Bullet to the Head (2013), directed by Walter Hill

There were a couple of reasons to get a little excited about Bullet to the Head. For one, it’s a 1980s-style action movie staring Sylvester Stallone. So, there’s that. And secondly, it marks the return of cult director Walter Hill, who hasn’t been seen in cinemas for a decade.

Exciting, right?

In David Edelstein’s review of Bullet to the Head he stated that films staring Sylvester Stallone are meant for Neanderthals. This was in a positive review.

Sly is an interesting character. He’s so maligned but has these moments of greatness, or at least canny, in his career that hold him above the rest of his like.

People, and not without reason, seem to forget that he came to fame by winning Oscars and delighting everyone with Rocky. I mean, come on. Rocky. Who doesn’t like Rocky?

Then he made so other humdrum movies and a couple more Rocky flicks, before starring in First Blood, starting the second franchise he would later exploit and destroy in the hopes of reinvigorating his career. Nonetheless, First Blood is a fantastic movie.

And then he made a bunch of action movies of varying degrees of quality such as Cobra, Tango and Cash, Cliffhanger etc. Mix in a few attempts at serious acting (namely Cop Land), a trip to the direct-to-video bottom of the barrel and then the career reviving gimmick of The Expendables, and you’ve got a pretty interesting career trajectory.

I grew up with a father that loved his movies, which evidently rubbed off on me to some extent as I routinely declare First Blood to be my favourite action movie. So I don’t know, I tend to root for the guy. He’s still the underdog, trying to keep his career above water anyway he can. And he usually wins.

All this being said, I found Bullet to the Head disappointing. And I wasn’t exactly expecting greatness.

Listen, it’s completely serviceable, but that’s it. It has some great moments like the ax fight. There are some enjoyable directorial flourishes from Hill that made the film better than it could have been. I actually enjoyed Sly’s performance in it, it’s not often you get to see him actually act these days.

But I think its main problem is that it’s not the 1980s anymore. The film isn’t a homage, it’s a reproduction. When Tarantino harkens back to an old style of filmmaking he brings new life to it, new ideas, he makes it his own and relevant. Here Hill has just made a film as though the last 25 odd years hadn’t happened.

While I respect the effort, the payoff is flat because, well, who cares about this type of film anymore? Going back and watching Black Rain or Death Wish 3 or Cobra is fun and enjoyable because the films were relevant for their time, they have an energy and authenticity to them. Sometimes they’re even great movies. Watching Bullet to the Head is a waste of time.

Here we get the usual plot that makes no sense, the complete objectification of women (every woman in this movie ends up, or starts out, nude), the excessive, narcissistic violence. And that can be fun with the right eye and flair, but Bullet to the Head is very rarely fun. Mostly it’s tedious.

If it hadn’t been for The Expendables, Bullet to the Head would be a direct-to-video release, no question. And while some DVR movies are enjoyable, they’re enjoyable as DVR movies, I’m sorry.

If they had done anything at all interesting or fresh I would have enjoyed Bullet to the Head. I wanted to enjoy it. I wanted to stick up for good old Sly. At times I did enjoy it. But I’m sorry Sly, it appears revenge has gotten old after all.

Bullet to the Head is in cinemas now.