Sylvester Stallone

REVIEW: Bullet to the Head (2012)

After his former partner is killed, Washington D.C. detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) comes to New Orleans and forms a reluctant alliance with hitman James Bonomo (Sylvester Stallone), whose partner has also recently been killed, in order to bring down a common enemy.

The plot of Bullet to the Head is somewhat derivative but the action sequences and the characters make that plot enjoyable on the whole. Stallone and Kang make an unexpectedly great duo and the scenes of them finding their feet around one another are fun. Stallone’s Bonomo is the typical monotone antihero who resorts to violence to get what he wants very quickly, while Kang’s Kwon is a by the book cop who wants those responsible for his partners death to face legal justice. The filmmaker did a nice job of sidestepping the usual trope of having the Asian lead be a martial artist, instead Kwon can throw a punch but it’s his logic and connections with the police that help him and Bonomo track down their partners killer.

While Kang and Stallone are fun to watch, Jason Momoa steals every scene he’s in as sadistic killer Keegan. He’s an intimidating combination of brains and brawn and manages to standout against a physical adversary like Stallone, and against a potential strategic adversary like Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Morel.

There are some grisly fights in Bullet to the Head and the action sequences pad out a plot that is surprisingly convoluted with multiple bad guys, and people double-crossing one another at almost every turn. The plot is unoriginal, but having minor characters who then get a backstory and motives means there’s a lot of moving pieces and they don’t always come together neatly.

Bullet to the Head is a retro action film that knows exactly what it is and leans into all of its one-liners. It’s not great but it’s not boring either. 3/5.

REVIEW: Creed (2015)

creedpostersmallFormer Champion Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) returns to the world of boxing as a trainer and mentor when Adonis “Donny” Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed, seeks him out to help him become a boxer like his father.

Creed is written and directed by Ryan Coogler and sees him reunited with his Fruitvale Station star. Coogler manages to rejuvenate a franchise that’s decades old but is still respectful to the character of Rocky and its legacy while setting up a new hero of the story with Donny.

Michael B. Jordan is great as Donny. Fighting is all he knows how to do and is one of the things he’s good at and actually enjoys but then there’s this legacy of his father’s name, a father he doesn’t know but there’s so much respect for that it’s intimidating. Donny wants to be his own man but at the same time he keeps being around Rocky, a man that knew his father, until Rocky gives in and trains him. Rocky is an interesting character in Creed. He’s older and maybe a little sadder, and he’s not interested in the life of boxing anymore. Donny helps make Rocky embrace life again and they help each other be better people.

Stallone really is brilliant in Creed, it’s been a while since he’s done something that wasn’t Expendables-esque and this time he really brings it. His performance will have you reaching for the tissues because it really is heart-breaking sometimes.

The fights in the film are exciting and gripping. One fight in particular is memorable due to the fact it looks like it’s all in one take. As Adonis fights in the ring, the camera pans around him and his opponent and after a punch there’s a cut on the guys face and you just can’t tell when there could have been a cut for the makeup person to run into the ring to do that. Also a few of the boxers Donny goes up against are professional, real-life boxers. This adds another layer of danger and anticipation whenever Donny steps into the ring.

While Creed is a boxing film and a part of the Rocky universe, at its heart is the relationships between the characters. Donny calls Rocky his Uncle and they are like family, fighting and caring about each other, and then there’s his relationship with Bianca (Tessa Thompson). It feels like such a natural romance and Bianca is not just a love interest. She has her own dreams and aspirations and isn’t afraid to tell Donny when he’s mucked up. Their romance didn’t feel shoe-horned in at all and it complimented the narrative as a whole.

Creed is a brilliant movie full of heart and excitement and has done a great job at rejuvenating an old franchise. 5/5.