'Bullet' finds its target

Posted: February 01, 2013

IF WALTER HILL is Howard Hawks, and "48 Hours" was "Rio Bravo," then "Bullet to the Head" is "Rio Lobo."

While film buffs sort that out, I'll put it another way - "Bullet" is essentially the third time that Hill has made the same movie, with amusing tweaks along the way.

"Bullet" is actually a better sequel to "48 Hours" than "Another 48 Hours," with more pronounced variations.

You still have the premise of a cop and criminal paired together, working to their mutual benefit, but the action has moved from Los Angeles to New Orleans, the racially mixed pair is Sylvester Stallone and Sung Kang, (from "The Fast and the Furious") and this time, it's the criminal who calls the shots and drives the car.

Stallone plays Jimmy, a hit man marked for death by Louisiana underworld figures, the same people sought by a Korean investigator Kwon (Sung). They pair up to shoot people, blow up whatever parts of New Orleans Hurricane Katrina left standing and trade tough-guy barbs.

"48 Hours," of course, became a hit because of the chemistry between Nick Nolte and a mercurial Eddie Murphy. Here, the rapport is not so incendiary, and racial tensions not so volatile - there are jokes built around throwback Jimmy's ignorance of about Asian cultures (he doesn't like Asian drivers), and generational gags about the old fellow's ignorance of smart phones, Google, etc.

The better lines reference Jimmy's ability to operate outside the law, the way it contrasts with the police detective's out-of-place, by-the-book ethics in corrupt, dangerous New Orleans.

Although "Bullet" is adapted from a graphic novel, it is a decidedly retro affair - 1980s action icon Stallone (there's also a Christian Slater sighting) starring in a movie made in the western-tinged, macho style that Hill perfected with "48 Hours" and channels here - the same wailing harmonicas and soaring blues guitar, leading us from one action bit to the next. An old-school, R-rated, stunt-fueled, Joel Silver production. No effects needed.

It all builds to Stallone's showdown with an unhinged mercenary (Jason Momoa), a single-combat battle in an abandoned warehouse (shades of Hill's "Trespass") that has a decided, um, edge to it.

Tired of the same old hand-to-hand combat?

Want to see something different?

Ax, and you shall receive.

Blog: philly.com/KeepItReel

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