NO SUBTLETY FOR THE BLOODY, VIOLENT “BULLET TO THE HEAD”
A Film Review by Tim Riley
BULLET TO THE HEAD (Rated R) It’s a good thing that Sylvester Stallone is old enough to carry the Medicare Part A card, considering that he’s involved in enough bloody fights that he should end up in a hospital. Violent in the extreme, “Bullet to the Head” is a title so lacking in subtlety that one would have to have the IQ of an eggplant not to realize what exactly is in store when the anti-hero goes looking for revenge.
Stallone’s James Bonomo, affectionately called Jimmy Bobo on the mean streets of New Orleans, is a gun-for-hire who plays by his own set of rules, which apparently means killing people even more criminal than he is.The story opens as Jimmy and his partner Louis (Jon Seda) are on what appears to be a routine hit. Their target is an ex-cop kicked off the force in Washington, D.C. in disgrace.
This dirty cop would seem the perfect fit for the nation’s capitol. After all, he’s holed up in a swank hotel room with a Russian hooker and loads of illicit substances. It’s just another case of art imitating life, given the recent news that a sleazy New Jersey senator favors underage prostitutes from the Dominican Republic.
Once the job is done, Jimmy and Louis head to a seedy local bar to get paid, but instead of cash they are met with a double-cross that leaves Louis lying in a pool of blood, the vicious handiwork of a hit man named Keegan (Jason Momoa). Arriving in New Orleans to investigate a mob hit, Washington, D.C. detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) figures there’s some sort of connection with Jimmy Bobo.
However, Kwon has no jurisdiction in the Big Easy and can’t go through the usual channels. It’s just as well, considering that New Orleans is swimming in corruption, including crooked cops and politicians. Reluctantly, Kwon teams up with Jimmy because he shares an equal grudge about the murderous thug who also killed his former police partner.
At this point, “Bullet to the Head” turns into the oddest couple of a buddy movie, where two opposite sides of the law forge a wobbly truce to go after some really bad guys. Going by the book, Kwon lives by a real rigid code of honor and moral integrity, whereas the bombastic Jimmy is like a bull in a china shop, ready to break heads and limbs with no regrets. Needless to say, Jimmy’s strong-arm methods are more efficient and effective, leaving no time for the reserved Kwon to read Miranda rights to a suspect.
Making enemies for sniffing around where he doesn’t belong, Kwon becomes slightly more grateful for Jimmy’s tactics when his criminal partner saves his life in an ambush.When Kwon is wounded, Jimmy can’t take him to a hospital, so instead he gets his estranged daughter Lisa (Sarah Shahi), a tattoo artist, to remove the bullet and patch him up. The plot tends to wander, but we can count on a host of colorful characters. One of them is a shady lawyer named Marcus Baptiste (Christian Slater) who knows how to throw a grand party at his Garden District mansion.
The hit man Keegan is a fascinating adversary, unmatched for being the ruthless and relentless muscle with way too much sadistic pleasure in doing his dirty work. At the top of the criminal ladder is Robert Nkomo Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a wealthy immigrant real estate mogul who secured his fortunes from notoriously corrupt deals in Africa. Intelligent, sophisticated and yet manipulative and dark, Morel is a formidable figure, with both government and police officials in his wallet. He will stop at nothing to secure his ends.
With double-crosses and greed pushing everyone’s buttons, “Bullet to the Head” is practically a non-stop parade of bloody brawls and deadly shootouts.Veteran director Walter Hill also knows how to push buttons, neatly setting up the flavor of an old school action picture straight out of the 1980s.
This past month has been a virtual feast for fans of violent, brutal action. We’ve had “Gangster Squad” and “Parker,” to name a few, and now “Bullet to the Head” fits right in with this pantheon of thrillers.
DVD RELEASE UPDATE
Steven Spielberg’s creative hand has been behind many things, including a TV cartoon series called “Animaniacs” that first ran on FOX in the early ‘90s. Now you can catch up with the slapstick adventures of Yakko, Wakko and Dot as Warner Bros. releases “Animaniacs: Volume 4” in a 3-disc DVD collector’s set.
Lacking extras or frills, the DVD collection features 24 episodes from this fan favorite cartoon series following the wacky characters who were so crazy that the studio executives locked them in the water tower on the Warner Bros. studio lot.Though designed for laughs, each episode features educational segments that cover subjects such as history, math, geography, astronomy, science and social studies, often in a musical format.
Mostly, “Animaniacs” is about off-the-wall characters, such as Pinky and the Brain, two mice bent on world domination. Chicken Boo is a giant chicken trying to integrate into human society. Bobby, Pesto and Squit are the Goodfeathers, part of a New York mob of pigeons, who worship Martin Scorsese. It’s an offbeat homage to “Goodfellas.” As advertised on the box cover, “Animaniacs: Volume 4” is the fourth and final volume of this Emmy Award winning series.