It would do Sylvester Stallone some good to take a long, deliberate look at his career. He penned, produced and portrayed one of the most beloved sports stories in film history with “Rocky.” He gave us a major action-war franchise with “Rambo” and followed it up with several more successful bullet-ridden, city-hero films. Toughness itself, loyal to the bitter end, has practically walked arm in arm with him — even into his old age. But “Bullet to the Head” marks Stallone’s worst box-office debut in years, as he trips his way through a confusing and gap-filled action blur.

Bullet to the Head

At Quality 16 and Rave
Dark Castle

With the exception of a few lingering plot holes, not much about the story keeps you thinking. Jimmy Bobo (Stallone) and Louis Blanchard (Jon Seda, “Gladiator”) are hitmen who do the dirty work for their wealthy higher-ups. After one mission, however, they’re double-crossed, and Blanchard is murdered while Bobo narrowly escapes. Detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang, “Fast & Furious”), who’s called to investigate the last homicide Bobo and Blanchard committed before the double-crossing, tracks down Bobo and confronts him at a bar. Bobo offers nothing in their meeting, but later saves Kwon from being killed by corrupt police officers. Indebted, Kwon promises to help Bobo avenge his fallen partner, and the two embark upon a wild, almost stupidly irrelevant series of killing sprees.

For the first solid portion of the movie, events go unexplained, action sequences neither advance nor deter the protagonist movement and the characters are hardly distinguished as good or bad. Viewers are dropped deep into entertainment limbo as nothing but the chest muscles of Stallone succeeds in standing out. If not for his classic machismo and even-keeled temperament, “Bullet to the Head” would have zero redemptive quality.

Though “Bullet” is coherent, and the story poses some legitimacy, the film itself is plagued by a number of small things. Simple editing errors are abundant. A glass of bourbon foams at the top; characters are shown standing in opposite sides of the room in different shots; bits of dialogue seem completely unaccounted for. And while these details are troublesome, there are more significant issues that press the viewer as well.

Questions asked in the beginning are never given an answer. Only one woman sustains a convincing and relevant role throughout the film — all other female cast members are either hookers or party guests. No single character is likeable beyond the few witty lines they might have dispensed between overdone fight scenes.

It’s hard to see a legend strike such a low note. Even for all the film’s grit and masculinity, it just can’t speak for the lack of balance, enthusiasm and spontaneity. Stallone has had such a heavy presence in the action genre, and after a career that has illuminated the depth of man’s struggle and perseverance, he deserves better than “Bullet.”

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