‘Bullet to the Head’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 18th, 2014 at 3:43 am,

Bullet to the Head review starring Sylvester Stallone Sung Kang and Jason Momoa Bullet to the Head Review

Action fans, saddle up. Sly fans, saddle up. Those not into gritty and brutal looks at machismo characters bloodying each other up and talking foul, move on.

Bullet to the Head brings Sylvester Stallone center stage into the action genre that made him a legend – this time without the support system of his macho ensemble of friends as seen in The Expendables franchise. Does Sly still have the chops to make it in the modern age of stylized action flicks with their complicated protagonists (modern Bond, Bourne, etc…)?

The story revolves around a career hit man named Jimmy Bonomo (Stallone) who is double-crossed by his employers, resulting in the death of his partner Louis (Jon Seda) at the hands of  an unstoppable killing machine named Keegan (Jason Momoa). Jimmy is approached by a crafty cop named Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) who wants to use Jimmy’s beef to help solve his own case. Only Kwon must learn that in Jimmy’s (under)world, the rule of law and order is no rule at all.

Bullet to the Head  is a about as conventional and dunder-headed an action flick as they make – but that’s not to say that it’s all bad. Thanks to some lasting charisma on Stallone’s part, great chemistry between him and Kang – not to mention all the brutal, bloody thrills that action heads look for in their beloved genre – the film turns out to be an enjoyable enough B-movie ride.

Sung Kang in Bullet to the Head 2013 Bullet to the Head Review

At the helm is the legendary writer/producer/director Walter Hill, which is a lot of the reason why Bullet to the Head is at all memorable – and definitely well-crafted in a lot of respects. This film plays like a more modern and violent version of 48 Hrs.  – a movie (and its sequel) which Hill both wrote and directed. Add films like Red Heat, The GetawayExtreme Prejudice and Last Man Standing  to his writing and/or directing resume, and it’s clear that – at least on a “B” level – Hill is no stranger to action.

Fortunately for fans of the genre,  Bullet to the Head delivers on that front. While the fight choreography might not be on the level of modern martial arts-influenced action films, some old-school smart sequencing by Hill results in a number of set pieces that deliver visceral thrills that few of those modern films can manage. It could be argued that – for better or worse – this is one of the most authentic ’80s/’90s action throwbacks we’ve gotten (sorry, Expendables…).

On the humor side: the same racially-charged banter that made the 48 hrs. Eddie Murphy/Nick Nolte pairing so fun is replicated in the relationship between Jimmy and Kwon. You could make a drinking game out of the amount of racist Asian jokes this movie throws around – so be warned if you’re sensitive on that front. In terms of overarching narrative; Alessandro Camon’s (The Messenger) adaptation of Alexis Nolent’s graphic novel manages to make a mess of even the most basic storyline (climb the ladder of scumbags). Lots of silly voiceover and hokey dialogue – thankfully, the banter between our principal characters (Kwon and Jimmy)  balances out oor attempts at drama, and even the climatic moment when the whole story just comes apart at the seams. In short: the film is enough fun to forgive the obvious stupidity.

Bullet to the Head starring Sylvester Stallone Bullet to the Head Review

Stallone may be getting older, but aside from his questionable toy-soldier posture and walk, he’s still a captivating onscreen badass. Jimmy is one of the more crass and violent roles Sly has been given to play, and he embraces it wholeheartedly. There are enough shades of complexity to put him above being a one-note cliche – but he’s not exactly the deep portrait of a man, either.

Sung Kang (star of films like Fast Five) has always brought a sort of cool and laid-back charisma – which he puts to great use making Kwon a more sensible (and tech savvy) foil for Jimmy. It’d be easy for a relative unknown to be steamrolled by Sly’s braggadocio swagger – but Kang definitely holds his own and – despite many jokes at his expense – makes a serious case for Asian actors headlining American action flicks outside the usual stereotypical paradigms. That’s to say: He’s a solid enough leading man in his own right.

Bullet to the Head also comes with a somewhat surprising lineup of famous faces in supporting roles, including Christian Slater sleaze-balling it as a corrupt lawyer (who throws a pretty sweet party) and Lost star Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who plays what may be the (strangest?) (most original?) semi-crippled villainous mastermind seen in an action flick. Sarah Shahi is a pretty hot addition as the female tattoo artist from Jimmy’s personal life, whom Kwon takes a liking to.

Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje in Bullet to the Head Bullet to the Head Review

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Jason Momoa in ‘Bullet to the Head’

However, the real star of the show (besides Sly, of course) is Jason Momoa – best known for his roles in shows like Stargate: Atlantis and Game of Thrones. As Keegan, Momoa takes the henchman role to a whole other level – many of the film’s slickest, hardest-hitting and downright sick sequences are totally owned by the brutish action star. There is good reason to be genuinely concerned for our protagonists in this film. By the time Stallone and Momoa are swinging axes at each other, action junkies will have gotten their money’s worth. Those hoping for a more intellectually-stimulating time? The feeling of absurdity will be about peak-high at that point.

Bullet to the Head also has the proud distinction of being one of the most obvious product-plugging films seen in a long time. We even get one great scene wholly dedicated to plugging Bullit Bourbon (for a second or third time) which  – as a proud drinker of said bourbon since 2005 – is so shameless that it can’t help but be funny. This movie definitely has a nice dose of kitsch.

Action fans, saddle up. Sly fans, saddle up. Those not into gritty and brutal looks at machismo characters bloodying each other up and talking foul, move on. From the title screen to the deafeningly-loud gunshot that precedes the title screen, Bullet to the Head fires forward on its intended mission of mayhem –  and you get the feeling it could care less what you think about it.

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Bullet to the Head is now in theaters. It is 91 minutes and is Rated R for scenes of violence, gore, sex, nudity, profanity, alcohol/drugs/smoking and frightening or intense scenes.


Our Rating:

3 out of 5

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  1. Great,looking forward to this ! My friends and I can’t wait to see it as soon as its here in the Cinema !

  2. I’ve heard in other reviews that kang is the weak link of the film! That he has no screen presence and has no chemistry with Sly! I have no idea which reviews to believe…

    • General rule of thumb: always screen rant.

  3. Finally, an R-rated action movie!!!!! I’m sick of this PG-13 crap, the studios have gotten soft.

  4. 2013 is the 1980s all over again… Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger.

    • 80’s was a good era. :)

  5. I suggest that people read the review in USA Today. It’s a doozy.

    • Well, when you see a review actually BRAGGING about over-the-top paid product placement, as if it’s cool or something, yeah. Need to move on to another review. Movie probably still sucks, but I need someone not turned-on by even more ways for movies to make money.

    • Just read it for myself….Wow, talk about a difference in opinion! It personally doesn’t change my mind in seeing this movie though. I tend to lean heavily with Screen Rant reviews over other reviews. The USA Today movie reviewer seems like a douche bag anyway, so who cares what he thinks! Go Sly!

  6. I love Sly! I’m definitely seeing this!

  7. Just came back from checking this out. I agree that Mamoa was a pretty good badazz, but ole Sly still showed why he’s still a dragon slayer.

    Fun movie with a few huge plot holes, but meh, who’s going to a Sly flick for the plot?

    The only knock I give it is the super close Batman like fight scenes. Shame because Mamoa moves like a demon.

  8. The relationships between the characters felt a bit forced to me, like they had neither like nor dislike for one another. The loyalty between Sly’s daughter and the cop didn’t ring true without a credible spark of interest between them. Mamoa definitely walked away with the movie but Stallone was still impressive.

  9. Always prefer old school action…too much CGI packed movies r lame ( Not Avengers )
    Screen rant see what i see…
    I am going for it….

  10. Can you find out when my bank account is going to receive that money from Nigeria?

  11. Looks like this flick is bombing really, really hard. It only made $1.7 million on Friday and will probably make less than $5 million for the whole weekend.

  12. I’m probably going to check this out on Monday or Tuesday for a matinee. It looks like it’s going to be a fun, mow-down-the-popcorn kind of movie.

  13. Was a pretty bad a$$ action flick. Although Kang felt a bit displaced to me. Like this type of movie just doesn’t fit his mold. IDK maybe it’s just my opinion, but I feel he’s more suited for movies like FAF. That being said, he did a pretty good job considering. And Jason Mamoa plays a nice bad guy.. This movie is definitely worth the price of admission, especially if you are particular to Sly like I am. I grew up watching him and the other 1980 action stars like Willis and Arnold, and they are always welcome on my silver screen. :)

  14. “Weronika Rosati is a pretty hot addition as the female tattoo artist from Jimmy’s personal life, whom Kwon takes a liking to.”

    Pretty sure that was the prostitute at the beginning of the film. Sarah Shahi is the actress who plays the tattoo artist.

  15. Weronika Rosati is not in this movie, it’s Sarah Shahi.

  16. it was just as good as red heat and 48 hrs. best walter hill film i’ve seen. i enjoyed the 48 hrs films, red heat,extreme prejudice, johnny handsome and last man standing from walter hill. hop to see more good action films from hill and stallone, rourke, willis, schwarzenegger,etc

  17. It’s good. Sly has been making the same films for 30 years now. If you’re still not sure if you like ’em or not, don’t go see them. Also as a rule you should read USA Today for any reason, let alone hipsters that review movies. I’ve given Kofi crap for reviews before, but he’s at least fair and views each movie as it’s own film. A lot of film critics view movies from one vantage point. You can’t watch Bullet to the Head the same way you watch Flight or something like it. Not the same kind of movie.

  18. I think the next big action star should be his adversary in bullet to the head

  19. Walter Hill could’ve taken this entire cast and given us a badass Western as opposed to this film. Stallone is the right age to portray an aging gunfighter defending his town and its people from bad guys in black hats.