By ROGER MOORE
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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 (48 Hours) Hill, 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's been recut, 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.
Still, Stallone brings the burly and the breezy to this turn as a New Orleans hit man teaming with a cop (Sung Kang) to track down the guys who set him up and got his partner killed.
Jimmy Bobo Bonomo (Stallone) has borrowed his code from the anti-hero 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 steps into the spotlight and shrinks from it. The editing makes the character an under-motivated mystery. The performance is charisma-free.
It doesn't help that Jimmy and everybody else trot out the race card for the Korean-American cop. 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.
Bullet to the Head was chopped down so Stallone might have a prayer of holding the picture together, and it's a credit to his still-formidable screen presence that he almost pulls it off.
What: Bullet To The Head
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Momoa, Sung Kang, Christian Slater, Sarah Shahi
Directed by: Walter Hill
Running time: 91 minutes
Rated: R for strong violence, bloody images, language, some nudity and brief drug use