Bullet to the Head (2013) Escapist Fun in New Orleans

Escapist Fun Bullet to the Head

After the abysmal reviews that Bullet to the Head got from critics, I was tempted to give the film a miss, I finally succumbed to my own curiosity however and found the film to be a bit of escapist fun set in New Orleans. This 2012 film was very enjoyable and worth the time it took  to watch it!

The film was  directed by Walter Hill is based on Alexis Nolent‘s French graphic novel Du Plomb Dans La Tete. The film stars Sylvester StalloneSung KangJason MomoaSarah Shahi, and Christian Slater

The plot, in case you’ve never read the French graphic novel, focusses on Stallone’s character, James Bonomo who is a professional hit man for the mob. At the beginning of the film he and his partner are “set up” to make a hit and instead of getting paid, their employer decides to kill them in an effort to “tie up any loose ends.”

Bonomo is, understandably, pretty annoyed at this turn of events and he decides to take personal action. Along the way he partners with a Washington D.C. Detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) who has Bonomo’s target in his sights. The two form an uneasy alliance that Kwon, with his anal cop’s mentality, constantly puts in jeopardy.

The film doesn’t claim to be “highbrow” entertainment. The plot has enough holes in it to qualify as a cheese grater, but dammit, it’s fun. A bit of mindless revenge with bucket loads of violence thrown in for good measure.

This is not a “message” film, unless that message is, “set back and enjoy your ride!”

The only real problem I had with the film was it’s reliance on the age issue. Yes, we all know the story of the old bull and the young one, but it is being done to death at the minute.

First you had Reds which featured an entire crew of “old” spies who could still “kick ass” and take names. Then The Last Stand with an “old” cop who does what no one else can; A Good Day to Die Hard with an ageing John McClane who shows his son that the old ways are still the best. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m an “old” guy who’ll hit his 55th birthday this year. I don’t feel old and apart from my very near fatal brush with death last year from a heart attack, I don’t think I’m going anywhere else (if you catch my drift) anytime soon. Sure I think that in some cases, older is better, (except in the case of women and if you read my blog, you’ll know where I stand on that issue) but this “formula” is starting (pardon the pun) to get old.

I did get the feeling that this film was just an excuse for Stallone to show off his newly ripped muscles after having put so much work into the second Expendables film. Expendables 1 & 2, by the way, offer more in the way of uncomplicated fun and pure escapism, but without the age thing creeping in as much.

Bullet to the Head is fun, uncomplicated (there’s that word again) and pure escapism. Worth a bowl of popcorn and a coke by your side to visit and just get a kick out of the mindless action and seeing bad guys get “popped” by the score.

Oh, and it was good to see Christian Slater in a slightly bigger budget film than he’s been working in off late. He still is on my list of favourite actors and I love his voice, so another reason to see the film is Slater’s cameo role.

I’d give this a 4 out of 5. A 4 because there really were a lot of plot-holes!

Available to rent, buy, and stream via the Playstation Store and other various DVD entertainment outlets. Bullet to the Head, a bit of escapist fun set in New Orleans!

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Conan the Barbarian (2011): 3D Film, 2D Characters

Conan the Barbarian (2011 film)
Conan the Barbarian (2011 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With no less than three writers and a cheeky credit given to Conan’s creator Robert E. Howard I would have expected more from the most recent version of Howard’s creation. Directed by Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw MassacreFriday the 13th), who appears to make a habit of remaking horror films, Conan the Barbarian features enough CG blood to drown a Cimmerian village. Unfortunately the focus on the 3D aspects of the film leaves little room for character development.

Okay, I will admit that you aren’t going to get too much in the way of in-depth characterization in a film with ‘Barbarian’ in the title but a little depth would have gone a long way.

If you are old enough to have seen the 1982 Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan at the cinema you will no doubt remember the ‘heavy hitters’ that appeared in the film with Arnold. Max Von Sydow, James Earl Jones and Mako (who had the dual task of narrating the film) not to mention the huge William Smith who played Conan Sr in the original. And the romantic interest was Sandahl Bergman who at least looked athletic and capable compared to the re-make’s Rachel Nichols as the new Conan’s love interest. Yes Nichols is very pretty but those matchstick arms don’t even look capable of lifting a sword, let alone be able to kill someone with it.

The film opens with the birth of Conan, ripped from his dying mothers womb by his father, Corin (Ron Perlman) after a battle. We then see Conan make his first kill, well, kills actually and then we see the young Conan (Leo Howard) training with dad and making his first sword.

This training period does not last long as Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang, Avatar) and his warriors ride into Corin’s village in search of a bone fragment that is the last piece of a powerful talisman that will bring back Zym’s dead sorcerer wife. Zym’s daughter Marique (played by Ivana Staneva as the young Marique and by Rose McGowan as the ‘grown-up’ Marique) has magic powers just like her dear departed mother and she finds the last fragment.

Zym tortures Corin and has set him up to die by having molten iron pour on him. Conan holds the heavy metal beaker until his hands bleed. After telling Conan that he loves him, Corin kills himself by pulling the chain attached to the beaker and covers himself with the hot liquid. Full of grief and rage the young Conan goes out into the body strewn village and grabs a sword.

The master of gravitas  Morgan Freeman, who opens the film, then goes on to tell us about the grown up Conan (Jason Momoa) and his travels and exploits in the pursuit of his father’s murderer. This ‘narrative’ obviously saved the producers from having to film more footage and special effects thus giving them more money to film in 3D.

The film then follows Conan’s attempts to thwart Zym’s rise to power and Conan’s falling in love with Tamara (Rachel Nichols). The plot dealing with Conan and Tamara is quite simple: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. Oh and boy has gratuitous sex with girl before losing her to Zym and co.

Conan calls in a favour from a master thief, Ela-Shan (Saïd Taghmaoui) who helps him get into Zym’s stronghold. After much carnage and the death of pretty much all the bad guys, Conan gets Tamara back. Presumably they all live happily ever after until the sequel, if there is one.

The film has been said to be more like Robert E Howard’s Conan books and that may well be true, but, what they made up for in ‘loyalty’ to the books they lost in believability of the characters.

Now I have to admit that I don’t remember too much about the 1982 version. I remember Mako as some sort of ‘magic man’ and James Earl Jones who was bigger than life itself. I also remember special effects that have not aged well at all. I do know that I thought that Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan made perfect sense, The man looked like the strongest man alive, all brute strength and massive powerful muscles.

Jason Momoa has a good enough physique and a very deep voice but I never believed for a minute that he was Ron Perlman’s son. Perlman is a big man, Momoa looked more like a tackle for a professional football team.

The real surprise to me was Rose McGowen. I didn’t recognise her at all. I did keep thinking though, that if you took away that freaky hairdo, she looked so much like Judy Garland that she could star in a biopic of Garland’s life. She even sounded like Garland. Well she did when she was doing that hissing syllable thing which was slightly irritating and  a bit off-putting. I had to watch the end credits to find out who Rose McGowen was playing.

Conan 2011 took a long and bumpy road on it’s journey to being made into a film. Directors changed and then changed again. Actors were cast, re-cast and cast again. The script had three writer’s not counting Howard’s posthumous contribution. The end result is entertaining enough, despite it’s shallow characters and it’s shaky main plot. But even a Morgan Freeman voice over was not enough to push this film into anything other than just entertaining.

It’s definitely more of a Netflix or ‘free trial DVD’ than an owner or expensive blu-ray rental. I got to watch it free on a Netflix special deal. It’s just as well, if I’d actually paid money to see it? I would have been annoyed.