Lots of crime action fans will enjoy ‘Bullet to the Head’

By Gary Clift

It may be too soon to say we’ve entered a new golden age of crime action movies. But we have been on a little run of good ones. The most recent Bond movie, “Skyfall,” was just terrific. Tom Cruise had a good one in December called “Jack Reacher.”

Schwarzenegger’s “The Last Stand” was a lot of fun, and Jason Statham’s “Parker” wasn’t far from classic. So if the new Sylvester Stallone movie, “Bullet to the Head,” isn’t up to the standard to which we’ve recently become accustomed, that doesn’t mean its a bad movie.

It isn’t. It was directed by Walter Hill, who has been entertaining us as a movie writer (a couple of Alien movies and “The Drowning Pool,” for example) and director (“48 Hours” and “Last Man Standing”) for forty years. “Bullet to the Head” is set in New Orleans, always atmospheric.

It features Christian Slater as one of its villains and lots of attractive young women, some of them naked. The solid Steve Marazzo music isn’t used with the sort of tact that would have gotten the most out of it, but it is a strong score. The plot has plenty of twists, and though the action scenes are filmed too close up, they are decent action scenes—one is a duel of hit men with fire axes.

And maybe the best thing about “Bullet to the Head” is that it uses Sung Kang, an experienced and accomplished American actor of Korean descent. He communicates things with facial expressions and postures, leaving Stallone to be the inscrutable character, Jimmy Bonomo. Jim is a professional killer who works out of Nola.

With his partner, he offs a coked-up former cop from out of town. But when the shooters go to pick up their pay for the job, the partner is killed by a long-haired former military man who also goes after Jim. Luckily the old guy is too quick for him.

Kwon (Kang) comes to town to look into the murder of his old partner—the coke swiller. He associates the death of the crooked cop with that of the local killer, in part because both their bodies are in the morgue at the same time. But the New Orleans cops aren’t keen on having him join their investigation.

So using his phone and the data base at his own department, he finds out about the dead hit-man’s known associates. He meets with Jimmy who may be impressed that Kwon has connected the two deaths. Together they go off to find the long haired killer and the crime boss—a real estate developer from Africa—who ordered the original murder done.

There isn’t much in the way of new settings here—small bars, large derelict industrial properties, and Jimmy’s daughter’s tattoo parlor. But the script does set up a few ideas that will be used later in the story. Now if only the dialog was sharper, this would be a fairly attractive package.

But it isn’t. The carefully prepared tricks are deployed at the wrong times. And there probably aren’t enough minutes filled with guys shooting and hitting.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the movie, and I think a lot of crime action fans will enjoy it too if they don’t compare it to the superior genre movies that have played in town the last couple of months. And then, too, previews for Bruce Willis’s latest Die Hard movie, this one set in Russia, are playing on the program with just about every movie in town.

Let’s not get our hopes up too high for that movie. And let’s not expect too much from “Bullet to the Head.” Then we’ll give ourselves the best chance to be satisfied.

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