You can now read 10 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

The Boston Globe

Movies

  

Movie Review

In ‘Bullet to the Head,’ Stallone is a one-man show

Sylvester Stallone is out for revenge — and laughs — playing a hit man named Jimmy Bobo in “Bullet to the Head.”

Frank Masi

Sylvester Stallone is out for revenge — and laughs — playing a hit man named Jimmy Bobo in “Bullet to the Head.”

Most of us have never mistaken Sylvester Stallone for a cutup. Maybe the occasional producer has — the makers of “Rhinestone,” say, or of “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot” — but not the rest of us. So it’s a surprise that Stallone is as funny as he is playing a hit man paired with a cop in “Bullet to the Head.” He’s man-cave witty in a way that his “Expendables” movies have strived for but haven’t really managed. If “Bullet” had anything else going for it, it might be a little more than just the grungy revenge flick of the week.

Stallone pulls off his trick by not trying too hard, by not mugging. His New Orleans mob palooka, Jimmy Bobo, generally looks annoyed to be here, or bored at the very least. He’s a guy who brings his own whiskey to bars and churlishly “rents” a glass because he’s got no patience for his obscure label not being stocked. (The one thing he does have patience for, seemingly, is marathon tattoo sessions; the sprawling canvas of faux ink Stallone flashes makes that weird, veiny, sexagenarian-bodybuilder’s torso look that much funkier.)

Continue reading below

Sure, Jimmy feels it when his partner (Jon Seda) is set up and shivved to death. (Stallone mutters terrific gravelly voice-over snippets here and there to let us know what’s going on in his head.) But his expression projects peeved resignation about the whole mess — like: Great, one more thing I’ve gotta deal with. And it really makes his week when out-of-town detective Kwon (Sung Kang, “Fast Five”) comes around pushing for an alliance to crack the case.

Bullet to the Head

2 out of 4 stars

MPAA rating:
R
MPAA rating reasons:
strong violence, bloody images, language, some nudity, and brief drug use
Running time:
92 minutes
Cast:
Sylvester Stallone, Alessandro Camon, Sung Kang, Jason Momoa, Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christian Slater
Director:
Walter Hill
Writers:
Alessandro Camon and based on the graphic novel “Du Plomb Dans La Tête,” by Matz and Colin Wilson
Playing at:
Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

We’re handed some transitive-property expositional nonsense about how Jimmy’s target at the movie’s outset was Kwon’s crooked ex-partner, so Kwon figures they’ve got a common enemy to track down. Put more simply, it’s a buddy-cop setup with a twist(!) — one of ’em is actually a criminal(!!). Or, put another way, it’s just director Walter Hill (“The Warriors”) tweaking his formula from the “48 Hrs.” franchise.

The repartee here feels about that old — politically incorrect ethnic digs, whippersnapper needling, clunky stuff that elicits yawns or outright groans. The stock baddies (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and, just passing through, Christian Slater) aren’t any better, although there’s some action spark between glowering mercenary Jason Momoa (of Conan 2.0 fame) and Stallone. (At last — Rambo versus everyone’s favorite barbarian.) But the movie’s best moments are when Stallone is serving aces, not trying to keep weak volleys going. His unexpected, withering irascibility saves that ridicule-courting title from all the obvious jokes.

Tom Russo can be reached at trusso2222@gmail.com.

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week