With a Title Like “Bullet to the Head” You Shouldn’t Expect Subtlety ….

….. and you don’t get it in the latest Sylvester Stallone vehicle.

bullet - poster

The screenplay,  adapted from a French “graphic novel” called  Du plomb dans la tete, casts  Stallone as a  hitman nicknamed “Jimmy Bobo”  (hey, I don’t make these things up) who teams up reluctantly  with a Korean American cop (Sung Kang) to bring down a corrupt former African dictator (Adewale Akinnu0ye-Agbaje) and his Stateside stooge (Christian Slater).

Sarah and Sly - No, They Don't
Sarah and Sly – No, They Don’t

Once Sarah Shahi arrives on the scene, complete with tank top and tattoes, I automatically expected the hot young babe to bed down with the old bear. However, in this regard at least, the movie doesn’t conform to action movie stereotypes and since the flick has some fun playing with our assumptions I’m not gonna spoil the surprise and tell you why.

All you really need to know is that my favorite thug (and probably yours, if you have gotten this far) does what he does best: beating people up, fondling fancy firepower and serving up monosyllabic “dialogue” in a sandpapery, noir-warmed-over drawl. (And he has hired old pro Walter Hill of 48 Hrs. fame to make sure this comic book fantasy comes to bloody, violent life.)

Just because Bullet didn’t make back its budget at the domestic box office doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a flop. Sly has always been big overseas, although a poster on imdb.com named “bartie byler” reveals that the pic arrived direct to video in Poland. (The same page also lists posters who assure us the movie is playing well  in theatres in Bangkok and Malaysia.) Presumably Mr. Kang was cast to appeal to the Asian moviegoing market. (Thomas Jane was originally considered for the role of Stallone’s cop accomplice.)

Sung Kang - According to some reports, Thomas Jane was considered "too white"
Sung Kang – According to some reports, Thomas Jane was considered “too white”

And then there are the DVD sales and rentals. Like many other aging action movie nerds I  waited for Bullet to arrive on DVD. (I also saw Big Arnie’s The Last Stand on DVD, too, and I’m man enuff to admit it.)

Perhaps the surprising box office success of the first two Expendables convinced someone that Stallone and Schwarzenegger were bankable box office stars again. Judging from the dismal domestic haul of Bullet and Stand it doesn’t look like this is the case. On the other hand, Mr. Slater is probably glad to be in anything that plays in the North American multiplex. (His recent career has been littered with DTV cheapies.)

It's Been a Long Time Since the Original Buffy (Kristy Swanson) said "All I want to do is move to France and marry Christian Slater".
It’s Been a Long Time Since the Original Buffy (Kristy Swanson) said “All I want to do is move to France and marry Christian Slater“.

 You gotta give Sly credit, though.  Now over sixty (and, some would say, past his prime) the former box office champ has yet to go down the direct-to-video route, like many of his action movie peers. Instead, like his legendary boxing creation Rocky Balboa, he takes a beating and stays on his feet. (At presstime Mr. Stallone  was working on a third installment in The Expendables franchise.)

Jason Momoa - "That's Mr. Drogo to You, Buddy!"
Jason Momoa – “That’s Mr. Drogo to You, Buddy!”

Speaking of action movie heroes, based on his athletic ability and charismatic presence in this flick, Jason Momoa (yes, Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones) could well have a future in action films, if he chooses to go that way. (At least he didn’t learn his “acting” skills in the WWE.)

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