Bullet To The Head

Our favorite theater is closing down—or more accurately, changing ownership from our local, indie-friendly chain, to monster conglomcinemaco AMC, and in our mourning, we’ve been casting about the local theaters looking for alternatives, and (at least for me) being reminded of why we don’t go to these theaters much any more.

Being plum out of the sort of weird fare we’re used to seeing, the kids opted for Bullet To The Head, the buddy pic about a hitman who teams up with a cop after their partners end up dead.

The big news surrounding this flick was that its star, one Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone, came out mildly in favor of some controls on guns. It was the sort of blandly, vaguely statist sentiment that all bien-pensants are partial to these days, and might have served as a kind of indulgence for a guy who probably holds a record for most on camera kills.

However, I gotta believe that the sort of peeps who go to see these kinds of films have opinions on gun rights, a lotta of ‘em anyway. And a lot of those folks seem to be pretty cheesed at Hollywood right now.

For myself, I think a welcome response would be a cheerful: “This is all make-believe and escapism. Drawing real-world issues into it takes the fun out of it.” Sometimes I think they can’t do it ’cause they need realism to sell things. Dunno.

So it’s ironic in extremis how anti-gun control this movie is. In a lot of movies, you could imagine gun control themes going either way. The good guys, typically the cops, are outgunned by the bad guys, typically mob types, drug dealers and what-have-you. So you can base your preferred narrative on whatever you imagine the surrounding situation to be.

Not here. The story is that hitman James Bonomo (Stallone) does a successful hit with his partner and, while celebrating, ends up on the wrong side of a contract. His partner ends up dead, which sorta bugs Stallone in that tough-guy way. Meanwhile, Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) flies in from L.A. Turns out it was his partner they hit. But he doesn’t care so much, since his partner was crooked.

He does care in the legal sense; he wants to team up with Bonomo and go after the guy who hired them, since they’re small fish (in the legal sense). So, you gotcher old, white, racist, tough thug paired up with your young, Asian, politically correct, tech savvy cop and we’re off to the races.

There aren’t a lot of surprises, as you might imagine. In fact, when we see Bonomo’s old wooden cabin on the water, I immediately said to myself “Self, that cabin’s gonna get blowed up.” Simple cinematic physics: The structure on the pier must be exploded.

Anyway, this movie takes place in a city that isn’t exactly New Orleans, though it imitates it in every fashion. I’m guessing they didn’t want to tar New Orleans’ police department, since Kwon is the only honest cop in the movie, and he’s from Los Angeles.

So, about the gun control aspect? Well, the instant Kwon comes to town—even though he’s a cop—the local police remind him he doesn’t have a carry permit for their city, so they disarm him. Not long after, they try to kill him, of course.

We never discover if Bonomo has a license. He’s got no shortage of weaponry, though, and he needs it all, to fight cops and criminals. Meanwhile, Kwon goes around trying to arrest people, in a naive fashion, but even he, by the end, realizes it’s kill-or-be-killed.

Ultimately, the individual’s judgment is superior to the state’s in all cases, and the only thing that clean up the gritty streets of Not New Orleans.

Walter Hill directs, and does a good job, keeping it all moving quickly, and not letting the plot get in the way of the story. It’s thin in parts, as you might imagine. There’s a romantic subplot with Sarah Shahi which isn’t bad for what it is, but definitely not well fleshed out.

As you might imagine, it largely avoids sentimentality, and despite having a very ’80s feel, mostly avoids feeling like a campy rehash of the movies of that decade. The kids liked it. As The Boy says, “There’s nothing there to hate.”

Which is true, unless you thought you were going to see Quartet or something.

Meanwhile, the outing cost twice as much as our usual theater-going visit, and the popcorn was sub-par. So AMC isn’t going to be on our list.

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