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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014

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Sylvester Stallone fights off Jason Momoa in "Bullet to the Head."
Sylvester Stallone fights off Jason Momoa in "Bullet to the Head."

Stallone's "Bullet to the Head" a shot of '80s adrenaline

"Bullet to the Head," the latest '80s-style action film hoping to serve as a potential career rejuvenator for its aging star, isn't the kind of movie that I would technically classify as good. The direction is a little sloppy, the acting is, um, competent and the plot and script are best left undiscussed.

All of that technical tomfoolery is irrelevant, however, considering it's also the most fun I've had at the theater so far in 2013 (keep in mind what I've had to choose from). While most of these nostalgic tributes feel like they're grasping for what made that decade's action movies ridiculously entertaining and trying desperately to recapture the good ol' days, "Bullet to the Head" is an actual '80s film that somehow got released in 2013. If I said that to the producers and creators of this movie, I think they'd say that's the greatest compliment they could ask for.

The lumpy mass of muscles and veins known as Sylvester Stallone stars as Jimmy Bonomo – his friends call him Jimmy Bobo, a name that could only be used for an '80s action movie hero or a clown – a New Orleans hitman out for revenge after his partner Louis (Jon Seda) is killed after a relatively routine job on a corrupt policeman.

Bobo's plan for revenge mainly consists of brooding in a bar until Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang), the dead corrupt policeman's old partner from out of town, says he wants to help Bobo get revenge. The two scour the Crescent City for clues, leading them to a bigger conspiracy involving a crippled political player (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Mr. Eko from "Lost"), his loose cannon assassin (Jason Momoa, last seen ripping out people's tongues as Khal Drogo on "Game of Thrones") and Christian Slater. That's right; Christian Slater still appears in movies.

As soon as a viewer is able to ignore the absurd and laughably non-existent plot, "Bullet to the Head" becomes a whole lot of awesome action-packed silliness. I tried keeping track of the logic inconsistencies and unexplained character developments near the beginning of the film (I would need to see the movie at least a few more times – which I'm totally okay with – before I could explain the bad guys' convoluted plan or anybody's motivation besides Bobo), but after a while, its lovably lunk-headed logic won me over.

I think it was soon after the classic '80s trope of a chase scene interrupted by a random parade that I was in silly genre movie heaven.

Everything that one would go to a movie like "Bullet to the Head" for is just right. The action, as directed by veteran Walter Hill (making his first film since 2002's prison boxing drama "Undisputed"), is shockingly satisfying. An early fight scene in a tiny bar bathroom has the kind of reckless destruction of Hill's '70s cult classic "The Warriors," and it doesn't let up until after its climax, involving tons of action movie goofiness and an axe fight between Stallone and Momoa that plays as awesome as it sounds.

As you'd expect from the writer and director of "48 Hours," whenever punches aren't being thrown around, quip-filled buddy banter is. The dialogue has an entertainingly blunt zip, and while none of the actors are going to have the SAG Awards calling anytime soon, Stallone has enough silly straight-faced macho charisma to make the zingers work, and Kang checks his cell phone for texts and clues like the best of them.

It's at times like these when the star rating system becomes completely irrelevant. I would never call it good or even well made (Hill is strangely addicted to quick zooms and yellow-tinted transition flares), but I thoroughly enjoyed "Bullet to the Head – more so than any other movie so far in 2013. Unlike the other '80s nostalgia trips that came before, it's not winking so hard that it can barely open its eyes again ("The Last Stand") or trying to give itself a false sense of gravitas ("The Expendables" films, namely part one).

"Bullet to the Head" knows what it is: mouth-breathingly dumb. And I wouldn't want it any other way.

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