Frank Leone is nearing the end of his prison term for a relatively minor crime. Just before he is paroled, however, Warden Drumgoole takes charge. Drumgoole was assigned to a hell-hole ... See full summary »
Armed men hijack a New York City subway train, holding the passengers hostage in return for a ransom, and turning an ordinary day's work for dispatcher Walter Garber into a face-off with the mastermind behind the crime.
I have a hankering to see it again, myself, as a matter of fact.
All the ads for "Bullet to the Head" bear the name and image of Sylvester Stallone, an actor who is perfectly at home in this sort of picture: a violent shoot-'em-up with a rogue gun-for-hire working with and against a straight-shooting cop. But, as far as I am concerned, there should be a second name plastered right alongside Mr. Stallone's. The extra credit is not, ironically enough, for the Korean actor Sung Kang, even though he is very good, but instead the film's director. I walked into "Bullet to the Head" with an open mind, hoping that Mr. Stallone could keep up the good track record he's had in the last couple of years (the last "Rambo" and both of the "Expendables" movies), but when I saw the words 'directed by Walter Hill' in the opening credits, I knew I was in for a good time.
It's a little hard to believe that this is the first time these two men have worked alongside one another, since they've both made their names doing the same general sorts of movies, and both have been kicking around Hollywood for roughly the same length of time. Better late than never, for even though "Bullet to the Head" is a little rougher than it might be, thanks to Mr. Stallone's charisma and Mr. Hill's sure hand for coordinating action, this movie does pack a walloping punch.
No time is wasted; the movie gets rolling within the first ten minutes. From the start of things, we know who our protagonist is, we know the central bad guy is, and we know there will be plenty of grisly action sequences. Mr. Stallone and Mr. Kang do have a lot of deliberately amusing moments together, most of the laughs collected whenever they are driving from one seedy New Orleans location to another, bickering about ethics, the justice system, the difference between Japanese and Koreans, and Mr. Stallone's relationship to a sassy tattoo artist played by Sarah Shahi. The villains in the picture are also delightfully self-indulgent: the 'brain' behind the whole operation, which involves the balance of power between organized crime and the justice system, is a crippled man whose signature line is: Never trust a man who doesn't care about money. The subject man is the expected big muscle-man with a smirk, Jason Momoa: a walking mountain of a man who walks in and shoots up an entire bar for little reason other than pleasure.
But what really makes the movie is what Walter Hill has always been a virtuoso at: excellent fight scenes. Mr. Hill sets up his camera at many creative angles. My personal favorite being an overhead shot of Mr. Stallone and Mr. Momoa as they duke it out in a restroom, with one of them being slammed bodily through the stall door and knocking the whole thing down. The camera is also frequently set with wider shots, so we can see more than just a split-second now and then of a fist hitting what we perceive to be somebody's stomach. There is also a great shot where Mr. Kang punches somebody in the mouth, and the man's spittle is caught in an overhead light and shows up as an array of brilliant white specks. Every sort of weapon from handguns to out-dated firefighter axes is used at some point, and, just as the title hints, there are plenty of moments where somebody catches a muzzle blast clean through the forehead. It's exactly the sort of suspension of disbelief that a movie like this needs: a character will waste three or four shots hitting their target in the chest and stomach when, as they demonstrate subsequently, they planned all along to put a fatal round between the eyes.
There's also lots of fun imagery: such as an underwater shot where Mr. Stallone stares down at the submerged body of a man he just killed, and drops the murder weapon right down on top of us. Or a delightfully funny moment where Jason Momoa's head pops out of a scuzzy pond, like something from a 1950s science-fiction flick.
"Bullet to the Head" was a nice surprise: an out of the blue teaming up of two action-movie veterans. Admittedly, the story needs some refining and there are a couple of moments where a key shot seems to be missing (during a climax, a man falls from a rafter and just as he hits the ground, we cut to another scene. A reaction shot would have evened things out and given the scene a more completed feel). But this is a nice kick-start to the new year; of the three movies I've seen in 2013 thus farand all have been action-orientatedthis is the one I would encourage people to see more than once. I have a hankering to see it again, myself, as a matter of fact.
44 of 72 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?