It’s only one month into 2013 and, already, much blood has been spilt courtesy of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham and, now, Sylvester Stallone.
Sly’s latest, “Bullet to the Head,” also marks the return of director Walter Hill, who was responsible for a handful of stylish cult classics from the late 1970s and early 1980s, including “The Warriors,” “The Driver” and “Southern Comfort.”
“Bullet” is a respectable enough, but slight, return to the style of 80s action pictures in which its heroes primarily communicate through their fists or, occasionally, weaponry.
It’s a violent film, for sure: blood sprays when the film’s title is visually realized, women are punched and there’s even a particularly graphic autopsy scene. And the final battle between Stallone and his nemesis is carried out with axes.
The plot here is pretty flimsy. Stallone is a New Orleans-based hit man whose partner is bumped off during a set-up.
He teams up with a special agent (Sung Kang) sent in from out of state to investigate. They make an unlikely – and unrealistic – partnership as they seek out the numerous baddies and bump them off.
One of the film’s low points is its endless barrage of obvious jokes involving Kang’s Korean heritage. And a subplot involving Stallone’s relationship with his estranged daughter (Sarah Shahi) is a distraction that allows for a kidnapping, but otherwise serves little purpose.
“Bullet” is occasionally amusing and certainly better than some of Stallone’s mid-90s fare, but far from the upper echelon of titles in the catalogue of its star or director.
“Warm Bodies” is a pleasant surprise. Admittedly, I had low expectations for the picture, considering that it combines the zombie genre (overdone) with the supernatural teen romance (“Twilight,” anyone?).
But the film, which was directed by Jonathan Levine (“The Wackness” and “50/50”), is a witty take on the romantic comedy setup in which two characters must overcome their differences to be together. In this case, R (Nicholas Hoult) happens to be a zombie and Julie (Teresa Palmer), a human.
The picture is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which the undead live on one side of a barrier and the living on the other.
R wanders around an airport in search of food, complaining about his existence’s lack of focus via voiceover, and returning at night to an abandoned plane, where he listens to Guns ‘N’ Roses and John Waite on vinyl.
Julie is the daughter of General Grigio (John Malkovich), who leads the military on the other side of the barrier. She goes out on a search mission with her boyfriend, Perry (Dave Franco, brother of James), who is soon gobbled up, and ends up separated from her group.
R spots her and something in him awakens. As he helps her way back to the barrier, he starts to become more and more human. Romance begins to bloom and the question of how the two will remain together takes center stage.
If this all sounds silly – well, it is. In its final sequences, an obligatory battle kicks in involving R and his kinder undead pals, the more demonic zombies and Malkovich's military cohorts, causing the picture to lose a little steam.
But, on the whole, “Warm Bodies” is wittier than most supernatural teen romances of this sort, funny when it needs to be and strangely sweet in nature.