Bullet to the Head (2012) a (mildly) belated review

I suspect most people, while about to watch a “new” movie, approach the subject before them with a certain amount of optimism and/or good will.  They hope the film they’re about to see is, at the very least, worth their time.  One feels even more optimistic about the film they’re about to watch when one is a fan of the work of one or more of the people involved in the film.

In the case of last year’s barely-theatrically-released Bullet to the Head, directed by Walter Hill, I’ve noted several times in several posts to being a big fan of his movies.  Starting with 1975’s Hard Times (his directorial debut) and going through such classics (in my opinion) as The Driver, The Warriors, The Shadow Riders, Southern Comfort48 Hours (perhaps his biggest hit) and up to 1984’s Streets of Fire, Mr. Hill had quite a run of incredible, testosterone fueled hits.

Following Streets of Fire, however, Mr. Hill hit something of a rough patch.  While a few of the films that followed had their moments, the overall quality of many of the theatrical films he directed after this point was noticeably…less.

Still, I’ve kept an eye out for his new works.  When I heard he had paired up with Sylvester Stallone to make an action film/crime drama, I was intrigued.  I eagerly awaited word of when the film would be released, fully intent on giving it a whirl while it was in theaters.  Time passed.  Then more time.

And more.

It seemed obvious the movie studio bankrolling the film wasn’t all that thrilled with the final product.  BY the time Bullet to the Head was finally released theatrically, it was done with little to no major promotion and, subsequently (and not surprisingly), the movie disappeared rather quickly before reaching the home video market.

Did the film deserve this fate?

When I put the film into my DVD player, I hoped for the best while, in the back of my mind, I braced for the worst.  For the first twenty or so minutes of the film, things looked good.

Mr. Stallone plays James Bonomo, a hired killer.  He and his younger partner take on their latest target and eliminate him.  Afterwards, they go to a bar to unwind and pick up the second half of the payment for their job.  Bonomo’s partner, however, is viciously knifed and killed.  The assassin, Keegan (Jason Momoa), tries to do the same with Bonomo but fails to take down the more senior of the two hit men.

Enter Taylor Kwan (Sung Kang), an out of town cop who arrives to investigate Bonomo and his partner’s latest victim.  Turns out he was Kwan’s boozy ex-partner and a man who may have incriminating evidence related to some very powerful interests within this big city.  Kwan quickly connects Bonomo to the hit and manages to meet with him.  Both men, interestingly enough, seek the same thing: The people who hired Bonomo to perform this latest kill.

Thus, we have the set up for this buddy action/adventure/crime drama:  A by the book cop and a bloody hit man are forced to partner up to get to the bottom of this case.

Sadly, despite starting well enough, the film loses steam with each passing minute.  Both Bonomo and Kwan are simply not very intriguing characters and their “bickering” is never terribly funny or engaging.  The story, too, unfolds in a highly predictable manner, offering few surprises along the way to a rather unimpressive climax.

While I wish I could say that Mr. Hill has delivered a film worthy of his early classics, Bullet to the Head is ultimately a very average film.  It is certainly not terrible, but neither is it ever all that much more than mediocre.  A real pity.