Blu-ray Review: Bullet to the Head

STUDIO: Warner | DIRECTOR: Walter Hill | CAST: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Jon Seda, Christian Slater, Jason Momoa
7/16/2013 | PRICE: Blu-ray/DVD Combo $35.99
BONUSES: featurette
SPECS: R | 92 min. | Action thriller | 1.78:1 widescreen | DTS-HS Master Audio 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

The first-ever collaboration between Sylvester Stallone (The Expendables) and the grand action auteur Walter Hill (The Driver, The Long Riders), Bullet to the Head isn’t a great entry for either of the Hollywood journeymen, whose best movies are probably behind them, but it does enthusiastically recall the two at the height of their powers—which flare up here from time-to-time—and reminds us how they got there.

Stallone is veteran New Orleans hitman Jimmy Bobo (arrests: 26; prison terms: 2) who’s forced into an unlikely alliance with a D.C. cop (Sung Kang) to bring down the killers of their respective partners. Along the way, the two men develop a respect for each other (a la Hill’s 48 Hrs.) as they punch, stab and shoot they way across the Big Easy to a climactic axe fight between Stallone and Conan the Barbarian’s big, bad Jason Momoa (in a battle that’s reminiscent of the sledge hammer duel in Hill’s Streets of Fire).

Bullet to the Head movie scene

Sylvester Stallone (l.) and Jason Momoa have axes to grind in Bullet to the Head.

Lean, rough, violent and punctuated by Hill’s trademark action sequences, Bullet to the Head’s battling buddy story and spare, hard-boiled dialogue isn’t really anything we haven’t seen before. But, again, it offers Stallone and Hill (directing his first feature in over a decade) an opportunity to have some hard-hitting fun, the kind they unleashed regularly way back in the late Seventies and Eighties.

Bursting with biceps, pecs and veins, Stallone, at the age of 67, sports a freakishly cut physique, accentuated even further by the colorful tattoos that adorn his arms and chest. Hill’s tight mise-en-scene and sharp editing works to the film and Sly’s advantage, keeping his numerous hand-to-hand battles and gunfights strong and effective. Even when the action approaches the levels that have become the norm in today’s cinema, it always remains a grimace away from going cartoonishly over-the-top.

The cinematography by Lloyd Ahem (who shot Hill’s last film, the 2002 prison boxing drama Undisputed) is rich and textured in its Blu-ray incarnation, loving every minute of  New Orleans’ neon-lit streets and Stallone and Momoa’s angular forms. Co-star Sarah Shahi (TV’s Fairly Legal), as Sly’s tattoo artist daughter, comes off pretty sweetly as well.

The Blu-ray contains the featurette “Bullet to the Head: Mayhem Inc.,” a standard EPK-styled featurette that offers some lively glimpses of the men doing what they do so well, along with a chance for Sly’s co-stars, including Freaky Deaky’s Christian Slater and The Pacific‘s Jon Seda, to gush about working with the man.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.