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Bullet To The Head

Warm Bodies

February 7, 2013

Bullet to the Head (**) R

Sylvester Stallone’s latest action entry, Bullet to the Head, his first non-franchise film in quite some time, is pretty standard stuff and that’s a bit of a surprise. No, I’m not surprised because I expected more from Stallone. I think he’s trading more on the novelty of going through the motions of an action star in his late sixties, squaring off with actors half his age, than anything else. The biggest surprise here is that Bullet to the Head is directed by Walter Hill, the veteran filmmaker behind some of my all time favorite action films, a list that includes The Warriors, Hard Times, The Driver, 48 HRS and Southern Comfort. That’s not even taking into account Hill’s behind the scenes role in the original Alien from 1979. The point is that Hill is an undeniably talented filmmaker who is clearly capable of good stuff and while Bullet to the Head does indeed contain some of Hill’s signature flair for staging action scenes, too much of the film has a sense of déjà vu about it. It’s almost as if Walter Hill in 2013 is imitating Walter Hill from thirty odd years ago with said results being ho-hum at best.

The plot is predictable for anyone well schooled in action films and who isn’t these days? It’s inspired by an Alexis Nolent graphic novel, scripted by Alessandro Camon and features the usual plot of double crosses and evil government officials involved in underhanded schemes. Stallone’s character is a professional hit man whose partner is offed after the duo dispatch their latest target.

Stallone is 66 years old...from Bullet to the Head

Enter an Asian cop into the mix (Sung Kang), who is bent on taking the Stallone character in after he sorts things out, and you get a sense that this film wants to be a buddy-cop film in the way that the Lethal Weapon and Rush Hour series perfected that genre. There’s also a subplot involving the Asian cop and his romantic feelings for Stallone’s daughter in the film (Sarah Shahi), a tattoo artist who saves the cop’s life when she removes a bullet from his chest. The film does finally come to life a bit during the final act when Stallone gets to square off in an axe fight with the villain of the film (Jason Momoa) but it’s a case of too much, too little, too late. Christian Slater turns up briefly as a corrupt businessman but his character really isn’t that interesting and could have been played by any actor.

There has been some mention in the press that Walter Hill was not the first director hired for this project so perhaps the sole blame can’t be put on him. It’s just that everyone seems to be almost sleepwalking through this film, hitting their marks when required to do so and not much else. I know that Stallone is capable of good work, as is Hill, but Bullet to the Head, much like those two Expendables films, isn’t the one to bring Stallone back to the level that he deserves. It isn’t that we’re tired of 80s style action films, we’re just tired of half baked ones.

Warm Bodies (**) PG 13

Zombie meets girl, zombie munches on girl’s boyfriend, zombie falls in love with girl who wears less mascara and eyeliner than zombie does, zombie loses girl, zombie searches for girl, zombie finally finds girl in act three while attempting to avoid getting shot by girl’s dad while viewer runs screaming from theater...

That, essentially, is the plot of Warm Bodies, the latest attempt to cash in on the zombie phenomena that has seemingly exploded in all areas of pop culture. There is no better film in recent memory to serve as a textbook example of the concept being the thing than writer-director Jonathan Levine’s film based on the novel by Issac Marion. At its core is the idea that with a little TLC even zombies can revert to being human. It’s a clever premise I’ll admit and, considering the film’s romantic overtones, I’m sure that it’s no coincidence that the film is being timed for release at Valentine’s Day. The trouble is that once the premise of Warm Bodies is established during the first minutes of the picture, the filmmakers make little to no attempts to build on that premise. In order for a film to work you have to have something to build on and that’s where trouble sets in, as the film has nowhere to go. For most of its running time, the film wavers uncomfortably between romance of the Twilight film variety and comedic situations found in 1980s style sitcoms that were only marginally funny then.

Nicholas Hoult is a zombie named R. We never learn his full name because he can’t recall what it was but that’s not really important. What does matter is that some sort of biological warfare has resulted in the population being turned into zombies. John Malkovich is General Grigio, the leader of the human survivors. Grigio sends his daughter, Julie (Teresa Palmer), along with her boyfriend, Perry (Dave Franco) on a zombie raid, where Perry is quickly devoured by R.

Nicholas Hoult & Teresa Palmer

We’re told in voice over narration by R that once he eats someone he absorbs their memories (don’t ask). After munching on Perry, R develops feelings for Julie and finds himself gradually becoming human. But convincing her father not to plug the love-struck zombie is a task of a much higher order for Julie, leading to the film’s final act.

Warm Bodies isn’t a bad film, just mediocre, in the same way that the Twilight series of films were mediocre. One of the most grating aspects of the film, however, has to be its overuse of clichéd pop songs on the soundtrack. One particularly irritating instance of this is when Julie’s girlfriend applies makeup to R in an effort to make him appear human, while Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman starts playing right on cue. It was enough to make me want to exit the theater right then. Still, if your standards aren’t very high you might find yourself giving in to the charms of such shenanigans as this in the film. Those whose tastes tend to skewer a little on the subversive side, however, may want to think hard before spending ninety some odd minutes with these characters.

These movies are at the Carmike in Hickory, (828) 304-0089, and area theaters.

Questions or comments? Write Adam Long at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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