Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
January 31, 2013
*1/2 (out of four)
Dumb as rocks, thin as paper and dull as scissors, “Bullet to the Head” offers just as much complexity and intelligence as you might expect from a movie called “Bullet to the Head.”
I know, lots of people just want this action flick to provide opportunities for Sylvester Stallone to unroll his tough-guy grumble. Indeed, the old guy's still got it (unlike his pal Ahnold in “The Last Stand”), like a rusty blade that cuts just fine. It’s the words coming out of his mouth that stumble, lines like “Sometimes you gotta abandon your principles to do what’s right” and “We did our job and we got set up.” In this misguided return for director Walter Hill (“48 Hrs.”), all of the dialogue, particularly spoon-fed criminal exposition by a sleazy lawyer (Christian Slater), sounds like it was written so a toddler could understand it.
I’d call the plot of “Bullet to the Head” (adapted by Alessandro Camon from a French graphic novel) “by the numbers” if I thought anyone involved could count. New Orleans hitman James Bonomo, who goes by Jimmy Bobo because no Stallone character would ever be called “James,” teams up with D.C. cop Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang of “Fast Five”) to find out why both of their former partners were killed. Even though everyone knows Jimmy killed Taylor’s partner.
Played with a shocking lack of energy by Kang, Taylor’s an outrageously awful officer. His work doesn’t extend beyond making phone calls to request information about someone or needlessly updating the New Orleans police with information that he already has reason to believe could blow up in his face. Jason Momoa glares a lot as another professional killer; Sarah Shahi sports tattoos and skin as Jimmy’s gorgeous daughter.
Straightforward to a fault, “Bullet to the Head” has almost the same clichéd corruption as “Broken City” and action that never excites. It also resists moral examination, as Jimmy feels fine as long as he kills people he thinks deserve it. The stripped-down nature of Hill and Stallone’s approach attempts to put grit on something too dumb to be called ordinary, but that's like saying eating two bad cheeseburgers is better than one. In this case, stick with zero.
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