An action-hero bullet to be dodged at all costs

You must not like your job very much,” someone sneers in a testosterone-soaked tone five minutes into Bullet to the Head. As if on cue, all the men on screen start shooting at each other until only the hooker in the shower and Stallone’s character are able to walk away.

If I met Stallone, I’d like to ask him if he likes his job too. And Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger as well. Like Stallone, they too have recently starred in action movies (A Good Day to Die Hard and The Last Stand respectively), decades on from their box office heydays when the genre was really thriving. These three now-dinosaurs seem to be stuck with contracts and agents they can’t outlive, who force them to keep feeding action-hero garbage to the public. It certainly doesn’t look very enjoyable, and it must surely get to them that the reviews so nicely recall the Betty Davis quote: “Old age is not for sissies.”

In this daftly titled film based on a French graphic novel, Stallone emerges as a throbbing, veiny mass of tattooed muscles – when he first flashed his glistening six-pack, I actually heard a female reviewer gasp. He’s neither pretty nor charming, nor even remotely human, and his surgically-altered mug only adds to the freakishness. Stallone plays Jimmy Bobo, an ageing hitman who never lets you forget that he’s an artist with a switchblade (I lost count of how often we see it) and who true to form only raises his rumbling bass of a voice to deliver deadpan one-liners.

In the film’s only instance of character development, Bobo overcomes his hatred of cops and distrust of racial minorities to team up with Kang’s sympathetic yet helpless police officer. Both men have lost buddies to the same gang of thugs, so revenge is the driving force of their yin-yang alliance, which tries, but never quite reaches bromance in nature – and never gets very entertaining or believable either. I was offended by the clichés, annoyed by the cartoonish quality and exhausted by the methods of killing. Only Stallone and Hill fans need to bother with this one.

Bullet to the Head (15)


Dir: Walter Hill; US action, 2013, 92 mins; Sylvester Stallone, Sun Kang, Sarah Shahi, Jason Momoa, Christian Slater

Premiered March 7

Playing at Palads