As Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra would say, “Bullet to the Head” is déjà vu all over again.
Watching Sylvester Stallone’s latest action adventure, I felt like I'd seen it before, in large part because I'd seen a lot of it before — in other movies. This isn’t simply a throwback to’80s action movies; it’s more of a remake picking and choosing scenes from different films.
The plot has veteran, aging professional hitman Jimmy Bonomo (Stallone) teaming with naïve, young Washington, D.C., detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) for a common agenda: to find the men who ordered the execution of a former D.C. police officer and then ordered the deaths of his killers, Bonomo and his partner. They failed to kill Bonomo, who simply wants revenge for his partner’s death; Kwon wants to arrest the men at the top of the criminal conspiracy.
This good-guy/bad-guy pairing is reminiscent of Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in “48 Hours,” and it’s not surprising that both films were directed by veteran action filmmaker Walter Hill (“Red Heat,” “Another 48 Hours”).
Hill has included several familiar scenes, including a bathhouse fight, crashing a party at the bad guys’ lair, a narrow escape as a building is shot to pieces and an extended shoot-out/fight sequence in an abandoned warehouse.
Stereotypes abound in “Bullet”: crooked cops, a crooked lawyer (Christian Slater), crooked politicians, a seemingly indestructible henchman and a kidnapped daughter.
And the plot has holes you could drive a truck through.
If this all sounds incredibly familiar, it’s because it is. About the only thing separating it from the ’80s films it emulates are some shades of gray in Stallone’s hair and a running gag about Kwon’s extensive use of his cellphone to instantly acquire information. Bonomo prefers to beat information out of people.
For all its many flaws, “Bullet” somehow manages to avoid becoming an outright bad movie. It’s certainly not the worst Stallone action film, since it's better than such jewels as “Cobra,” “The Specialist” and “Judge Dredd.”
Stallone fans should enjoy this high-octane romp, with Sly in his all-too-familiar role of monosyllabic tough guy who beats up, blows up or shoots whoever gets in his way, while delivering a seemingly never-ending series of grunted one-liners. Action movie fans won’t put it on their greatest hits list, but they'll deem it marginally acceptable, entertaining action fare.