Posted by: pop-break | February 5, 2013

Film Review: Bullet to the Head

daniel cohen takes them out…

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Plot: After aging hitman James Bonomo (Sylvester Stallone) loses his partner (Jon Seda) in a set-up, Bonomo reluctantly aligns himself with a cop named Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) who is also investigating the case. The two discover the murder is part of a huge cover up. As they continue to uncover the culprits, the tension between Bonomo and Kwon continues to rise.

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In the history of movies, there isn’t a title more fitting then Bullet to the Head. There are so many bullets to the head in this film, I honestly lost track. With that little tidbit in mind, and the fact that this is a Rated-R Stallone actioner, we sure as hell get one brutal, harsh, but also pretty darn entertaining little film. The first five minutes are a little off-putting, as it looks like the movie was filmed in a drunken haze as the opening credits go by, but once it settles down, and Stallone gets into the zone, I had a blast.

And Stallone really does shine here. His performance is nothing earth shattering, it’s still his usual ‘I look really tired, but I’m still a bad ass’ level acting job, but I think the reason why it comes across as elevated is because the dialogue really does pop. The movie does a great job of developing the partnership between Stallone’s character, the gritty hitman Bonomo, and Taylor Kwon, the cop he partners up with. Bonomo makes no bones about his feelings on cops, making for a tense relationship between the two. But the banter these guys have is also really funny. There’s a great scene where Kwon claims his phone is the greatest weapon they have, but Bonomo answers him in so many words on why his knife is superior. Even though this is a contentious relationship throughout the whole movie, their light hearted moments are so good, you almost want them to become buddies by the end. The only downside is the acting of Sung Kang who plays Kwon. He’s fine for the most part, but there are moments where he’s trying to hard to be funny.

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The other great conflict is between Bonomo and Keegan, one of the main antagonists played by Jason Momoa. I remember this guy being as charismatic as Droopy the Dog in 2011’s Conan the Barbarian, but he’s actually one of the stand-outs here. He plays sort of a C-level Bane, but Momoa definitely brings a threatening and scary vibe to this guy. And even though him and Bonomo don’t have a lot of scenes together, the film does a good job of building up their conflict as it finally boils over to a satisfying conclusion when they finally face off. And while their final fight is kind of stupid, I had fun with it. It’s the same thing they try to do in Jack Reacher, where the villain doesn’t really need to resort to a fight. And even though I like that film better, it doesn’t work as well as it does in Bullet to the Head.

As for the fighting, it’s filmed really well for the most part. They are absolutely brutal, but aren’t overly long. At times it’s guilty of my mortal enemy, the shaky cam, but it never becomes a huge problem. There’s one fight in particular in a Turkish bath where this innocent woman basically has to watch not only Bonomo interrogate some scum bag, but also has to watch these guys absolutely beat the crap out of each other. It was actually pretty interesting to watch this random person see this as we are so used to all the extraneous characters running off screen right before a big fight is about to take place.

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While there are a lot of predictable plot elements, I can forgive that stuff when the dialogue and characters have personality, which is rare for a movie like this, but Bullet to the Head offered me just that. The way Bonomo and Kwon’s relationship wraps up was also very satisfying. My biggest complaint though is with the plot itself. The whole idea of Bonomo’s set-up progressively leading to bigger and bigger cover-ups basically goes nowhere, as this seemed like filler to get to the real meat of the film, which is the conflict between Bonomo and Keegan. The music is also pretty terrible, just loud and obnoxious. I mentioned Jack Reacher earlier, which this film has a lot of similarities to. And while Jack Reacher is slightly superior, this film succeeds in moving at a much quicker pace. Bullet to the Head doesn’t dilly daddle…it’s a fun, hardcore Stallone romp with surprisingly good writing between the two leads.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Very Good)

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