Every so often, a movie comes along that doesn’t really leave any grey area in its title. Basically, what I’m saying is that some films more or less tell you exactly what they’re about at face value, perhaps in an effort to keep things simple. The single best example that comes to mind with no hesitation is “Snakes on a Plane,” the Samuel L. Jackson action film about, well, a bunch of snakes on a plane. But after viewing “Bullet to the Head,” which hits Blu-ray disc soon, I think Warner Bros. may have added another volume to this library.
You see, throughout “Bullet to the Head,” a lot of people get shot in the head. And in the arms, chest, legs and other body parts. “Bullet to the Head” is a very appropriate title, and it leaves no question as to what the film is about. The best part is that I learned this about the film after making it through only a third of the 92 minute run time. Like other similar titles before it, this one doesn’t require much thinking or investment from its viewing audience.
By now, you’re probably wondering what other content this title has to offer. The answer is to say not much. Its plot is something the filmmakers worked on and tried to complicate, but it makes little difference because the only things that stand out beside the gruesome violence and killing are a miserable script and subpar performances from recognizable actors. “Bullet to the Head,” which is based on Alexis Nolent’s French graphic novel ‘Du Plomb Dans La Tete,’ is a pretty miserable action flick that can’t even really do the one thing it’s there to do well.
In New Orleans, we meet hit men Jimmy (Sylvester Stallone) and Louis (Jon Seda). After they kill a corrupt cop, they head to a bar, where a big, mean dude named Keegan (Jason Momoa) stabs Louis and leaves him for dead. Jimmy escapes with a few scratches and is hell bent on revenge.
Meanwhile, a detective from Washington D.C., Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang), shows up to see what happened to his old partner (he was the corrupt cop). Using some elementary sleuthing and a smart phone, he discovers that Jimmy and Louis were responsible, and leaves the police station hell bent on revenge.
Movie magic puts Jimmy and Taylor into a situation where they wind up working together and going after Keegan, his boss Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and his scumbag lawyer Baptiste (Christian Slater). It’s kill or be killed throughout “Bullet to the Head,” and despite some rather simple subplot involving a flash drive with documents related to real estate pay outs, the whole thing feels uncoordinated. We eventually learn that Jimmy’s daughter Lisa (Sarah Shahi), a tattoo artist, is caught in the mix as a pawn the bad guys use to get leverage over the good, er, uh, less bad guys (yes, that’ll do).
Basically, everyone in “Bullet to the Head” is a bad guy. There are no good guys, only some who aren’t as bad as others. It’s really a silly approach that assumes you will suspend your disbelief to the point of exhaustion, and even then, who’s to say that you won’t find plot holes wide enough to fit a Hummer through them? The film watching experience here is basically loud and short, both things I often enjoy, though not usually together.
Stallone has reached the twilight of his career, and I sincerely hope that means he’ll quit while he’s ahead. If “Bullet to the Head” is any indicator, he’s not acting these days because he really wants or needs to. He’s being courted by studios and directors simply because of his name and filmography, both of which are tarnished thanks to “Bullet to the Head.” His performance is below average, and while on-screen he still looks tough as nails, we see during his performance that he is a step or two behind the curve.
Speaking of studios and directors, this one had a whole lot of both behind it. Studios with a hand in the “Bullet to the Head” cookie jar include Dark Castle Entertainment, Millar Gough Ink, IM Global, EMJAG Productions, After Dark Films and Automatik Entertainment. The film had an insanely high number of producers and executive producers, and the recognizable Walter Hill took a seat in the director’s chair. Known for titles that often have some dark undertones and a bit of a rough edge, I’m not surprised he found his way to “Bullet to the Head.” It’s disappointing to see that this title is so far away from his best work (which, I happen to believe was the 1979 gang thriller, “The Warriors”).
No one behaves with any chemistry during “Bullet to the Head.” The actors, Stallone included, lack a real presence. The tools they use to gain power are guns, all of which basically do the same thing at the end of the day. Using this logic, no one is really that much more powerful than anyone else, right? The film’s climax, which gives Stallone’s character a change to get his hotly desired revenge, shockingly doesn’t involve any guns, which is so often the case in action titles (remember “The Dark Knight Rises,” where Bane and Batman both have no lack of firepower, but wind up dueling with their bare fists?) Everyone in “Bullet to the Head” is selfish and cares about him or herself before anyone else, and after having sat through the whole title, I can’t say I blame them, mainly because everyone is a colossal jerk, and if someone were to treat me as such, I’d probably not worry about them but only myself, too.
Alas, I digress. “Bullet to the Head” bombed at the box office. It may have a larger popularity overseas in international theaters, but domestically, Americans have made their feelings clear. I can’t help but think the disastrous screenplay delivered by Alessandro Camon helped the film’s cause in any capacity. I could count on one hand and still have most of my fingers left the number of clever one-liners. You see, a valuable script would require the audience to pay attention to something other than guns, explosions and violence. It would simultaneously take their attention away from the very things that are the film’s real stars, and that’s a big no-no for 1 hour and 30 minute piles of garbage that are basically made for no other reason than to make money.
This one is safe to pass on. You won’t miss anything you haven’t seen before, and trust me, it’s been done much better.
The film’s 1.85:1 1080p High Definition video transfer to Blu-ray disc isn’t really anything special. Grain abounds and the coloration is just okay, with darks dominating and natural light very poorly implemented. There isn’t much to the transfer other than this, which is pretty fitting for a film where there isn’t really much happening on screen, either. Warner Bros. could have done better work, but with films like “Bullet to the Head,” audiences are hardly hung up on these details.
The film’s DTS-High Definition English 5.1 soundtrack is decent. The music is pretty forgettable, but you can hear how it drives the plot and emotions with ease. Remember all those bullets flying through the air and into people’s heads? You’ll be able to pick them up with your ears very easily! The surround sound is strong and offers a vividness I appreciated, even for a bad movie. The film’s combat scenes, especially the climax, are sharp and easy to pick up on with minimal effort. There are no other audio choices, but subtitles can be enabled with either English or Spanish.
Blu-ray, standard definition DVD and UltraViolet copies are available in this combo pack, along with a featurette titled “Bullet to the Head: Mayhem Inc.” It’s described in the press release with the following: “Get ripped with Sylvester Stallone as he blasts his way through gun training and action choreography as he preps for a bone crushing axe fight.” Neat-o.
A Final Word:
I’ve already said more than I cared to say about “Bullet to the Head.” If I have to use the film’s title once more in this review I’ll be tempted to put my hand to my head and fall asleep. If only I could have done that during my one and, hopefully, only viewing. This one isn’t worth your time, effort or resources. Look the other way and be proud of it.