Film Review: BULLET TO THE HEAD (2012) – directed by Walter Hill

Posted: February 6, 2013 in Film Reviews
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BULLET TO THE HEAD (2012) - directed by Walter Hill

When it comes to action icons of the ’80s, I was always more of a Schwarzenegger guy. So I have to admit that I’m not quite up to date on my Stallone filmography. So where BULLET TO THE HEAD ranks among his best work will have to be a debate held among Stallone historians. As far as this reviewer is concerned, it’s a fairly entertaining action flick with a cast that wouldn’t look out-of-place had Canon released this back in the ’80s.

One thing I found particularly intriguing was the casting of Sung Kang as Stallone’s sidekick. Typically Asian characters are reduced to racial stereotypes literally spouting¬†intelligible dialogue along the lines of, “Ching, Chang, Chong.” But in BULLET TO THE HEAD, we’re given a fleshed out, three-dimensional Korean lead who goes toe to toe with Stallone both verbally and physically. Action films have sure come a long way and it’s refreshing to see America get with the times.

Stallone looks fantastic and unlike Schwarzenegger, can still play the “Ultra He-Man” character and get away with it. While Arnie sort of let himself go while playing politics, Stallone has kept himself in great shape and manages to be believable when kicking ass, despite being a stone throw’s away from 70.

But perhaps the biggest revelation of the picture is Jason Momoa and the fantastic performance he puts in here. He pulls off the swarmy ’80s-style villain, without going over-the-top with it and thus is all the more menacing for it. I think he may a great future here if he continues to go down this route.

My main critique with this film as it tends to be with all contemporary action films is the direction of Walter Hill. One of the main reasons why I went to see this was that it marked the big screen return of legendary action filmmaker Walter Hill. I thought if anyone would do the genre right and shoot action sequences the way they’re meant to be seen (wide and bright so we can see what’s going on), it would be one of its pioneers. Unfortunately, whether it was a conscious decision to fall in line with current trends or not, Hill resorts to the Parkinson’s approach to cinematography where we get shaky handheld camerawork and extreme close-ups galore.

On one hand, you can argue that this new technique employed by directors adds an extra “oomph” to the fight sequences and makes them seem even more intense and gritty. But as any longtime fans of these kinds of films will tell you, we need to actually SEE what is happening in these sequences. There’s a psychological fulfillment that comes with actually seeing Stallone in a wide shot actually going out there and doing his stunts. With this myopic approach to shooting, you can pretty much have anyone on-screen fighting as there’s no way to tell who’s who.

In the end, BULLET TO THE HEAD offers a few thrills and some interesting casting, but the direction and cinematography is beyond amateur and very disappointing considering who was sitting in the director’s chair.

 

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