By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Talk about expendable.
Sylvester Stallone follows up The Expendables and The Expendables 2 with another tough-guy flick, Bullet to the Head, a jokey action thriller that’s little more than a glorified shoot-em-up bereft of glory.
It’s the kind of brutally violent actioner sporting a sky-high body count and an obnoxious nonchalance about life and death that enrages folks critical of the media’s part in real-world violent tragedies.
The simplistic plot finds Stallone playing heavily tattooed James Bonomo, called Jimmy Bobo by just about everybody, a tough, world-weary New Orleans hit man with a sense of irony whose partner (Jon Seda), with whom Bobo killed a corrupt ex-cop, is murdered by a mercenary (Jason Momoa).
Taylor Kwon, a young Korean detective from Washington, DC played by Sung Kang, whose partner was the man Bobo knocked off, believes the murders are connected, so he looks up Bobo, who rescues him when a group of corrupt cops attempt to assassinate him.
The odd couple, one young and one old, one high-tech and one low-tech, one new school and one old school, then team up -– reluctantly — to look into the apparent gangland feud and find out just what’s going on.
Their investigation leads them to a manipulative lawyer played by Christian Slater, who works for an unscrupulous real estate developer (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje).
Slowly but surely, as the new partners keep plugging away, the mystery unravels and the connections reveal themselves.
Stallone still has a way with a wisecrack one-liner, which goes a long way in a movie that lacks even an iota of real-world credibility. So he teaches his far-less-experienced co-star something about the usefulness of sheer presence in a trashy popcorn flick.
Veteran director Walter Hill (48 Hrs., The Warriors, Hard Times, Streets of Fire, The Long Riders), working on his first film in a decade, co-wrote the nonsensical screenplay with Alessandro Camon based on Du Plomb Dans La Tete, a French graphic novel by Alexis Nolent.
Why he leans so heavily on frenetic action and cartoonish violence rather than story values and Stallone’s persona only he can know.
The grisly, bone-crunching action sequences are undeniably visceral, but they feature the kind of fidgety editing that seems designed to hide rather than reveal just what’s going on. And the level of tension is less than intended.
Hill puts his stamp on the generic outing by including references to the classic western The Searchers and featuring jaunty banter between Stallone and Kang that recalls that between Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in Hill’s comedic action
thriller, 48 Hrs.
But that title still ends up being entirely appropriate.
So we’ll head off 1½ stars out of 4 for a numbingly lowbrow, if mercifully brief, action thriller. Stallone may have his sly moments, but Bullet to the Head is just as objectionable as its title.