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'Bullet To The Head': An Obsessive Chat

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Sylvester Stallone returns to theaters today -- right now, in fact! -- with a movie called Bullet to the Head. Stallone is one of those actor who has a large fan base -- in fact, devoted fans have been known to call themselves "Stallonies." (I have no idea if this is true because I just made that up; if this is not a real term, it needs to be soon).

To engage in an obsessive chat about Bullet to the Head, it would make sense to call upon one of the biggest Stallonies on the planet. Unfortunately, I do not know any of these people. So, instead, the biggest Arnold Schwarzenegger fan I know, IndieWire's Matt Singer, joins me to discuss the new Stallone movie, Bullet to the Head.

Mike: Strangely, I didn't hate Bullet to the Head. What is wrong with me?


Matt: Maybe you were grazed by a bullet to the head? No, it's not terrible. I think it's almost good. It's close. Bullet graze close.


Mike: Well, it certainly works a lot better than Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempt at a comeback in The Last Stand. Though, I can't put my finger on why. (As an aside, I Googled "Schwarzenegger" for the correct spelling and "A naked photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger having sex" is the first thing that popped up.)


Matt: (And this surprised you?)


Mike: (A little bit, yes.)


Matt: I don't know if I'd go that far. They're pretty close. They're both about these guys being old. So if you like action movies about mortality, holy cow, are you having an awesome January.


Mike: Oh, I disagree. I feel Stallone pretty much ignores the fact that he is old. He has an ax fight with the guy who plays Conan the Barbarian!


Matt: Well not to actually think about a movie that practically demands you not think to enjoy it. But while you're correct about that, he's also got all that voiceover in the beginning and the ending about getting older. But, then, a lot of Stallone's recent movies have this very weird tension with his age. Like Rocky Balboa was about him getting older ... but also still giving a young heavyweight a more serious run for his money than he thought. Anyway, he also does The Expendables which seems like it should be about him passing down this legacy to younger stars, but mostly just seems like an excuse for him to leech coolness off young stars while making himself look even tougher, stronger, and badder of ass than them. Which is REALLY what Bullet to the Head is all about.


Mike: Well, I can't argue with that. For the rest of the movie he sounded like Rocky. But, yes, I agree with you about Bullet to the Head -- and ALL of these movies, actually. None of them are actually about getting older. These characters always say they are old, but then do superhuman things that a 20-year-old couldn't do. Even in the last Indiana Jones movie, Indy complains how old he is, but he's swinging on his whip, flying into windshields. I am in my 30s and I would break a hip if I tried that.


Matt: One of my big problems with this movie is that it's a buddy cop movie, in which one of the buddies (Sung Kang) seems to exist only to make the other buddy (Stallone) look really awesome in comparison. Like, I felt really bad for Sung Kang watching this movie.


Mike: Don't forget the "Asians can't drive" jokes and a Kato comparison.


Matt: Yeah. There's a lot of scenes of these two characters driving around looking for clues. Stallone is a hitman and Kang is a cop, and they've agreed to put aside their differences and work together to solve this case. And while they drive around, Stallone just constantly makes fun of Sung Kang and cracks Asian jokes. Which would be fine, I guess, if Sung Kang got to make his own jokes too. But the one time he says something back, Stallone is like "That's a dumb joke." He even gets the last word when he gets insulted!


Mike: I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Sung Kang had to sign a contract that he would never make direct eye contact with Stallone.


Matt: He exists in the movie only to make Stallone look good in comparison. He's introduced acting like a pretty decent cop, connecting the dots, following some leads. But once he and Stallone team up, his only role is to call someone on his cell phone for vital information and to act naively and stupidly so that he can be saved by Stallone and/or yelled at by Stallone.


Mike: I'm surprised Tim Kazurinsky wasn't hired to play Stallone's partner.


Matt: Like imagine 48 Hours if the whole movie was Nick Nolte berating Eddie Murphy, and Eddie Murphy having no comebacks, and then doing all kinds of dumb things that nearly get him killed, and then Nick Nolte had to bail him out over and over again.


Mike: That's an apt comparison to 48 Hours. But I do believe that you just compared Sung Kang to Eddie Murphy in his prime.


Matt: Well both movies were directed by Walter Hill.


Mike: Sung Kang is ... Delirious. Sung Kang: Raw.


Matt: So I think the comparisons are deliberate. But do you blame Sung Kang or do you blame the screenplay?


Mike: I blame Brewster's Millions. That's a lie: I love Brewster's Millions. Oh, I blame Stallone. I mean, Sung Kang can't just show up on set making demands that his character have a personality of any kind. He's a prop for Stallone. And I think that's the way Stallone likes it, which is a shame. There's an alternate reality in which Stalllone has a recent Oscar nomination after following up on what he started with Copland. I mean, Cop Land.


Matt: Yeah, Copland was something else. The heartwarming story of Jacob P. Copland, who triumphed over adversity to become the world's first one-legged astronaut.


Mike: "Played by Fred Dryer, as you've never seen him before."


Matt: Am I nuts, though, or is Jason Momoa kind of awesome in this movie?


Mike: He's ... not terrible. I liked him during the ax fight. I just liked that there was an ax fight in general.


Matt: I thought he was pretty great given the material. As much as I love Stallone and Schwarzenegger, it really should be, like Momoa and The Rock making the buddy cop movies at this point.


Mike: It appeared this was not the first time Momoa had fought with an ax. He could really handle that thing.


Matt: Yes, he definitely had taken an ax fighting class or two at his local YMCA.


Mike: And he may have won, if it weren't for that pesky bullet to the head.
Matt: SPOILER ALERT. I did appreciate that the title was accurate. There are bullets. There are heads. Also: someone says the phrase "bullet to the head" in the movie.


Mike: I almost applauded. Every movie should be titled with this format.


Matt: What would Ghostbusters be?


Mike: Slime to the Face.


Matt: OK here's the real question: if Bullet to the Head, WASN'T titled this way, what would it be titled?


Mike: Rhinestone.


Matt: Is he playing his character from Rhinestone? I didn't catch that.


Mike: I had just assumed. I'm sure Dolly Parton is in the deleted scenes

Matt: And she sang the discarded theme song, "I Will Love You Forever (Like a Bullet to the Head)."

Mike: "9 to 5 (Like a Bullet to the Head)" Someone should really get those two back together. Why wasn't Stallone in Joyful Noise?


Matt: Have you seen Rhinestone?


Mike: Sadly.


Matt: Well that's why.


Mike: I saw it in a theater.


Matt: Sadly.


Mike: My dad loved Dolly. I also saw The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in a theater. Sadly.


Matt: We might be getting slightly off-track.


Mike: I don't think I can write about this movie anymore. I'm getting depressed.


Matt: But you said you liked Bullet to the Head.


Mike: I kind of did. But I think it's more "in comparison to everything else." Like you said, it's almost good.


Matt: The opening logos are pretty awesome And the ax fight is fun. Should we ax fight to settle this? Hold on, I have this ceremonial display of axes on my wall I keep handy for just such an occasion.


Mike: I mean, I could just shoot you. But let's use your axes instead. OK, I'm twirling my ax in the air. Now I take a swing at you with my ax.


Matt: Sigh.


Mike: And scene.


Matt Singer runs the popular CriticWire blog for IndieWire. You can reach him directly on Twitter.


Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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