Sunday, February 03, 2013

Bullet to the Head

Axe Fight

The Hollywood action stars of yesteryears are coming back with a vengeance, since there's hardly many charismatic individuals who can fill those big shoes left behind. The Expendables showed that when bandied together they're still a box office force to be reckoned with, but let's see how their respective individual projects - Bruce Willis shows us it's a good day for another Die Hard, Arnold Schwarzenegger going for The Last Stand, and Sylvester Stallone seeks to put a Bullet to the Head.

Based on the French graphic novel Du Plomb Dans La Tete by Alexis Nolent, this film also featured a couple of creatives involved whom we haven't seen in a long while, such as Walter Hill on the feature film director's chair after a decade's break, and Christian Slater playing a forgettable hoodlum. Set in New Orleans, it deals with the crossing of paths between hitman Jimmy Bonomo (Stallone) and Washington D.C detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang), forging an uneasy alliance since both are going up the same food chain to take down whoever is responsible for killing James' partner Louis (Jon Seda), and not honoring their paid hit job in finishing off corrupt cop (Holt McCallany) whom Taylor is investigating.

The narrative is fairly straightforward, with the two men on opposite sides of the law cooperating and going from thug to thug, before ultimately reaching head honcho Robert Nikomo Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and his enforcer Keegan (Jason Momoa), who from time to time get scenes to show just how bad-ass he was, and being chiefly responsible for dealing killer blows to his victims. But of course this provides for none other than fisticuffs with Sly himself, the highlight being a nasty restroom melee, before the climatic showdown in an empty warehouse, which is that throwback to countless of 80s and 90s action films that just requires mano-a-mano no holds barred fight between good and evil.

Sung Kang on the other hand, played as fodder for banter between the two men who had forged an uneasy alliance, chatting about topics ranging from differences between Japanese and Koreans, technology, ethics and the likes. A fair bit of the screenplay also provided an introduction to Lisa Bonomo (Sarah Shahi) for some offscreen romantic build up, and that vivid though gruesome rudimentary operation for bullet removal. Violence is staple here, with more than enough scenes that had firearms discharging rounds on people's torso and head, plus the occasional use of an edged flick knife, with the climax featuring the use of old fireman axes that has action choreography that must be seen to be believed.

Bullet to the Head takes on a very noir approach, and has this very old school feel to its story and characters, with a downside having Stallone mumble his way through the constant narration. While the film has both Sung Kang and Sylvester Stallone headlining it, they did not share natural chemistry as you thought they would have, making the movie feel like an exercise from start to finish, with violence interspersed to remind us we're watching a gangster flick complete with people who don't think twice when dispatching victims to kingdom come. Perhaps a slightly more sophisticated story would have piqued interest.

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