The beauty of Bullet to the Head is that it does not try to be all things to all people. This is an attribute now typically restricted to films playing at indie cinemas in urban centers. Rare as it is at your local multiplex, it's even more rare in the action genre -- a genre that has been cannibalized over the years by its insistence on the the oft-misplaced desire for mass appeal.
Sometimes an action movie is just an action movie (in fact, most of the time that ought to be the case). It doesn't have to revitalize Sylvester Stallone's career. Or the career of its director, Walter Hill, most famous for the 48 Hrs. movies. It doesn't have to be easily digestible by the Chinese. It doesn't have to be funny. Or appeal to sci-fi geeks. Or housewives.
No, Bullet to the Head doesn't do any of those things, and, well, it deserves an odd bit of praise for that fact. Stallone, the star of the movie, plays Jimmy Bobo, a New Orleans hitman who reluctantly teams up with a cop, Sung Kang's Det. Taylor Kwon, to bring down a fellow tough, Jason Momoa's Keegan, and his employer, crooked real estate businessman Robert Morel, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.
The uneasy alliance of a criminal and a cop is a well Hill has gone to before -- hello, 48 Hrs. -- but the dynamic here, likely out of necessity, is much more gritty and direct. Stallone doesn't have the comedic chops of Eddie Murphy, but even at 66 years old he is still capable of playing an entertaining derivative of the menacing lug he portrayed at the beginning of Rocky.
Even better, he plays his part with an unquestioning devotion that is lacking from his obvious counterpart Arnold Schwarzenegger's return, The Last Stand (more on that mess in a few days). Such is Stallone's commitment to his kinda-good-guy's persona that you accept it when he saves his unwanted partner from certain execution and you find it natural when he enters into a final showdown with Momoa that involves axes. Of course this film has to end with an axe fight; it'd be wrong if it wrapped up any other way, wouldn't it?!
Look, I don't want to overstate my affinity for Bullet to the Head. This is not a film I will halt abruptly on when I find it in the premium cable listings. Its depth is non-existent. It will not make you think even the slightest little bit.
But it is purely mindless entertainment, and it is lean, sinewy mindless entertainment -- the best kind, the kind that leaves you with as few head-scratching questions as deep thoughts. If that's what you're looking for, you could do a lot worse.