In many ways Bullet to the Head is as ludicrous as you would expect. A heavily tattooed Sylvester Stallone and Conan beefcake Jason Momoa arm themselves with axes for a fight. Christian Slater's sleazy lawyer character hosts a giant sexy party in his Garden District mansion complete with nude ladies doing the tango and Slater himself wearing a fox mask that's a little too on the nose. There's a corrupt real estate baron from Africa played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje who uses not one but two canes and plans to demolish the "ghetto housing projects" in New Orleans to build sweet new condos or whatever.
And all of the women that appear in the film — all of them that have any lines and plenty that don't say a word — show their breasts at one time or another evenSarah Shahi playing Stallone's daughter Lisa. Stallone's character is nicknamed Jimmy Bobo and he brings his own bottle of bourbon with him when he goes to bars — Bulleit of course.
However unlike more recent action films like Jack Reacher or Stallone's endless Expendables Bullet to the Head is a pleasing solid genre flick. Part of the appeal along with the impressive fight scenes and laughably elaborate set-ups is that the film knows when it's being silly. "What are we f**king Vikings?" Stallone bellows right before he and Momoa come to blows. Slater is a perfectly ratty little lawyer who when tied to a chair and being threatened with bodily harm sneers "There's nothing you can do to men that I haven't done to myself for fun!"
Stallone gets the best lines usually tossed-off phrases like suggesting someone's bullet wounds could be fixed up with "a band-aid and a blow pop " but he's also saddled with some of the worst. His interactions with his reluctant partner a handsome cop named Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) slow the movie down to a glacier's pace. One might imagine that director Walter Hill is trying to recall the dicey racial tension in the 48 Hrs. movies between Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte but it doesn't translate here at all. Jimmy Bobo's ribbing of Taylor isn't just unfunny it's boring. There's nothing particularly clever about any of the written jokes about tea leaves Confucius samurai and so forth; while Kang's character is supposed to be annoyed by this "banter " it looks like Kang himself isn't all that thrilled.
Bullet to the Head is no masterpiece let's be clear. Plunking down Stallone et al. in New Orleans creates a cognitive dissonance that's laughable at best. Momoa who plays a vicious mercenary looks hilariously out of place in the redneck bar we first see him in; he's really born to play characters like Khal Drago in Game of Thrones where he just has to ride a horse and look like a dangerous-but-sexy warrior. People seem impossible to kill; often it takes you know a bullet to the head to finally keep 'em down. And that daughter of Jimmy's Sarah? She is a tattoo artist with one year of medical school under her belt so she's pretty swell when it comes to basic medical procedures. Like bullet removal.
But let's go back to all those boobies. This is an R-rated movie with plenty of violence and drugs and nudity and that is fine by me. I do not mind looking at good-looking naked people not in the least. When the first character we meet is a prostitute who is merely referred to as a hooker for a good chunk of the movie and that's really one of the only female characters we meet that's a problem. When Lisa's mom is referred to as a dead hooker junky that's a trend.
And when Lisa is lounging in the bathtub and Taylor breaks into her house for well whatever reason he and Jimmy came up with and she runs into him in her living room when she's wearing nothing but a towel and we can see her butt and breasts it makes me scratch my head a little.
Look this is an action movie and one based on a comic book to boot so I'm not expecting Tennessee Williams here but give me a break.
There were probably some women at the Garden District party who were clothed but the great majority of women in the movie are naked and/or referred to as totally disposable which is a frankly sickening trend in an otherwise enjoyable movie. It would have been better to leave all of the female characters on the cutting room floor and be done with it than treat them with such matter-of-fact contempt.
Sadly this gross undercurrent knocks my original star rating down a half.
Bullet to the Head is not a summer blockbuster but it's better than the typical January dregs. Spring can't come soon enough.
Based on Toby Young’s 2001 memoir of the same name How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is perhaps this year’s most refreshing comic surprise especially since we had no expectations that a book like this could ever be made into a successful movie much less a romantic comedy. The film like the book charts Young’s (now renamed Sidney and played by Simon Pegg) move from London to New York to become a contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine (now called Sharps). The movie’s plotline details the absolute knack this guy has for saying just the wrong thing at the wrong time. Sidney finds he is in way over his head but the magazine’s owner Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges) discovers something in him worth keeping. Since Young had written the counter-cultural polar opposite type of material in England it’s odd that he suddenly is thrust into the world of American celebrity where he manages to befriend and become a confidante of Hollywood starlet Sophie Maes (Megan Fox) and strike up a romantic interest in co-worker Alison Olsen (Kirsten Dunst). We watch as Sidney balances his new professional and personal life living precariously on the edge of imminent disaster in both. Pegg somehow sets up this loser (at least initially) for audience sympathy. It’s no small achievement but he’s alternately obnoxious and endearing--just the way we love to see him. Sidney manages to insult just about everyone with his complete social ineptness yet Pegg never sails off the edge and keeps him grounded comedically. You can imagine what might have happened had someone like Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler gotten their hands on this script. Pegg is almost a throwback to the Chaplin era a comic buffoon with heart we can’t help but like. In fact the whole cast is terrific. Dunst can be annoying but not this time. She’s absolutely winning and the perfect foil for Pegg. Their budding romance is believable even though on the surface they couldn’t be more different. Bridges with long graying hair does his best Graydon Carter impression as the sly owner of the glossy gossip magazine. The stunning Fox lives up to her name and she happens to be very funny too as a vapid starlet obsessed with creating an image. The main cast is rounded out by Danny Huston as Young’s immediate boss and Gillian Anderson delicious as the grand dame of PR in New York. Robert Weide won an Emmy directed HBO’s hilarious sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm which he shepherded for five seasons. Certainly if he can handle Larry David’s almost entirely improvised style of comedy he’s a cinch to make this thing sing--and he does in style. At every step of the way this is the kind of movie that could have gone broadly overboard but sticks smartly and faithfully to character instead. Sure there are missteps but mostly it all goes down like a fine glass of chardonnay. The movie shot largely in London--which doubled for New York in many scenes--looks great and the superb cast is clearly in the hands of a man who knows his way around a nifty comic premise. There’s even a running homage to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita that cineastes are gonna love particularly a scene at a celebrity party where Fox gets the paparazzi’s attention by walking fully clothed across a shallow pool. Weide cleverly scores it with Nino Rota’s gorgeous Dolce Vita theme a wry moment in a fun movie worth checking out.
Set in 1818 something evil is going on in the Bell’s family house. The trouble begins after a land deal John Bell (Donald Sutherland) and his neighbor Kate Batts (Gaye Brown) are involved in goes awry. She blames John for her misfortunes and curses his whole family. Townsfolk think Batts practices witchcraft and when it turns out she has kept pieces of their clothing suspicion rises even more. A religious leader (Matthew Marsh) and the local schoolteacher (James D'Arcy) set out to figure out the truth but have very different ideas about what is causing the nightmares and possession of young Betsy Bell (Rachel Hurd-Wood). But when Betsy's nightmares get more intense and violent--when Bible pages fly out of the book and Betsy gets dragged hair-first up the stairs in front of them all--the family matriarch Lucy (Sissy Spacek) sternly asks "Now are we all just having nightmares Professor?" Veteran talents Sutherland and Spacek have some of the scariest movies ever on their resumes. Sutherland was plenty creepy in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake while Spacek got her first Oscar nomination as Carrie. Even if there isn't much to say these two easily convey a lot of emotion fear and empathy with just a side glance or a raised eyebrow. The movie however wouldn't work without a beautiful innocent girl. Hurd-Wood is as magical in this gritty role as she was as Wendy Darling in the recent live-action Peter Pan. Her looks of horror and violation seem as real as if they were actually happening. The few people who saw the Exorcist prequel may recognize D'Arcy as the priest in it and his role is just as aloof and emotionless. He's a fine British actor and accomplishes a decent Southern accent but he comes across like a Brit who is stuck in a Southern town and frankly he is. Writer/director Courtney Solomon certainly knows how to weave a nice yarn. He's taken an old legend that was apparently witnessed by Andrew Jackson (before he became president) and tells it as if he was sitting around a campfire and spinning a great spooky story. A previous version of the film made it through the festival circuits about a year ago but had a very different ending. It’s the version playing in England right now actually. But with the American release Solomon took some advice and made some adjustments. Framed within a modern-day family living in the Bell house which flashes back to the period story its a gothic ghost story that doesn't jump out at you but instead seeps into your bones and chills you from within. And there’s nothing gross or offensive about it.