Bullet to the Head
Written by Alessandro Camon
Directed by Walter Hill
Bullet to the Head marks Walter Hill’s return to feature film directing after a ten year absence. Though dissimilar to career highs like The Warriors or The Driver, Bullet to the Head’s basic set-up of a cop teaming up with someone on the other side of the law, in this case a hitman, puts the director on the familiar ground of his past fare like 48 Hrs. It’s also familiar territory for producer Joel Silver. Ever the fan of mismatched partners in an action comedy context, Silver had original co-star Thomas Jane removed from the film and replaced by Asian-American actor Sung Kang, a regular of the Fast and the Furiousseries, wanting a “more ‘ethnic’ actor” to appeal to a wider audience. With a replication of past formulas from producer and director, as well as star Sylvester Stallone on leading man duty, Bullet to the Head is a glaring tribute to a certain brand of 1980s thriller, complete with such choice cliché dialogue as “this goes all the way to the White House!” The only problem is that the film is so rarely thrilling at all.
Sound on Sight Podcast #331: ‘The Expendables 2′ / ‘True Romance’
If you’ve been following Sound on Sight for any length of time, you’ll know that, for all of our love and affection for arthouse and foreign film, not to mention documentaries, we love a good terrible action film. So we thought it might be fun to check in on Sylvester Stallone’s latest ensemble action pic, The Expendables 2, directed by Simon West (Con Air, The Mechanic). After that, we take a look back at True Romance, Tony Scott’s cult actioner (scripted by Quentin Tarantino), in the wake of Scott’s death this past week. Ricky D and Simon Howell are joined by guest host Deepayan Sengupta.
‘The Expendables 2′ is, at the very least, better than its disastrous predecessor
The Expendables 2
Written by Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone
Directed by Simon West
Of the myriad of problems with the horrifically tedious first instalment of The Expendables, one of the most prominent was the incompetent execution of its action sequences. Prone to an absurd cut frequency, confusing special relations, terrible CGI blood effects and a hideous form of neon-draped lighting, the sequences provided no thrill and failed to highlight any of its performers’ strengths. Simon West – best known for Con Air – replaces Sylvester Stallone as the man in charge for the sequel, and while the direction is never exemplary or innovative, it is at least competent this time round and the cutting far less frenetic. Jet Li, for one, is in The Expendables 2 very little, but it is nice to actually have his skills complimented by the camera this time. The oppressive electric-blue colour look of the first is also gone, replaced by an (again) competent, mostly grey scheme, while the CGI support has mostly been improved. It seems odd to make a fuss out of simple workman-like approaches and coherence regarding an action film, but the first film was such an oppressive mess of incompetence and banality that any sign of improvement feels like a striking success. The Expendables 2 also seems like a substantial upgrade simply by actually providing some sporadic entertainment.
TIFF Bell Lightbox Presents The Rise of Beefcake Cinema: ‘Cliffhanger’ a capable joyride of peaks and valleys
Directed by Renny Harlin
Written by Michael France and Sylvester Stallone
Cliffhanger grips you from the start.
The film opens with Gabe Walker (Sylvester Stallone) scaling up the side of a mountain without the aid of a harness.
Once he reaches the peak, he comes across a couple, Hal and Sarah (Michael Rooker and Michelle Joyner), both of whom happen to be his friends.
Hal, an experienced climber himself, has broken his leg while they were on a climb, leading Gabe to come save them.
With the help of his girlfriend, Jessie (Janine Turner), Gabe is able to tether a line between a rescue helicopter and the precipice where they are precariously stranded.
Using a harness, Hal is able to pull himself to safety, across the ominous void. But when it’s Sarah’s turn, her equipment fails, leaving her hanging 4000 feet above ground.
In a split-second decision, Gabe throws caution to wind and goes after her, reaching her just as her harness snaps. Arms outstretched, he catches her, but as time and gravity fights against them, his grip begins to weaken.
Sarah pleads for her life, not wanting to die, but as her hand slips out of the glove that Gabe was hopelessly holding on to, she plummets to the ground, ending her life and irreversibly changing those of the people involved.
With an opening scene of such thrilling quality, Renny Harlin’s Cliffhanger promises a white-knuckle, adrenaline-packed experience. With a number of entertaining set pieces, the film achieves in that regard, but poorly written characters and a lack of strong human elements make Cliffhanger a capable joyride of peaks and valleys.
TIFF Bell Lightbox Presents The Rise of Beefcake Cinema: ‘First Blood’ is a cogent Vietnam analogy, but ultimately compromising
Directed by Ted Kotcheff
Written by Michael Kozoll, William Sackheim and Sylvester Stallone
For time immemorial, Ted Kotcheff’s First Blood carried the notorious, if apocryphal, reputation for being overly violent. A closer autopsy of the film would reveal this to be untrue. In fact, there’s only one death – about the same as in Pixar’s Up.
Kidding aside, this misinterpretation of First Blood is symptomatic of its deceptive storytelling acumen. Along with its nominal death count, the film’s ability to conceal a lucid polemic of the Vietnam War under an avalanche of ample entertainment and bloody good fun is a testament to its legacy as a formative pillar in action film lore.
Sleek, economical, and unquestionably gripping, First Blood is also a film with surprising substance and smarts, which are all but undone by the film’s final few minutes.
TIFF Bell Lightbox Presents The Rise of Beefcake Cinema: ‘Demolition Man’ destroys Aldous Huxley’s magnum opus
Directed by Marco Brambilla
Written by Daniel Waters, Robert Reneau and Peter M. Lenkov
When Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1931, he wanted to warn the present of an impending dystopia. Filled with ignorance, ostentation, and a blatant disregard for humanity, Huxley foresaw the future as being grim, and if he ever lived to see Marco Brambilla’s Demolition Man, he surely would’ve felt vindicated, if not prophetic.
Loud, kitsch, and surprisingly empty, Demolition Man aimed to use Brave New World as a foundation for its statement against executive abuses of power, but instead, it destroys Aldous Huxley’s magnum opus by becoming the exact thing it warned of.
Set in 1996, Sergeant John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) is one of Los Angeles’ most prolific and notorious cops. Dubbed the ‘Demolition Man’, Spartan is renown for getting the job done, and causing a fiery cataclysm while doing so.