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Bullet to the Head


Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jason Momoa, Christian Slater, Jon Seda, Holt McCallany, Brian van Holt, Weronika Rosati, Dane Rhodes, Marcus Lyle Brown, Andrew Austin-Peterson, Paul Etheredge, Robert Cavan Carruth, Louis Michot, Andre Michot

Director: Walter Hill

Sylvester Stallone, his face resembling a bronzed walnut with a perpetual and rather scary sneer, is well cast as a hitman who proves his role by shooting crooked former policeman Holt McCallany but loses his sidekick Jon Seda who is killed by one-time mercenary Jason Momoa. After which the plot – a buddy movie with added gore and gristle – kicks in when New Orleans police detective Sung Kang comes after Stallone only to have the hitman save him from more corrupt cops. And so the two join forces team up to advance the story which expends so many bullets that the United Nations might have investigated had it not been a fiction film…

Subtlety is not necessarily a component of rather too many graphic novels. That certainly seems the case here. Simplicity, lashings of action and characters largely defined by the people playing them are the key components of screenwriter Alessandro Camon’s hardly subtle adaptation of Alex Nolent’s graphic novel.

71-year-old director Walter Hill, behind the cameras after a decade-long hiatus, simply gets on with telling a fast, furious but largely undistinguished story that is unlikely to remain in your memory for long. Possibly the most lethal shot in the film is the bullet that shatters Hill’s cult status – unless anonymously efficient but otherwise undistinguished direction is proof that a filmmaker is a genuine auteur.

Fortunately for Hill, Stallone brings solid star quality to the film. While it may not be National Theatre-style ‘Acting’ with a capital ‘A’, Stallone has genuine star quality and knows how to inhabit a cardboard role and make it seem flesh on screen. He delivers some mildly amusing dialogue with more force than it deserves and easily holds centre screen, almost leaving Kang in the position of Robin to his Batman. Christian Slater turns up briefly which is fine for him and doesn’t affect the film’s headlong pace. And Sarah Shahi provides passing glamour, playing the former medical student-turned-tattoo artist Stallone gets to stitch up Kang after he is wounded in one of the frequent shootouts.

Moodily shot (cinematographer Lloyd Ahern II) New Orleans locations add atmosphere. If you’re looking for a goulash of gunplay and gore decorated with Stallone-style star power and ignore the clichés, Bullet to the Head makes for painless, if (mostly) forgettable action entertainment.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Entertainment One. Colour.
91 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 31 Jan 2013