Creaky in the Big Easy
Veteran action ace Walter Hill teams up with Sly Stallone for an ultraviolent, not-very-good tale of an aging hitman in New Orleans, writes Donald Clarke
BULLET TO THE HEAD Directed by Walter Hill. Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jason Momoa, Christian Slater
16 cert, gen release, 91 min
If you were minded to be generous, you might argue that Bullet to the Head is the picture The Expendables dearly wished to be. It’s nippy. It’s fantastically violent. And it’s not absolutely terrible.
It’s not good, you understand. Sylvester Stallone’s face – rarely confused with an undulating pond – is now so terrifyingly rigid that, without much sharpening, it could be used for drilling through marble.
The plot has the perfunctory, hastily scribbled feel of a note to the milkman. But Walter Hill, veteran director of classics such as The Driver and The Long Riders, brings a grim solemnity to the violence that clashes divertingly with the glib quips fighting to escape from Sly’s immobile jaw.
The Hill film that springs most urgently to mind is 48 Hours. Stallone plays a solid, savage hitman at work in the dives and alleys of New Orleans (a location that, thanks to tax deals, now appears almost as frequently as does Toronto). One night, after dispatching his target in a posh hotel, he spares a prostitute he finds hiding in the shower. Later his partner is assassinated and – joining forces with a young cop (Sung Kang) – he sets out to track down the perpetrators. Due process is rarely observed.
Based on a French comic book by something called Matz, the film often comes across like the work of confused old geezers. Are we really supposed to marvel at the mad way Sung Kang keeps accessing the internet on his mobile phone? They’ll have remote controls for the telly next.
The creakiness is, however, not altogether a bad thing. Bullet to the Head feels considerably less snarky than its contemporaries in the field of recreational annihilation ( The Expendables included).
Unfortunately, the picture is also confused, ugly, badly acted and far too at home to action cliche. Look, Stallone has a perky daughter. Will she end up tied to a chair in a disused refinery (or something)? You know it.
Gumbo mumble: Sylvester Stallone stands immobile in Bullet to the Head