bullet to the head (poster)*Sylvester Stallone is the only movie star to be #1 at the box-office in five straight decades, a record stretching from Rocky in the Seventies through last summer’s action hit The Expendables 2. And judging by Bullet to the Head, the gracefully-aging matinee idol need not retire to a rocking chair any time soon.

This riveting revenge thriller was directed by the legendary Walter Hill who, back in 1982, brilliantly cast Eddie Murphy in his big screen debut opposite Nick Nolte in 48 Hours. Here, his inspired pairing of Stallone and relative-newcomer Sung Kang as unlikely-buddies proves to be equally entertaining.

Based on Alexis Nolent’s graphic novel of the same name, Bullet to the Head revolves around two tough guys from opposite sides of the law who grudgingly team up to settle a score with a common adversary. Jimmy Bobo (Stallone) is a hit man operating in New Orleans whose protégé (Jon Seda) has   just been gutted in a bar by a goon with a Bowie knife (Jason Momoa), while. Taylor Kwon (Kang) is a cop from Washington, DC in town to investigate the murder of his partner (Holt McCallany).

As it turns out, both slayings were ordered by Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) an ambitious mobster who will stop at nothing in his quest for control of the Crescent City’s crime rackets. Because so many corrupt police and politicians are already in cahoots with Morel, double-crossed Detective Kwon almost ends-up dead when he tries to enlist the assistance of the local authorities in solving his pal’s slaying.

That betrayal leads him to reluctantly forge an unholy alliance with Jimmy. Together, they proceed to embark on a bloody rampage, dispensing a brutal brand of vigilante justice to the henchmen running interference for the ruthless Morel. Besides creating major mayhem, however, the two share many moments of levity during disagreements over about what weapons and tactics to employ.

Streetwise Jimmy repeatedly relies on his instincts and brute force, shooting first and asking questions never, an approach which grates on tech-savvy Kwon dependent on his cell phone and the internet. Kwon also finds time to develop a romantic interest in Jimmy’s estranged daughter (Sarah Shahi), an attractive tattoo artist with a parlor in a seedy neighborhood.

Still, make no mistake, this action-oriented affair is all about exacting vengeance and escalating body counts, and it won’t disappoint diehard Stallone fans in that regard. Vintage Sly in his best outing since Cop Land!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, nudity, drug use, graphic violence and bloody images
Running time: 91 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers

Watch the trailer for “Bullet to the Head”: