In Bullet to the Head, James “Bobo” Bonomo (played by Sylvester Stallone), a New Orleans hitman, teams up with Taylor Kwan (Sung Kang), a D.C. detective, to track down the man who ordered the death of Taylor’s old partner, Bobo, and his partner in crime, Louis Blanchard (Jon Seda).
On their journey to finding “the man,” they get in the crosshairs of a ruthless mercenary, Keegan (Jason Momoa).
Bullet to the Head is heavy on its titular plot points and way too light on acting talent. Adapting the script from Alexis Nolent’s graphic novel, Du Plomb Dans la Tete, screenwriter Alessandro Camon is responsible for this two-bit story that tries to thrive on location, location, location (read: New Orleans), but falls flat on its face with its weak plot. Likewise, director Walter Hill made little attempt to make sure his film made sense to his audience.
The audience is supposed to believe that the bad guy, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s politician Robert Morel, who needs two canes to walk, is really evil because he says he “did bad things.”
We are supposed to believe that the lawyer Morel uses to find guys to do bad things for him, Christian Slater’s Marcus Baptiste, is such a playboy because he throws parties where everyone wears masks and there are women who are paid to walk around naked. The audience also is supposed to believe that Stallone’s Bobo is still a force to be reckoned with and not the kind of guy you want to box with.
There are a lot of things Camon expects his audience to realize, but doesn’t exactly help them out. The entire story takes Bobo and Taylor through the streets of New Orleans looking for one “bad guy” after another, so that Bobo can kill that guy to get to the next.
Camon then throws in Keegan for fun. Keegan is supposed to be the underling, but really shines as the ultimate bad guy in this story. Which brings us to performances.
Stallone, still shredded at 65 years old, is such an action hero pro that he can viably carry Bullet himself. Alas, a weak story about a guy who kills by shooting people in the head is not the kind of movie he should be starring in.
That shows the most when he is acting opposite Kwan, who seems unable to wake up long enough to perform. If Stallone and
Taylor are supposed to be a yin-and-yang buddy duo, they fail miserably with their lack of bro-chemistry.
Kwan’s breakout role came with the worst film of the Fast and Furious franchise (Tokyo Drift), playing Han, a racing baddie.
His acting was wooden in those films, too. However, the story was there, so no one really paid attention to it. But in Bullet, it’s painfully obvious that he’s way out of his league – especially in his scenes with Stallone, where they don’t riff well off of each other.
But Kwan isn’t the only one who just can’t get it together to act in this film. Stallone has even less chemistry with Sarah Shahi’s Lisa, who is supposed to be Bobo’s daughter. Their awkward interaction makes you squirm a little. Shahi showcases her best asset, her sex appeal, but forgets that when you’re talking to your “dad,” it’s not the time to be sexy. Like Kwan, Shahi too, could not act her way out of a paper bag.
Akinnuoye-Agbaje seems to be doing a villain impression. The only thing he’s missing is a thick mustache that he can twirl while telling Keegan to “bring me his body,” Flash Gordon style. Akinnuoye-Agbaje never comes off as the villain, just the guy with the money, who’s smart enough to employ dense mercenaries, or so he thought.
Enter Momoa, who tends to pick the wrong movies to showcase his acting prowess. Just as with Conan, Momoa brings to Bullet his large size, deadly moves (especially when wielding an ax), and the kind of evil stare that’s innately scary.
Momoa should have been the only villain in this film.He and Stallone work off each other quite nicely. Then again,
Momoa as an actor is good with playing nicely with others, and always looks like he’s having fun doing it.
With Bullet to the Head, a film that makes overuse of a pun, there isn’t much substance to hold its audience. It’s a fine one for Stallone to show that he’s still in fighting shape, but the totally wrong vehicle for Momoa, who really can carry a movie. He just needs the right script. Better luck next time, Jason.