If you are a fan of 1980 action film stars, then the first two months of 2013 should represent a quasi-wet dream down new memory lane. Arnold Schwarzenegger came back to the genre that made him famous in The Last Stand, Bruce Willis is set to have John McClane again save the day, and Sylvester Stallone shows off his killing skills in Bullet to the Head.
The Last Stand was well received by critics, but managed a paltry $7 million at the box office its opening week-end. The Die Hard franchise has a built-in audience so big numbers are expected upon its release in mid-February. And sandwiched in between the two is the Walter Hill directed Bullet to the Head which debuted in theatres this week-end.
The plot for Bullet to the Head could not be any more formulaic. Sly plays a New Orleans hitman named James Bonomo whose partner is killed after the completion of a job. Sung Kang plays Taylor Kwan, a D.C. detective in New Orleans to investigate the murder of a former cop. The unlikely duo will team up against a common enemy and their path to discovery will result in many flying bullets Ė most being deposited to the head.
Director Walter Hill is no stranger to the buddy action flick. Red Heat (1988) and 48 Hrs. (1982) are both listed prominently on his resume. But action films have come a long way since the 1980ís. Audiences are smarter now and are more likely to sit through a thought provoking Inception than to gaze with dead brain cells at The Expendables. Unfortunately, this evolution is lost on Hill and Stallone as Bullet to the Head tries too hard to replicate 80ís action films without attempting to adjust the small nuances to bring the film into the new millennium.
So much of Bullet to the Head is routine. Old routine. We have bad guys that like to tell others the plans or reveal plot points so the audience can understand what is going on. There is the unlikely pairing and the violence that goes with their gradual acquaintance. Sprinkle gratuitous nudity, some stale jokes (Asians are bad drivers Ė really?!?) and an climax that ensures the biggest bad guy and the biggest good guy square off in a hand to hand battle and we have a stereotypical, routine action film.
This might not have been so bad if the action was stellar. But Bullet to the Head offers nothing new here. Not even the axe fighting scene between Stallone and Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones, Conan the Barbarian) felt authentic or inventive enough to have you leave the theatre at least thinking you witnessed something worthy of an inflated ticket price.
Stallone still looks great at age 66, but even he canít rise above the inane material and a script that gave him absolutely no chemistry with his partner as they travel through the rough underbelly of corrupt New Orleans.
This was Walter Hillís first directorial effort since Disputed 10 years ago. I donít say this often, but maybe it is time for Hill to retire. His ideas are stale and his idea of action and comedy are still based in the 80ís.
It would be easy to write that Bullet to the Head would be exactly what an audience member will be begging for to spare them the full 91-minute running time. But Stallone has done worse. Much Worse (Rhinestone, Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot, Oscar). Itís just a shame that with so few movies still left in that 66 year old body that we get such sub-par efforts.