‘Bullet to the Head’: Is Sylvester Stallone’s Latest a Bullseye or a Bomb?

Writer/director/professional ass-kicker Sylvester Stallone returns to screens this week in the 1980’s action throwback Bullet to the Head. Starring as a New Orleans hitman, Stallone teams with a D.C. detective (played by Sung Kang) to avenge the deaths of their respective partners. If you’ve seen the trailers, you already know that at some point Stallone fights the massively built Conan (as in, quite literally, the man who most recently played Conan) in some kind of axe battle directed by action veteran Walter Hill.

Which is really all we needed to see to know that we’d be putting down on ten bucks. That said, what do the critics think of this one so far? Do they give it a critical pass, or just another bullet to the head?

Scott Tobias, AV Club

“Tough guys with a code. Punishing bare-knuckled brawls. Broken glass. Some bluesy licks from Ry Cooder. These are the elements of a Walter Hill action movie, from great early films like The Long Riders and Southern Comfort to his paradigmatic buddy team-up 48 Hrs. to recent effects like the mistreated Undisputed and his new two-fister, Bullet To The Head…The X-factors tend to be the script and the performances, and those elements largely betray him in Bullet To The Head, which is a perfunctory exercise whenever Hill isn’t busying himself with gun battles, ax fights, and other mano-a-mano confrontations. He can only do so much.”

Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune

“Approach it as a Stallone movie (which it is) or as a Hill movie (which it is), but it’s more interesting as a Hill movie. If it gets this director back into the hard-driving action game, then it will have done its duty…The style here — hairline-to-chin close-ups, nervous, jacked-up editing — isn’t Hill at his best. But the movie has a certain grungy panache.”

Tom Russo, Boston Globe

“The repartee here feels about that old — politically incorrect ethnic digs, whippersnapper needling, clunky stuff that elicits yawns or outright groans. The stock baddies (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and, just passing through, Christian Slater) aren’t any better, although there’s some action spark between glowering mercenary Jason Momoa (of Conan 2.0 fame) and Stallone. (At last — Rambo versus everyone’s favorite barbarian.) But the movie’s best moments are when Stallone is serving aces, not trying to keep weak volleys going.”

Jordan Hoffman, Film.com

“There’s no question that Eddie Van Halen-esque guitar licks should accompany the sight of Sylvester Stallone delivering justice from the barrel of a gun or directly from his fists, but one must also recognize that this is an aesthetic package with a clear shelf date. Bullet to the Head is the newest film from Walter Hill, whose oeuvre of bare-knuckle cinema peaked around 1986, and it’s a spoiled dish that’s been laying out collecting flies this entire time. It isn’t retro. It isn’t cute. It’s just an embarrassment.”

Marshall Fine, Huffington Post

“I lost count of the number of noggins that were perforated by hot lead in Bullet to the Head, but it was more than a dozen. Henchman apparently is a particularly dangerous job description, at least in this movie, though they’re not the only ones who wind up with smoking holes in their foreheads. No doubt there will be those who decry this above-average action film for its nearly constant chatter of gunfire and its frequent bursts of red mist, signifying a gunshot striking human flesh. And yet this film, by director Walter Hill, a particularly gritty action veteran, holds your attention without insulting your intelligence — too badly.”

Do you plan to see this film? If so, take a moment to leave a comment below, letting us know what you thought of the movie — or if you don’t see it, why you’re not interested!

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