Still, Mr. Stallone brings the burly and the breezy to this turn as a New Orleans hit man teaming with a cop (Sung Kang) to track down the guys who set him up and got his partner killed.
Jimmy "Bobo" Bonomo (Mr. Stallone) has borrowed his "code" from the anti-hero of John Woo's "The Killer": "No women, no kids." A hit he carried out led to repercussions. A knife-wielding brute of a mercenary (Jason Momoa) killed his partner, and Jimmy has to do something.
So does this out-of-town cop. As Detective Kwon, Mr. Kang steps into the spotlight, and shrinks from it. The editing makes the character an under-motivated mystery. The performance is charisma-free.
It doesn't help that Jimmy and everybody else trot out the race card for the Korean-American cop.
The plot has to do with "Crescent City" corruption; they never call New Orleans by name. And Christian Slater's character, a lawyer, should have been named "Mr. Exposition." He gets to blurt out all the intrigues and conspiracies.
Jimmy and Kwon feud, make threats about "when this is over," and Kwon fails, utterly, to hold up his end of the bargain.
But Mr. Hill knows how to stage a rumble, and when the hit man and the mercenary tangle with axes, it's epic.
"Bullet to the Head" was chopped down so that Mr. Stallone might have a prayer of holding the picture together, and it's a credit to his still-formidable screen presence that, whatever weak links surround him, he almost pulls it off.
First Published February 1, 2013 12:00 am