Rental Pick: Sylvester Stallone in Walter Hill’s ‘Bullet to the Head’

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Sly Stallone is reliving his glory days as an action hero here in the 21st century, as many of you know, Stallone was the king of box office back in the 80s. Many of his films, mostly Rocky and Rambo series earned hundreds of millions at the box office. After strings of box office failures in the 90s and early 2000s, he was able to climb back and churned a few box office hits in the last couple of years. In this movie he decided to team up with director, Walter Hill, whose career as an action director pretty much ended years ago. Unfortunately the film barely made a dent at the box office when it opened last winter, so Hill’s career is still stuck in limbo.

The film starts with an aging hit man James Bonomo (Stallone) and his young partner Louis Blanchard (Jon Seda) assassinates a witness in a high profile case. After the job was done, both men were waiting for their contact at a bar somewhere in New Orleans to received their fees. Unfortunately their employers sent out another hit man, Keegan (Jason Momoa), to take them out. Bonomo survived the hit but his partner was not so fortunate. Feeling betrayed and upset that his partner was killed, Bonomo wowed to find his employers and get revenge.

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Later a Washington D.C. detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang), showed up at local police station and wants to take charge in the investigation of who put out a hit on the witness. He did some digging and was able to meet up with Bonomo. As it turned out the witness whom Bonomo took out was an ex-cop and Kwon’s former partner, he’s about to testify against some highly important people and Kwon wants to bring those people down. He asked Bonomo to help him but Bonomo was not interested. A few minutes later, Kwon was being chased by some hit men and was shot in the shoulder. Bonomo was able to come to his rescue and they both found out that the hit men were local cops. At this point Kwon realized he’s alone and no one will help him with the investigation and Bonomo still wants revenge so both of them decided to team up and find out who’s really behind this whole charade.

The rest of the film becomes the usual interracial buddy cop action/thriller that were quite popular in the 80s and 90s. We get the usual insults between the lead characters and of course shootouts and big fight scenes. The film sort of reminded me of 48 Hrs. which was also directed by Walter Hill. Having been out of the directing action pictures for a long time, I didn’t expect much from him. To my surprise, he actually did a pretty decent job with this film. The pacing of the movie is pretty smooth and he staged some really excellent fight scenes and shootouts. My only complaint is the film looked pretty dreadful, I don’t know what Hill and his cinematographer were trying to accomplish here. For a film that cost $55mil to produce, it looked like a straight to video action movies of the early 90s. Also, I have a hard time believing the film cost that much to make since it didn’t have any big car chases or huge shootouts that would require lots of visual effects. I don’t think Stallone is getting his usual fee of $20mil per picture anymore, so I don’t know where all those millions went, obviously it didn’t show it on the screen. Another big complaint, CGI blood, I hate it! I wish action directors would go back and use squibs again.

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As far as performance goes, I thought Stallone was pretty great in it. He plays the role perfectly, he’s not a good guy, just someone who’s doing this kind of work because he doesn’t know how to do any other kind. And for a man who’s in his late 60s, he still look great doing the action stuff. Sung Kang is not a strong actor and I’m glad they didn’t try to make him the lead, I’m pretty sure most people will only know him from the Fast & Furious franchise. The beautiful Sarah Shahi shows up as Bonomo’s daughter and she doesn’t really have much to do other than serves as the eye candy and of course, the damsel in distress. Jason Momoa is pretty much the usual one dimensional villain and even Christian Slater has a small role as one of the villains.

Despite it being a box office disappointment, I thought the film was quite entertaining that reminds me of buddy cop action flicks of the 80s. If you’re a fan of Stallone or Hill, you might enjoy it as well. Just keep your expectations low and don’t expect anything new from it, the film knows it’s an action picture and it didn’t try to be more than that.

3 out of 5 reels


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What do you think of this one folks? Do you think Sly still got it?

Random Thoughts: What happened to these directors’ (once-promising) career?

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DirectorsChairAs a film director wannabe, I tend to follow the careers of professional filmmakers. To me,they’re more interesting than movie stars. Yes, I’m one of the few people who doesn’t really care about stars. Years ago, I met Tom Cruise in person and all I said to him was how much I enjoyed his films and didn’t even ask for his autograph or take a picture with him, even though he’s my favorite actor. But if I ever run into Spielberg, Nolan, Fincher, Tarantino or Scorsese, I’d probably be excited and try to talk to them about their films and the movie-making business.

Movie-making is a tough business to get into and that’s why it’s kind of sad when I see some promising filmmakers career never took off or just go down the toilet. Maybe because they made some bad choices by choosing to direct a certain film or just have bad agents, their career is not once what it used to be. Below are some directors whom I thought had great promise when they burst into the scene but somehow they never became a household name like Nolan or Tarantino.

1. John Singleton

Director_JohnSingletonHe first film was a success, Boyz n the Hood, he’s only in his early 20s when he made it. Not only was he a young successful director but he’s one of the few African American directors working in Hollywood at the time. Instead of jumping into doing big budget production, he decided to stick with small budget dramas for his next few films. Then he made his first big budget film in 2000, a semi-sequel/remake of Shaft.

Apparently he had ran into a lot of problems while shooting the film, he fought with his star Sam Jackson constantly on the set and didn’t agree with tone of the film with producer Scott Rudin. The movie was a mild success and many thought Singleton would keep making big action pictures. Well his next film was another low budget drama, Baby Boy, it didn’t jell with critics or audiences. He decided to jump back into another big budget action film by directing 2 Fast 2 Furious, the worst in the series in my opinion. The film turned out to be his most successful yet at the box office.

After 2 Fast 2 Furious’ success, I thought for sure Singleton would be on his way to becoming one of the A-list directors in Hollywood. Well that never happened, his next film was an action drama, Four Brothers, it’s kind of weird movie that I’m still scratching my head as to why it even got green lighted by the studio and released in the summer time. Now, the film didn’t bomb at the box office but somehow Singleton’s career went downhill fast. During this time, he was attached to direct the long in development Without Remorse, a film based on Tom Clancy’s excellent novel. Of course the film never got made and Singleton’s last film was the atrocious looking, Abduction, an action (comedy?) starring that boy from the Twilight films [Taylor Lautner]. I do hope he makes a comeback someday because I like him as director.

2. Neil Jordan

Director_NeilJordanWhen his film The Crying Game became a hit here in the States, Jordan name was everywhere in Hollywood and he took an offer to direct a big budget adaption of Anne Rice’s popular novel, Interview with a Vampire. The film was a hit at the box office but instead of directing another big budget tentpole type of film, he decided to make a more personal film, Michael Collins. It didn’t click with the critics and not many people went to see it in theater. After Michael Collins, Jordan’s career sort of mellowed out and he didn’t make another big budget film until 2007’s The Brave One, a female version of Death Wish that I thoroughly enjoyed. I didn’t see any of his films after The Brave One but I’m curious about Byzantium.

I really like Jordan’s directing style and wish he’d tackle other genre, like sci-fi or action/espionage. I don’t know if he’ll ever make a comeback and reach the status as he did with The Crying Game and Interview with the Vampire. I sure hope so because the man is very talented.

3. Curtis Hanson

Director_CurtisHansonHanson has been in the movie business for a long time but he didn’t get any recognition until he made L.A. Confidential in 1997. The movie scored big with critics, got a lot of Oscar nominations and was a hit at the box office. After the film’s success, Hanson’s name was everywhere in Hollywood and he got offer to do a lot of big films but he decided to make a small drama, Wonder Boys, as his next film. It’s a very underrated movie, I really enjoyed it but somehow it never garner the attention like L.A. Confidential.

A couple of years later he made a huge come back with 8 Mile starring the then hugely popular rapper Eminem. Now I think the film’s success was mostly because of Eminem’s popularity, not because of Hanson’s work. But the film was good and I though Hanson did a great job with the material. He then tried his hands at romantic/comedy in In Her Shoes, the film got some good reviews but it didn’t click with the audience.

His next film may have been his downfall, the romantic/drama Lucky You was supposed to be his next big hit. But after some bad test screenings, the studio kept pushing the release date back. Finally they decided to open it on the same day as Spider-man 3 and of course it got crushed. His last film, Chasing Mavericks, was another dud starring the king of romantic/comedy bombs, Gerard Butler. I’m not sure if Hanson will ever make a comeback again, the kind of films he likes to direct aren’t popular anymore at the box office, unless he tries his hands at popular genre like sci-fi, action/spy or comic book, he may never gain the attention like he used to back in the late 90s.

4. Walter Hill

Director_WalterHillHill is one of my favorite directors, here’s a man who was responsible for some of the great action films of the late 70s and early 80s. The Warriors, The Driver (if you’re a fan of Drive, you’ll like this one), The Long Riders, 48Hrs, Extreme Prejudice and Southern Comfort are some of his best work. He was on his way to becoming an A-list director but a film called Streets of Fire put a stop to that. The film was a big budget (for its time) rock ‘n roll action adventure that studio hoped would spawn many sequels. Unfortunately it tanked at the box office and Hill’s career never really recover. He continued to make action films throughout the 80s, 90s and 2000s but none of them were hits.

To be fair, some of the films he made were pretty bad, Wild Bill, Last Man Standing and Supernova were some good examples. Don’t waste your time on those films. I haven’t seen his last film, Bullet to the Head, but from what I read it’s another one of his bad films. Not many people know this but he’s one of the producers of the Alien franchise and at one point he’s going to direct Alien 3 before David Fincher was hired. I’m not sure if Hill will ever make another great film, seems to me he sort of gotten lazy and don’t care about his work anymore.

5. Mimi Leder

Director_MimiLederLeder’s been doing TV work for a while and then got a chance of lifetime by directing Dreamworks’ studio first big action film, The Peacemaker. Apparently Spielberg was so impressed with her work on the TV show E.R. that he personally offered her the gig. The film wasn’t a big hit but it got her to direct another big film, 1998’s Deep Impact, it’s one of the biggest hits of the summer. After Deep Impact‘s success, I thought for sure she’s be doing more tent pole type of films. But she decided to do a drama, Pay It Forward, it was ravaged by critics and many people hated it, especially the downer of an ending. After this film’s failure, she went back and only work on TV series.

It’s a shame that Leder never got a chance to make more action movies since she’s one of the few female directors in Hollywood and she knows how to shoot good action scenes. That climax in The Peacemaker was one of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen.

Honorable mention:

Director_MNightI didn’t want to put him on the list because it’s too obvious but M. Night Shyamalan‘s career has been on the downhill slide ever since TIME magazine put him on the cover and called him the next Steven Spielberg. Well as we all know that statement turned out to be WRONG! After I saw The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, I thought he’s one of the great young directors at the time. I didn’t mind Signs like some people did, but then he made the atrocious The Village followed by an even more atrocious film, Lady in the Water. I skipped The Happening and The Last Airbender because they looked so bad and I already gave up on him. He’s now on my list of hack directors working in Hollywood today. His newest film, After Earth, doesn’t look too appealing to me and [surprise, surprise] it underperformed again at the box office.

Is there any hope for M. Night to make another good movie? I don’t know, he’s still relatively young and obviously Hollywood studios don’t mind footing the bills for his films. But I think he needs to work with some good writers and only handle the directing part.

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What do you think folks? Are you a fan of any of the directors I mentioned? Feel free to comment below.

Guest Review: Extreme Prejudice (1987)

Special thanks to my pal Kevin a.k.a Jack Deth for another in-depth review!

Make sure you check out his profile page under FC Contributor’s tab and find out more about his love for film.


‘Extreme Prejudice’ is a little known gem directed by Walter Hill and written by John Milius, an updated drugs-across-the border western. Starring Nick Nolte as Jack Benteen, a straight arrow, incorruptible second generation Texas Ranger who doesn’t say much. Lets his silent stare and scowl, when appropriate, handle most situations that his Colt .45 ACP  may be a bit too loud, messy and devastating for. In short, Benteen is Gary Cooper in High Noon, only more so with a larger hat.

Benteen’s jurisdiction cover just one heck of a lot of desert close to the Mexico border, with not a whole heck of a lot in between. Operating out of a small quiet town with a bank, barber shop, hardware stores, school and small businesses, where everyone who hasn’t left knows everyone else. With its usual raining,  miserable Saturday night fights in outlying Honky Tonks and dirt floor bars. One good old boy has the sad misfortune of running afoul of Benteen and his partner and mentor, Sheriff Hank Perason, played by the notably  gruff Rip Torn long before his playing Zed in ‘Men In Black’. The good old boy/drug smuggler pulls a gun on Benteen and Pearson and is killed in self defense, which slowly gets the ball rolling for the the rest of the film.

On the Mexican side of the border is Cash Bailey, Nolte’s childhood friend, a drug Kingpin and possible snitch or undercover DEA agent who’s in way over his head. He’s played flawlessly by Powers Boothe, fresh from his HBO mini-series Marlowe, resplendent in a white suit and Stetson, yet radiating an aura of corrupt sliminess. Cash runs a fair-sized Cocaine smuggling operation that rakes in huge amounts of money that requires laundering.

Cue the crooked Bank Manager and possible degenerate gambler who’s been bought and paid for by Cash Bailey, and whose bank is in the same small south Texas town that contains Benteen’s Rangers station and the table has been set for the entree. A small cadre of US Army special operators who are officially dead enter the mix. Led by Michael Ironside and top kicked by Clancy Brown. They make their entrance at a Municipal Airport with appropriate aplomb and a bit of raunch, before settling down to business. The deliberate destruction of Cash Bailey and his entire operation, through methods legal or extra-legal. I’ll let you do the math.

In the interim, Nolte and Hank Pearson debate a reluctant confrontation with the good old boy’s brother. The tête-à-tête is cut short when the brother and several friends pour out of the clapboard General Store with rifles and handguns blazing. In what should be a lopsided win with shotguns, M-16s and pistols, The Ranger and Sheriff hold their own and more with Benteen’s .45 and lever action Winchester backed up by Pearson’s 12 Gauge pump shot gun. Unknowingly being watched by Michael Ironside’s Col. Paul Hackett and Clancy Brown’s MSgt. Larry McRose.

The two watch Pearson fall and the brother die as the survivors flee, only to be ambushed and dispatched by Hackett and McRose shortly thereafter. A mistake is made and shell casings are not policed up and Hackett’s hand is tipped through investigations later on.

As Benteen plays catch-up, another character is introduced. Maria Conchita Alonso as Sarita. The teenage girl who carried a torch for Benteen and Bailey and probably still does. All grown up and signing at a Cantina and who will figure prominently toward the story’s end.

Comes the dawn and the lesser know special operators have staked out the bank with what would now be less than first generation tactical and spy gear in preparation for a heist. The primaries go in. People are frightened as money is stolen and Safety Deposit Boxes rifled. Hackett confronts the crooked banker and kills him while a faraway barn blows up as a diversion. One of the lesser operators is killed and the getaway is disrupted by Benteen, who locks up William Forsythe at his borderline psycho best as Sgt. Buck Atwater and Matt Mulhern as Declan Coker, their heavy weapons man.

Benteen and Hackett finally meet after the shell casings left that the ambush reveal an Army pedigree. Neither trusts the other as Atwater and Coker report on everything they see and hear to Larry B. Scott’s Sgt. Charles Biddle, their tech guy from their jail cell at the Ranger station.

Deals are made, though Hackett would gladly like to see Benteen dead. Since Benteen doesn’t fit in Hackett’s agenda. As Atwater and Biddle are released and Sarita disappears, Benteen joins Hackett and his crew for a trip south of the border. For a protracted confrontation inside a massive adobe fortress amongst a sizable Mexican peasant army that would would make Sam Peckinpah envious.

Benteen just walks right on in, ready to talk Bailey into returning with him sans Sarita. Though willing to end it all in a  showdown with Bailey if push comes to shove.

Only to have the festivities interrupted as ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE!

Powers Boothe as Cash Bailey

Hackett and his boys open up with everything they have and whatever else they can get their hands on. Many, many of Cash Bailey’s soldiers fall in a modern shoot ’em up to easily rival the best of  The Wild Bunch. Biddle and Coker pick off strays as McRose catches Hackett literally red handed sticking a knife in Bailey’s befuddled book keeper. A deal is offered and rejected as a stooge stumbles by. Shots are fired and Hackett slips away.

Betrayed, the operators are evenly divided in taking out Bailey’s army and Hackett. Who absorbs many, many hits before McRose unloads with his 12 Gauge. The operators are picked off one by one. The smoke clears and Cash returns with a truck full of soldiers ready to pick up where they left off before all of the fireworks. Undaunted, Benteen tries to talk Bailey into coming back to the US, but Bailey is in too deep and fires. Benteen empties his .45 into his boyhood friend. Reloads and listens to an ultimatum from the new Jefe.

Leave and don’t come back. It seems that the locals didn’t much care for or trust the gringo, Cash Bailey to begin with. Better to keep the operation completely Mexican. Benteen agrees and he and Sarita saunter off into the sunset.

What makes this movie good?

A superb ensemble cast of proven character actors driving the story forward between well timed and executed fights, bank heist and the final homage to Sam Peckinpah gunfights inside Bailey’s fortress. Toss in a plethora of great lines for all and sundry as lies stack on top of lies and the Alpha males vie for supremacy. Add the backdrop of a Ry Cooder-produced soundtrack. Conducted by Jerry Goldsmith as a full orchestra and you have the makings of a film not soon forgotten.

What makes this film great?

Nick Nolte, Powers Boothe, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown and William Forsythe in a film that literally sweats Testosterone. Shortly before ascending into their own reserved niches in the firmament

Walter Hill at the helm directing men in a men’s arena. Allowing time for each cast member to shine and perform some of their most memorable work in what many consider a B- Movie, but is so much more!


Have you seen this film? So share your thoughts in the comments.