Bullet to the Head tries so hard to play like a throwback ’80s actioner, while not appearing to look like its trying, it’s laughable. I’ve also been worn so thin on films with aging characters baffled by technology that the egregious lengths Walter Hill’s new film goes to tell me how much information can be found on a smartphone that I wanted to pull mine out of my pocket and stomp it into a thousand pieces.
“You wouldn’t believe how much information I can find on this thing,” D.C. detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) says to New Orleans hitman James Bonomo (Sylvester Stallone) as the two drive down the road in one of their many drive-and-talk sit downs. You see, Bonomo, or Jimmy Bobo as he’s known on the streets, just killed a man and was quickly double-crossed. His partner is now dead and Kwon is in town to try and kill the head of the snake and instead of booking Bobo for the crime he knows he’s commit. Yes, he’s going to team up with him because teaming up with a hitman with a loooong criminal record, that just lost his partner and wasn’t paid for a hit gone bad is always a good idea.
So the two drive around New Orleans, Kwon uses his police credentials to pull up information (he calls them “speed checks”) on local bad guys who Bobo proceeds to “interrogate” and then kill. You’d think someone back at headquarters would begin to wonder why everyone Kwon is looking up eventually ends up dead, but to think too much would take you out of the film. What’s that? Too late? Well, you were warned, even if for that split second. Your fault.
Getting back into the thick of things, people are being killed as Kwon and Bobo set out on their “investigation” with Kwon clearly serving as an accessory to multiple murders and yet he continues to tell Bobo how he’ll have to answer for his crimes some day. Things lead here and there, a big bad guy (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) is at the top of the food chain, he has a weaselly businessman (Christian Slater) in his pocket and a mercenary (Jason Momoa) at his disposal. Oh, and he’s stupid enough to make a deal for a flash drive, forgetting how easy it is to copy flash drives. You know, on those newfangled computers everyone has been talking about.
I understand, in a movie like this you’re not supposed to look at the details so closely. You’re supposed to just sit back and enjoy the bloodshed. In that case, tell your characters to shut up! Even Slater’s character, at one point, says something to the effect of, “Thank God for Google!” Yes, Kwon, stop telling me about all the great information you were able to find on your smartphone and how great it is. If you want to stop being a cop and go work at T-Mobile be my guest, just leave me out of it.
Hill contracted Steve Mazzaro for his first feature film score after a variety of small jobs including The Dark Knight Rises and the video game Assassin’s Creed III, but that billing makes it seem like he may be an up-and-comer. I swear, if I hear any more tick-tick-ticking of drum sticks, generic guitar licks and drum loops I may go insane. Mazzaro may have been scoring a porn film with a hitman “subplot” for how cheap this sounded.
The film’s editing was equally cheap up to, and including, a scene of a falling shirt in slow motion and flashy freeze frame iMovie-esque cuts. Stop trying so hard!
At 91 minutes, this easily could have been stripped down to 80 or less and it may have been a whole lot better. Get rid of all the unnecessary chatter. These guys aren’t interesting in the slightest.
Walter Hill is best known for films such as 48 Hrs. and The Warriors. He’s a ’70s and ’80s man and based on appearances it would seem he’s trying to force his style into today’s modern films instead of just doing what he does best. It’s a film that reeks of a lack of confidence and someone trying to do something they aren’t comfortable with. Looking over his entire filmography, nothing plays like this, up to and including the Alien films he wrote and produced and as far back as his screenplay for Sam Peckinpah‘s The Getaway.
It’s a shame this is the kind of film making directors and studios feel is necessary for today’s audiences as this very easily could have been a lot more gritty, a lot less talky and a whole lot better had they gotten out of their own heads and stopped trying to make what they thought people wanted and instead made something the world of cinema needs.