Six years ago, Sylvester Stallone retired his career-defining screen personas Rocky Balboa and Rambo, via send-off films named after each respective character (though, he continues to talk about Rambo 5 on-and-off). Sly went on to find success teaming with his fellow aging muscleheads in the Expendables franchise, but next year's Bullet to the Head will test the 66-year-old's ability to carry an action-thriller on his own.
The Bullet to the Head trailer verged on self-parody, but the international promo drops some of the self-effacing humor and more footage featuring Sly killing people, stuff blowing up, and the adrenaline-fueled axe fight between Stallone and Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones). It doesn't make the film appear to have much personality, but it's certainly flashy.
Bullet to the Head is based on Alexis Nolent's Headshot graphic novel series (first published in 2004), but the story is ripped right from the buddy-action genre that director Walter Hill (48 Hours, Red Heat) and Sly specialized a couple decades ago. The film revolves around New Orleans hitman Jimmy Bobo (Stallone) as he prepares for retirement, when his partner is murdered and daughter kidnapped by criminals whose boss (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) wants revenge against Jimmy for taking out several of his men.
Sung Kang (Fast Five) plays the out-of-town cop whose partner was killed by the same thugs, providing a convenient excuse for him and Sly to form a volatile alliance against their common enemies. Bullet to the Head appears to be posing Kang as the younger, hipper, law-abiding cop opposite Sly's older, trigger-happy, killer for hire - so, hopefully, you're a fan of old man jokes (or cracks about modern music) in your action movies.
Stallone's latest action flick seems less self-aware than Expendables 2, though the latter's tongue-in-cheek manner was its saving grace. Not to mention, Hill hasn't helmed a film since Undisputed in 2002 and, at one point, there were rumors that an early cut was so cluttered that Sly had to step in and taking over the editing process (though, those claims have since been shot down - no pun intended).
Hopefully, though, Bullet will prove to be good, cheesy, fun and offer more reason to be excited about Sly's upcoming non-Expendables titles, such as the recently-announced Hunter. If not, though, Stallone will get a second shot (again, no pun) in the second half of 2013, when he re-teams with Arnold Schwarzenegger for the prison escape thriller The Tomb.
Look for Bullet to the Head to reach theaters on February 1st, 2013.