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Sylvester Stallone

Bullet to the head

The choir boy and the commander: an uneasy partnership
Directed by Walter Hill

I wish I could have been in on the creative meeting when the producers were discussing titles for this thing. Formerly called “Headshot,” before someone presumably thought that title was too sissified, “Bullet to the Head” is about as apt a description for a film as I’ve seen in a while. But for all the empty violence, “B2TH” is still kind of fun and compared to last week’s “Parker,” its craftsmanship at its best.

Sylvester Stallone plays Joe Bobo, a New Orleans hit man who’s been arrested twenty-six times, lives by a strict code of only taking out the worst criminals, and doesn’t enjoy trusting people. So when his partner (Jon Seda) is killed, the last thing he wants to do is partner up with Washington homicide detective Taylor (Sung Kang). But in order to take down the guys who double-crossed him, he has to. Those guys are a sleazy lawyer (Christian Slater) and an exiled African industrialist (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) looking to knock down ghetto houses and put up condos (don’t expect any economic subtext, this is just here to prove they’re bad) and using another hit man (Jason Momoa) to clear the road blocks.

Walter Hill, one of the best action filmmakers ever but one whom we’ve heard little from in the past decade, adds to the film a stylized, hardcore edge while Steve Mazzaro’s Cajun-Rock mash-up soundtrack fills in the down times properly. There’s a funny chemistry between Stallone and Kang, where the competitive banter between cop-criminal, young-old and easy Asian and lunk jokes are made, but Kang is easily overshadowed in every other portion of the film by the still buff and in-command Stallone. When you have to say wimpy dialogue about holding people up to moral codes, you’re certainly going to look like a choir boy, anyway.

There’s a significant amount of violence in “B2TH.” It’s all fist-fights, shootings, and explosions, most ending with a bullet to the head like the title says. Nothing here really screams for attention, other than a really impressive axe fight at the end. This is a short, action-packed vehicle for Stallone to work with and for the most part, it does what you expect it to do.

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