Director: Walter Hill; Screenwriter: Alessandro Camon; Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Jason Momoa, Christian Slater, Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje; Running time: 91 mins; Certificate: 15
Sylvester Stallone has proved a dab hand at resurrection in recent years. As well as bringing back his boxing underdog Rocky Balboa and Vietnam vet John Rambo, the '80s icon has rehabilitated the careers of a whole host of action stars in The Expendables franchise.
For his next trick, Stallone is looking to reignite Walter Hill, a director who hit semi-legendary status in the '70s and '80s with lean and tight action thrillers The Driver, The Warriors and 48 Hrs. Think precursors to Michael Mann and Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive.
Bullet to the Head does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. It's a revenge flick swimming in blood, bullet holes and awkward buddy banter between Stallone's hitman Jimmy Bobo and straight-laced Washington cop Taylor Kwon (Fast & Furious veteran Sung Kang).
The plot - what little of it there is - comes from French graphic novel Du plomb dans la tête by way of a Alessandro Camon script. When Sly's Bobo sees his partner stabbed to death by mercenary Keegan (Conan's Jason Momoa), Kwon makes a connection between his death and a hotel room hit carried out by Bobo. It emerges that both may have a common foe, so naturally they team up in a bid to get to the bottom of the slayings.
Hill navigates through the New Orleans malaise with car chases, gun battles and wise-cracks galore. Trouble is, this is all stuff we've seen countless times before. Stallone might be 66 and still fit as a fiddle, but Bullet's plot mechanics and characters are badly showing their age. It wouldn't be a shock if someone told you this flick was an unearthed straight-to-video blast-'em-up from Hill's heyday. Even then it would feel dated.
Perfunctory plot turns like an estranged daughter in peril (Sarah Shahi) and a villain (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) with eyes on bulldozing real estate to make cash (done already this year in Broken City and Jack Reacher) also come into play, while Christian Slater paychecks it as a dubious businessman who, though he's not on screen long, at least knows how to throw a memorable house party.
Bullet also fails to make a fist of it as a credible buddy comedy, mainly because Kwon doesn't have the presence or charisma to match up to the gravel-voiced Stallone. As a double-act they lack the chemistry and rapport that singled out Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte's cops in 48 Hrs.
The film does back in a few exciting genre thrills - such as the climatic clash between Stallone and Momoa (both bringing axes to a gunfight) - but ultimately it leans too heavily on its leading man's screen persona and struggles to carve out much in the way of originality.