Can we talk about Jason Momoa for a minute? I know he's not the star of Bullet to the Head, or even featured all that much in the marketing, which seems to think that Sylvester Stallone's terrifyingly ripped 65-year-old torso is a good sell. In this garish, borderline incomprehensible action drama Momoa plays the stock bad guy, a hulk hired by some crooked cops and politicians to cover up their misdeeds, usually by indiscriminately killing anyone who might be a threat. Momoa probably has the worst part in the film and does the most with it, exuding both charisma and intimidation in a way that makes him the center of every scene. If it is remembered for anything, hopefully Bullet to the Head will mark Momoa's ascendance as the new The Rock-- a bruiser with surprising screen presence.
I'm not starting off by saying something nice because I feel particularly generous toward Bullet to the Head, but because I'm not sure what else to tell you about it that you don't already know. It's yet another movie in which Sylvester Stallone jokes about his age, then proceeds to dispatch bad guys 30 years younger. It's an excuse to show off a lot of guns and a lot of bloody deaths, as you'd guess from the title, and revolves around a political conspiracy plot riddled with plot holes so confounding you can't even start to dig into them. It teams up Stallone with Korean action star Sung Kang only to have Stallone make endless jokes about Asian stereotypes, to which Kang never really responds because, hey, Sly is the star. The best thing it does, aside from Momoa, is to film in New Orleans but rename it Crescent City, presumably to save them the embarrassment.
The film begins with Stallone's character Jimmy Bobo and his contract killer partner Louis (Jon Seda) taking down a target in a hotel room, but it really only gets started when Louis is dispatched by Momoa's Keegan, an assassination mysteriously intercut with a live band performing in the bar. The moment Jimmy tells Louis to head upriver and visit his mom you know Louis is a goner, but Jimmy takes it hard anyway, determined to find his killers and exact his revenge. That's essentially the goal of Kang's cop character Taylor Kwon, sent down from D.C. to investigate the guy Louis and Jimmy killed, and inadvertently unraveling the giant political conspiracy, which is generally nonsense but does give Christian Slater a brief appearance as one of the rich blowhards who runs the town.
From the endless string of Asian jokes to the gun fetishization to the very presence of Walter Hill behind the camera, Bullet to the Head is a very deliberate 80s throwback, but all of it feels as outdated and wrongheaded as Jimmy Bobo's disdain for cell phones. It doesn't matter how many times Jimmy talks about how it's better to shoot someone in the head to fight them-- it's boring to just watch a guy walk around shooting people. The movie even seems to realize that, making the final conflict between Momoa and Stallone an absurd axe fight, but incoherent editing makes even that a snooze. Stallone, to his credit, knows he's a relic and seems to be having fun with it. But there's no reason for him to saddle himself with a movie so obsessed with being a relic that it's no fun at all.
Reviewed By: Katey Rich
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