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Review: Sylvester Stallone's 'Bullet to the Head' a testosterone time warp

Walter Hill directs this retro shoot'em-up, with the actor flexing his muscle amid a rising body count.

January 31, 2013|By Robert Abele
  • Sylvester Stallone, left, and Jason Momoa in "Bullet to the Head."
Sylvester Stallone, left, and Jason Momoa in "Bullet to the Head." (Frank Masi / Warner Bros.…)

"Bullet to the Head" is an adrenaline shot to your movie memory if the blunt, gleefully dumb, no-nonsense ways of '80s-style action flicks are your nostalgia drug of choice.

Mayhem mavens Sylvester Stallone and director Walter Hill ("48 Hrs.") make their debut as collaborators on this New Orleans shoot-'em-up, based on a graphic novel about a double-crossed hit man named Jimmy Bobo (Stallone) teaming with a young, idealistic cop (Sung Kang) to investigate a murder. ("Investigate" in these instances is a loose euphemism for "kill until no one's left").

Bobo's dry, cynical one-liners and trigger-happy problem solving — not to mention the "Rambo" star's anachronistic physique, like an old hairstyle he can't quite give up — are the first indication you're in a testosterone time warp. The second is an unforgiving body count, which Hill ticks off with gunplay and knife fight choreography that occasionally recalls his heyday as a bruiser auteur.

The third is that mano a mano showdown (With axes! In an abandoned factory!) between Stallone and a delectably malevolent Jason Momoa as a smiling, sadistic ex-military henchman. Ornamentation includes a pretty girl (Sarah Shahi) in modes of undress, a roadhouse blues thump for a soundtrack and a visual scheme that favors the glint off of sweat, blades and metal.

If these genre tropes — assembled with a crude but admirable workmanship — are your Proustian madeleines harking back to violent thrills gone by, "Bullet to the Head" awaits.

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'Bullet to the Head'

MPAA rating: R for strong violence, bloody images, language, some nudity and brief drug use

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

Playing: In general release

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