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

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILMREVIEWS -

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

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