The brawn is back, and the Big Easy’s got him. Never a slave to his age, the sculpted 66-year-old action figure known as Sylvester Stallone bruises his way through the tough streets of New Orleans as James “Jimmy Bobo” Bonomo, a grizzled “I don’t trust anyone” hitman who gets down to dirty business and never strays. His character doesn’t have much of a conscience (26 arrests, 2 convictions), but his moral compass remains pointed in the direction of old school, discolored honor. Jimmy likes to huff and puff and blow your head in, especially if you are on his hit list, piss him off, kill his partner, or are offered a lucrative payoff.
Ultimately it’s a good cop – bad crook, anti-buddy film, with the other half of Jimmy’s team being a DC detective investigating a greedy, drug-infused ex-cop named Greely, who happens to have recently found the wrong end of Jimmy’s gun. Playing Laurel to Stallone’s Hardy is Georgia-born Sung Kang as Detective Taylor Kwon, a hardnosed, by-the-book but out-of-my-jurisdiction policeman. As their strained-from-the-start relationship grows, the tech-savvy Kwon continually threatens to arrest the Luddite Jimmy for the bad things he’s done (and maybe for some of the one-liners about Confucius, Kato, or Samurai he tosses about as he constantly misreads the ethnic landscape), only to be convinced there will be a better moment to do that later in the story.
Kang, who has appeared in “Better Luck Tomorrow” and numerous installments of the “Fast & Furious” series (another is due this May), is ok as the second banana. The ethically bad guys in the film do their best to sneer at the little people and annoy Jimmy. Chief among these is the excellent Jason Momoa (“Game of Thrones,” “Conan the Barbarian”) who plays a ruthless former Special Forces killing machine named Keegan.
Technically he’s being paid by hotshot lawyer Marcus Baptiste (an adequate Christian Slater) and real estate mogul Robert Nkomo Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), partners in a corrupt condominium scheme that has left a heavy dose of bullet-ridden bodies around Crescent City, but the tables are ultimately turned as the feature arrives at its climax, an ax-wielding battle in a deserted power plant. Rounding out the cast is TV staple Sarah Shahi (“The L Word,” “Life,” “Fairly Legal,” and currently “Chicago Fire”) as ornamental tattoo artist Lisa, Jimmy’s gritty, grown daughter, a product of a hooker (now dead) and a one night stand who has a barebones relationship with her father.
Veteran Walter Hill is back directing his first feature since 2002’s “Undisputed,” a Wesley Snipes boxing-themed failure, this time with producer Joel Silver (chairman of Dark Castle Entertainment), with whom he worked on “48 Hours” and “The Warriors” a couple of decades ago. The film itself mimics those earlier successes, stuffed with excessive violence. The colorful Louisiana locales and Bayou-infused score are effective, whether it’s at a Caligula-style hedonist party, a confrontation in a lonely steam bath, or at the Energy Plant where the film’s Viking-style finale plays out.
“Bullet to the Head” is an adequate shoot-em-up action flick. Nothing to write home about, but with some decent fight sequences, good stunts, and amusing banter between Stallone and Kang. No need to rush out to the cineplex, although worthwhile to catch on-demand later this year.