Anyone who reads me is well aware of my fondness for Walter Hill movies, and given that, how could I not love Bullet to the Head, so unfairly underrated in 2012?
The protagonist of this violent action crime story is Sylvester Stallone, in those years back on top of the successful saga of The Expendables and the excellent new chapters of the aging but tenacious John Rambo and Rocky Balboa.
In this case, however, he plays Jimmy Bobo, a petty criminal from New Orleans who, along with his trusty young partner, works as a hired killer.
After completing their last assignment, killing a corrupt ex-cop, their principals betray them by trying to kill them both.
The old hitman survives by fighting, but unfortunately, his friend is not as lucky and dies in his arms.
At the same time, a young detective arrives from New York to investigate their latest victim, who quickly puts together a few clues and successfully tracks down Bobo.
He is not interested in arresting the petty criminal; instead, he seeks out who are and the reasons for the punks who organized the murder.
So he proposes that Bobo join together to solve the case and avenge his friend, especially after some corrupt cops try to take them down.
Climbing up the command chain from the traitorous broker, they get all the way to a young lawyer doing business with a former African politician laundering dirty money in the United States.
However, just as they hunt down the instigators, in turn, they put a mercenary on their trail, the same assassin who killed Bobo’s friend.
Between unscrupulous men, as they are, therefore, it is inevitable to come to a final face-to-face duel where only one will come out alive.
Who really remembers the old Walter?
I am really sorry that Walter Hill and Sylvester Stallone‘s paths did not cross earlier since I would have loved to have this director at the helm of The Expendables.
Indeed, if this saga bases its appeal on many 70s and 80s action stars, what could have been better than placing at the helm such a master of the genre from that same period?
Similarly, I am amazed at how movie enthusiast journalists almost totally ignored Hill in 2012 during the conference in Rome where he presented Bullet to the Head.
Without wishing in any way to belittle an action star like Stallone, it seems that today many forgot who was the creator of some major cult hits like The Warriors or The Driver.
On the contrary, how can we explain the flop of this movie? I ask because although I read many opinions online from those who criticize it, I still don’t quite understand what they stand on.
The story is the usual good mix of tough characters, over-the-top situations, and badass dialogue, which remains successful today.
Indeed it is not a script that aims to be realistic like Heat by Michael Mann, yet in the end, any Walter Hill movie ever was.
Although its criminal background merely pushes the characters from one scene to another, we can see a distinctive passion in portraying New Orleans.
A city still having to recover from the aftermath of the terrifying Hurricane Katrina, which left the population helplessly lost in flooded and destroyed streets and buildings.
Moreover, no one in their right mind can complain about the visual quality of this director or his ability to build outstanding action sequences.
Perhaps, the public is no longer ready for the quality of these 1980s filmmakers, considering their skils almost a flaw.
Stallone never dies
As mentioned, I want to acknowledge the undying talent of Sylvester Stallone, still one of the best-known faces in action cinema, almost at the threshold of age 80.
Even in this movie, it seems time has not passed for this actor, who suffered moments of declining fame several times in his career, yet also got back on his feet each time as the famous Rocky Balboa.
Besides delivering great charisma to a character of few words but great stamina, Stallone displays a phenomenal physique and his usual might in the many action scenes and the spectacular final duel against Jason Momoa.
I have never been a big fan of the Aquaman star, but the mercenary he plays in this story really captivated me, even though he appears in only a few yet essential scenes.
Indeed, he is not the classic villain killing everything for incomprehensible reasons, but a mercenary following his own ( insane) code of honor even when he wants to axe-murder the old Sly.
Equally well-written are the other negative characters, such as the tyrannical Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, whom many will remember as the priest/criminal in the Lost series, or a charming Christian Slater looking as good as we have seen him in many years.
We can slightly criticize the Korean policeman played by Sung Kang, who starts out independently but soon becomes just a mere sidekick for the protagonist.
Instead, I loved the only female character, Sarah Shahi, a charming tattoo artist/illegal doctor who is also the protagonist’s daughter, with whom she has a strange and intriguing relationship.
Although many people did not like Bullet to the Head, and it was a box office failure in 2012, I have seen this movie numerous times and never get tired of watching it again.