Bullet to the Head is straightforward, predictable and as bland as the title of the movie, which surprisingly accounts for the choice of Stallone’s drink, Bullet Bourbon. However, that is not to say that director Walter Hill’s film doesn’t deliver what the audience can expect from a Stallone crime and action film. Does the muscular brutality and shoot ’em up thriller hit the right level of execution or miss the target shot?
The film begins in shades of black and white underneath railway tracks, focusing on Taylor Kwon, WDCPD (Sung Kang , Fast and Furious), who steps into a car and meets a gun to his head. Before the trigger is pulled, an outside shooter kills the mysterious gunman, and we see James (‘Jimmy’) Bonomo (Sylvester Stallone) pouting through the broken window.
Following the opening scene is a mug shot of tough guy, Jimmy, with a voiceover explaining the narrative progression of the film; “The guy I just saved is a cop. That’s not the usual way I do things, but sometimes you gotta abandon your principles and do what’s right. Here’s a story. This is the way it went down.”
From the city streets of New Orleans to two hitmen posing as Federal Agents, Jimmy and his partner, Louis (Jon Seda) interrupt the dance routine of a drunk and high ex-cop, Hank Greely (Holt McCallany) in his black underwear, (awaiting sex from the hooker in his shower). Louis temporarily puts down Hank in two shots, but a bullet to the head is more precise for Jimmy, in finishing the break-in and murder job. As for the Russian hooker, we find out that Jimmy has a soft spot for young females with tattoos; considering his daughter, Lisa (Sarah Shahi), is a tattooist herself.
Both men go to the Crawfish Hollow Bar and Grill to meet up with the man who hired them, Ronnie Earl (Brian Van Holt), unaware they are being hunted down by the brutal mercenary, Keegan (Jason Momoa, Game of Thrones). Jimmy returns to the bar after being attacked in the bathroom, to discover his partner is bleeding out.
In an attempt to resolve the death of his former associate, Hank Greely, Taylor calls Jimmy in regards to same enemy being responsible for the murder of Louis. The manhunt for vengeance is the basis for a cop and criminal forming an alliance, offering the audience a new perspective on breaking the law for justice. Without being too critical though, there is no evidence within the film that favours police detectives that follow their duty to protect and serve society. Bullet to Head prioritises on the deceptive side of the legal and justice system; in that no one can be trusted at all and betrayal is derived from greed and survival of the most powerful. Within reason, Taylor assists Jimmy in tracking the men who double-crossed them; taking them out one-by-one and closing the case once and for all.
Stallone is a stand out actor and narrator, giving the audience not only a piece of his weapon, but his mindset. One of my favourite Stallone quotes in the film is; “Guns don’t kill people, bullets do. You made two big mistakes; you should have checked the weight and you should have never tried to burn me.” Sung Kang, performed reasonably well in his role as the detective associate, but did not suit the helpless victim, manipulated by his own colleagues and dependent on a hitman for saving.
Without giving away too much of the plot, within the film you will notice that the characters have a way of explaining each event before and after it takes place, which becomes an irritating default as there is not much left for the audience to assume. Needless to say, the ending is predictable; “nothing much changed, except some people got killed that nobody’s ever going to miss”. However, the straightforward manner of story-telling does the film a great justice in effectively executing each event from the beginning to end scenes.
The Blu-Ray edition features amazing high-definition visuals throughout the film, from contrasting black and white to colour scenes and incorporating orange and red flashes between character movements and transitions. The visual elements create an additional burst of energy that draws in the audience’s attention; especially during the slow motion shoot-out and fighting scenes. I will admit that the slow pace of the film does make 91 minutes feel like 121 minutes; yet the constant and ruthless action makes up for the drawn-out story.
The Blu-Ray edition provides viewers with a Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound audio test and calibration to better suit their movie experience. The jazzy bass soundtrack reminds me of a Law and Order: SVU episode, playing the same upbeat and suspenseful tune in specific scenes to accompany a shoot-out. Steve Mazzaro composed and Hans Zimmer produced the original music of the film, with badass titles including; Guns Don’t Kill People, Vikings and This Is My City. Jay Weigel, who grew up in New Orleans, should also be credited for the music he produced and wrote; Bourbon Street Parade, Main Street Special Family and J’Etais Au Bal. The clean-cut and striking music suits the intense atmosphere and unwilling association between WDCPD detective, Taylor and long-time criminal and hitman, Jimmy.
Bullet to the Head is a raw and powerful film that stays true to the title and genre as an action, crime and thriller. The audience can expect a bullet to the head, but there is no need to name who take’s the final shot. Unfortunately, there are no special features included with this particular Blu-Ray edition. Nevertheless, Bullet to the Head brings Alexis Nolent’s French graphic novel, Du Plomb Dans La Tete, to life and draws upon the aesthetics of fighting from the 80’s and 90’s era; whilst incorporating humour to compliment the level of controversy explored between legal and illegal actions.
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