Feb. 06, 2013 - Issue #903: Moment by moment
Bullet to the Head
The premise, from Alexis Nolent's French graphic novel about an assassin, is adapted so ruthlessly that the interesting details get gutted. An assassin, Jimmy Bobo (Stallone), and his partner are doublecrossed (the partner fatally) by high-up, crooked employers killing off anyone who can be traced back to them. When Taylor Kwan, a Washington DC cop (Sung Kang), arrives to investigate, he and Jimmy hunt down the crooks. Shoot outs, hit jobs and punch ups are short and brutal, propelled by some smash-cut close-ups (when Kwan's hit with a bullet, the ripping zip of it into his shoulder is startling).
But the movie ends up gruff and perfunctory, over-aping Stallone's few-words, all-muscle performance. The murky details of the corruption behind the condos-replacing-ghetto project, snaking from the "Crescent City" back to West Africa somehow, are reduced to a coveted flash drive of bank-account info, forgotten by the end. After a few leers at the ladies (two women, both made to undress pointlessly; one's dismissed as a hooker and the other's the daughter of a "hooker junkie, dead 15 years"), a steady sneer of vengeful violence sets in on the face of Bobo, his nemesis and the movie itself. And the police-criminal buddy banter's none too memorable (likely reflecting the studio's insistence that an ethnic actor be parachuted into the cop's role). At worst, as the ammo-clipping scenes in toilets, backrooms, bayou shacks and abandoned warehouses squelch along, the déjà vu that drips out is a lurid, '80s cable-channel sensibility. Peel this one back and you get more pit than pulp.
Opens Now playing
Directed by: Walter Hill
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