James Bonomo (Sylvester Stallone) doesn't make a habit of helping cops, but recently he's made an exception for one. The events leading up to that change of heart started when he and his partner Louis (Jon Seda) were making their way to a hotel room where a man they were very interested in meeting was staying, and on arriving at his door and flashing their badges he refused to allow them entry. Not that this was going to stop them: they weren't the law, they were hitmen, and their target was quickly executed though Bonomo noticed there was a witness...
Now, even though Sly is playing a nasty killer, he still has that movie star leading man reputation to live up to, so even when his character appears to have shot the witness, a prostitute taking a shower, we know he wouldn't really because that would make him far too unsympathetic. Plus the witness was necessary - if she wasn't there, the rest of the plot would not unfold when she went to the police. But Bullet to the Head, taken from a French graphic novel, had a strange morality to it where most cops were as corrupt as the gangsters Bonomo was pitted against, with one notable exception in the shape of Fast and Furious star Sung Kang.
He played a cop called Taylor Kwon, seemingly the sole representative of his profession in the whole of America who wasn't on the take or otherwise up to no good. He is investigating the death of Louis: he and Bonomo were winding down after their successful assassination in a bar when who appears but Kevin Keegan? Oh, wait, not Kevin Keegan, just Keegan, played by towering slab of muscle Jason Momoa here in villainous mode and stabbing Louis to death, though Bonomo puts up more of a fight and sends him away licking his wounds. This prompts the anti-hero to make contact with Kwon and suggest they team up to track down the actual bad guys.
You know, it's almost as if this was a buddy movie, and something else bolstering that view was that Bullet to the Head was directed by cult favourite Walter Hill, his first movie at the helm in around ten years. He had been brought in to salvage the project by Stallone and his original co-star Thomas Jane, but then Kang was hired presumably to make the buddies appear even more mismatched, yet the effect was more that their styles did not mix too well even when they were supposed to be on the same side and in total agreement. Sure, Kwon voices his disapproval about Bonomo killing the antagonists, but us watching are more likely going to indulge such little foibles.
And that's the weird thing, the lack of conscience Bullet to the Head had about the amount of people getting bumped off, apparently because they are irredeemable so they deserve everything they get. All except Bonomo, who is redeemed only precisely because he refuses to change his tune and sticks to his path of immorality, which is fine because he's applying it to the sort of person you would cross the road to avoid. He has a tattoo artist daughter, Lisa (Sarah Shahi), who becomes the only other character it's possible to trust as everyone else in this misbegotten town is connected to some form of corruption: Christian Slater showed up as a bent lawyer and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is pulling the strings behind him, but in spite of the odd humorous aside the overall tone was a grim cynicism about human nature which spoke to pessimism above all else. Oh well, an axe-weilding Stallone convinced in his role, which was more than could be said of his hair, a very strange Brillo Pad creation that distracted more often than not. Music by Steve Mazzaro.