It’s tough to remember now, but Sylvester Stallone is an Oscar-nominated actor. Honored for his title role in Rocky (1976), Stallone helped us forget that nod by starring in so many mediocre action films that fail to challenge him or his audience. Bullet to the Head, his passable new flick, is a perfect example of this.
Stallone plays James Bonomo, an assassin who enjoys his work. Early on, he barges into an apartment with his partner and the two—-posing as police officers-- quickly eliminate their target. Bonomo, who is a hitman with a heart (of course!), then refuses to off a hooker in the shower.
As the story proceeds, Bonomo’s partner is killed and Bonomo partners up with a by-the-books police officer named Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) to investigate the murder and find out why someone wants Bonomo dead.
Their investigation leads them to many shoot-outs and fights, but the plot of the film is easy to understand. The duo discovers a possible lead to investigate. They find that person and then kill them. Before the death though, that individual names another person that they should be going after next.
Like the cycles of a washing machine, the pattern simply repeats itself until the end.
Along the way, we meet a variety of forgettable characters. There’s Christian Slater (True Romance) playing a rich playboy named Marcus Baptiste. There’s Brian Van Holt (TV's Cougar Town) playing a treacherous psychopath. There’s…oh never mind. Few of the characters hang around long enough to be anything other than target practice.
The fun of director Walter Hill's film—aside from some of the solid fight scenes—is the dichotomy set up between Bonomo and Kwon. Kwon, whose life is saved countless times by Bonomo, threatens to have his ally arrested several times. Being the straight-laced cop, he continually checks in with his fellow officers believing that they are on his side.
But when you’re in a movie with Stallone, the general rule is that Stallone is usually the only person on your side.
The film's best sequence takes place when Bonomo and Kwon are interrogating Baptiste. It’s here where the violence and the dialogue come alive. The scene shows both men trying to get information from their prisoner in their own unique ways. Sure, the set-up is clichéd but it’s enticing to watch the two men verbally battle it out in front of their charismatic hostage.
Ultimately, Bullet to the Head is as subtle as its title. If you enjoy Stallone movies that are laced with violence and mayhem, you’ll probably appreciate his latest film. If you’re looking for something deeper, then you should steer clear.
I just wish the former Oscar nominee would look for something more challenging to work on and not simply settle for stories as mindless and humdrum as this.