It has been a while since we had the pleasure of seeing director Walter Hill at the top of his game (more accurately, on the TV series Deadwood and Broken Trail). Sadly, this return to the big screen after a ten-year absence, helming a Sylvester Stallone vehicle that looks to bring back some of the energy and luster of the 1980/1990s action movie, falls flat on its face, suggesting that everybody who contributed to this half-hearted adaptation of the graphic novel Du Plomb dans la tête is merely going through the motions. Which wouldn't be much of a problem, since so much of formulaic crime thrillers hangs upon going through the motions, if Bullet to the Head took itself a little less seriously as a actioner and a little more seriously as a throwback.

     Mr. Stallone is in fine monosyllabic form as New Orleans contract killer Jimmy Bobo, forced to partner with Washington cop Taylor Kwon (an unconvincing Sung Kang) to find out who wanted him and his associate dead after killing Kwon's disgraced former partner. But the buddy banter between the veteran killer and the smartphone-wielding detective never truly clicks, and Alessandro Camon's script piles on blithely both inconsistencies (such as the prostitute witness that is completely forgotten by the time the film ends) and cliches (the also unconvincing relation between Jimmy and his tattooist daughter) with its attempts at tough-guy wisecracking coming up as wincingly unfunny posturing. (Is this really the same Mr. Camon who helped Oren Moverman write the wonderful The Messenger?) Mr. Hill does his best to keep the story moving at a brisk pace, but even at a taut 90 minutes and despite the efficiently-shot action scenes, the sense that everybody involved is doing just enough to earn their paycheck means Bullet in the Head quickly outstays its welcome. Which is quite the pity coming from a director we've seen in so much better form not too long ago.

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christian Slater, Jon Seda, Weronika Rosati, Jason Momoa
Director: Walter Hill
Screenplay: Alessandro Camon, from the graphic novel written by Alexis Nolent and illustrated by Colin Wilson, Du Plomb dans la tête
Cinematography: Lloyd Ahern (colour)
Music: Steve Mazzaro
Designer: Toby Corbett
Costumes: Ha Nguyen
Editor: Tim Alverson
Producers: Alessandra Milchan, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Kevin King-Templeton (IM Global, Dark Castle Entertainment, Millar Gough Ink, Emjag Productions, After Dark Films)
USA, 2012, 92 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Alvaláxia 1 (Lisbon), March 13th 2013


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