By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
The box-office a couple of weekends ago for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to movie stardom, “The Last Stand,” was underwhelming. Has the Governator outlived his time at the top?
Now hard on its heels comes the new vehicle for Sylvester Stallone, Big Arnie’s fellow commando from the old days. As the title suggests, “Bullet to the Head” is an unapologetic return to the blow-‘em-ups of yore, with Stallone trimmer of physique but still stubbornly monosyllabic.
He narrates, too, in a voice that sounds like it comes from the grave. Stallone’s a New Orleans hit man named James Bonomo, a by-the-book fella who gets set up by his employer. If the movies are accurate, that happens a lot in this business.
When an out-of-state cop named Kwon (Sung Kang, veteran of the “Fast and Furious” franchise) comes to town to investigate a killing, he proposes teaming up with Bonomo for some extra-legal work, because this thing goes all the way to the top.
Well, sure it does. And we’re off and running, through a collection of crooked politicos, rival henchmen and Bonomo’s tattoo artist daughter (the authentically sultry Sarah Shahi), who is known to fix a bullet wound in such a way that the patient never needs to refer to having been shot for the remaining running time of the movie.
The villains include a spirited sleazebag turn by moneyman Christian Slater, but the movie lavishes most of its attention on a hired killer, played by Jason Momoa. The bruising actor is a lot more engaging here than he was in the title role of the recent “Conan the Barbarian” reboot.
He’s the main adversary for Stallone, and their mutual dislike culminates in a showdown (in an abandoned warehouse; not much has changed for action movies since the 1980s) that involves them throwing down their guns and picking up a couple of axes.
The most dispiriting thing about “Bullet to the Head” is that it was directed by Walter Hill, whose career has included some of the tightest, smartest action pictures of a certain era (“48 HRS.” and “The Long Riders” among them).
For this outing, Hill appears to have thrown in the towel; although he tries to get some buddy rapport going between Stallone and Sung Kang, the macho joshing is half-hearted at best.
Then there’s the Stallone issue. The man looks very peculiar these days, not because of his age but because of the various levels of sculpting he’s done to his body.
And he’s forgotten that his movies worked best with the least amount of dialogue. Here, he can never stop with just one action-movie punchline, he has to top himself. More and more, the resemblance to waxworks is uncanny.
“Bullet to the Head” (1½ stars)
A tired outing for Sylvester Stallone, as a New Orleans hit man who must team up with a cop (Sung Kang) to find the bad guys. Director Walter Hill seems to have lost interest, and Stallone’s indestructible tough guy is looking more like a waxwork than ever.
Rated: R for violence, language, nudity.
Showing: Alderwood Seven, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.