Plug in the neon and cue the blues-rock soundtrack: The 1980s are back!
Sylvester Stallone is in full effect in "Bullet to the Head," a thoroughly enjoyable blast from the past that finds the aging action hero delivering punches and punch lines with more power than he's mustered in years. Stallone, 66, has been mostly sparring of late, with a wobbly "Rambo" in 2008 and two profitable but silly "Expendables" films. Here, he looks ready to go the distance.
Speaking of old movie references, name this plot: Grizzled hit man Jimmy Bobo (Stallone) teams up with tech-savvy cop Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang, "Fast Five") to find the men who crossed him. It's a twist of sorts on "48 Hrs.," another buddy film that mixed snappy banter with hard-hitting, even moody violence. Both films are directed by the pulp genius Walter Hill ("Streets of Fire," "The Warriors"), and this is a welcome comeback for him, too.
Why does this B-picture work so much better than January junk like Arnold Schwarzenegger's creaky comeback, "The Last Stand," or Jason Statham's brain-numbing collision with Jennifer Lopez in "Parker"? The magic is in the details, from the little surprises to the colorful casting. Every bad guy is a pleasure, particularly Christian Slater as a sneering politician and Jason Momoa as the enthusiastic killer Keegan. Momoa, so wooden in 2011's "Conan the Barbarian," absolutely crackles here, and his final mano-a-mano against Stallone is a minor classic.
Some might object to Stallone's frequent Asian jokes ("Nice going, Oddjob!"), but Kang brings dignity to his straight-man role and gets in a few equal-opportunity punches. As for the women (Sarah Shahi plays a sexy tattoo artist), they're often caught bathing and nude. Did I mention the '80s were back?
PLOT A hard-nosed hit man and a naive young cop team up to catch some killers. RATING (R)
BOTTOM LINE A fast, funny, slam-bang action flick, with Stallone in full force and director Walter Hill ("48 Hrs.") working his 1980s magic. It's like the decade never left.