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Movie review: 'Bullet to the Head'

Posted 2:37pm on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013

R (strong violence, bloody images, strong language, nudity, brief drug use); 91 min.

Choppy and bordering on incoherent, Bullet to the Head is Sylvester Stallone's answer to Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Last Stand, an action exercise in "Here's how we used to do it."

Sly one-ups Arnold in that old-school regard by bringing in Walter Hill ( 48 Hrs.), king of action directors when Stallone was in his glory days -- the 1980s.

But Bullet isn't remotely as direct as its title. It shows all the hallmarks of a movie that has been re-cut, that changed directors (Wayne Kramer started the film). Characters, relationships and motivations seem shortchanged. And it's every bit as dated and dumb, in different ways, as The Last Stand.

Jimmy "Bobo" Bonomo (Stallone) has borrowed his "code" from the antihero of John Woo's The Killer -- "No women, no kids." A hit he carried out led to repercussions. A knife-wielding brute of a mercenary (Jason Momoa) killed his partner, and Jimmy has to do something.

So does this out-of-town cop. Sung Kang often finds work in the films of his pal, Justin Lin (the "Fast and Furious" movies). As Detective Kwon, he steps into the spotlight, and shrinks from it. The editing makes the character an undermotivated mystery.

It doesn't help that Jimmy and everybody else trot out the race card for the Korean-American cop.

"Don't condescend to me, Kato." "Nice going, Oddjob." "I'll be waiting, Confucius."

But again, this is old-school -- ethnic actors are for belittling, bad guys are for shooting, and women are for rescuing and gratuitous nude Mardi Gras parties and shower scenes.

But Hill knows how to stage a rumble, and when the hit man and the mercenary tangle with axes, it's epic.

-- Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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