‘Bullet to the Head’

Sylvester Stallone and Sarah Shahi embrace“Bullet to the Head” is a prefabricated action movie.

Everything, and I mean everything, has been ripped from other movies, fitted and sized to order and slotted into place so action scene is followed by comic byplay followed by action scene.

This is, of course, a vehicle for Sylvester Stallone. He strolls through it, showing off his sculpted body as often as possible, like a man who knows what’s around every corner.

The film derives from a graphic novel by French author Alexis Nolent, who uses the pen name Matz. If the movie is any indication, his comic-book series appropriates scenes from just about every routine American crime/acton movie in the last couple of decades.

My guess is the filmmakers see this is idea laundering — if it comes from a French guy “inspired” by American movies, then it’s not really stolen moronic movie junk. It’s French!

No soap.

You get the hit man with his own moral code, a fight scene that demolishes a cramped men’s room, a chase in a tiered parking lot, a showdown/shootout in an abandoned plant and bickering banter between the good guys, one Asian and the other white.

Want more pain? There’s a crooked lawyer, an even more corrupt African “businessman,” a kidnapped daughter, a final mano y mano combat between Stallone and his mortal enemy and — the final shame — a last line stolen from John Wayne.

Sarah Shahi aand Sung Kang confront bad guys in warehouseWhich is not to blame director Walter Hill, who approaches this comic-book stuff with a spare style that concentrates on images and movement rather than dialogue or character. He probably can use the work and shows he can still direct like crazy if anyone out there has a decent script for him.

Just don’t expect any of the character work or humor that brightened his own tough-guy oeuvre from “48 Hrs.” to “Southern Comfort” and “The Long Riders.”

Adapted by Alessandro Camon (hard to believe he wrote the tense and poignant “The Messenger”), the comic book’s location has shifted from New York to New Orleans. No doubt for tax credits since the production takes little advantage of the new locale other than a a throwaway scene in the French Quarter.

Stallone’s Jimmy Bobo, a perpetually weary and heavily tattooed hit man, is paired with a partner (Jon Seda) in the film’s opening assassination scene complete with a hooker and mountains of cocaine.

Bullet to Head's Sly Stallone battles Momoa with axeBut he carelessly loses him to a double cross that forces him to team up, however improbably, with a Korean-American D.C. police detective, Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang of the “Fast & Furious” franchise), who’s out of his jurisdiction. Why he would be is a good question but you don’t question a prefabbed movie.

Cue endless racial jokes not to mention Blackberry jokes as Taylor can merely phone in a name and within seconds his D.C. bureau phones back with more info and images about the guy than his mother knows about. Meanwhile Bobo doesn’t even own a cell phone.

This is, of course, reminiscent of “48 Hrs.” but without any real racial edginess.

The course of the “investigation” brings these two into contact with a sexy tattoo artist (Sarah Shahi) connected to Bobo, the evil African (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), decadent lawyer (Christian Slater) and a great hulking bad guy (“Conan the Barbarian’s” Jason Momoa), who naturally survives until he can battle Sly.

It’s duller than it sounds except for Hill’s ability to move things lightning fast and pay no attention to anything that doesn’t move, shoot, fight or sneer.

The concluding fight between Sly and Momoa is performed with battle-axes, which is about as old school as it gets. I suggest watching this film on your Blackberry.

Opens: February 1, 2013 (Warner Bros.)
Production companies: IM Global, Dark Castle Entertainment, Millar Gough Ink/EMJAG Prods., After Dark Films
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Momoa, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Christian Slater, Joe Seda, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Weronika Rosasti
Director: Walter Hill
Screenwriter: Alessandro Camon
Based on the graphic novel by: Matz
Producers: Alexandra Milchan, Miles Millar, Alfred Gough, Kevin King-Templeton
Executive producers: Stuart Ford, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Deepak Nayar, Steve Squillante, Joel Silver, Courtney Solomon, Allan Zeman, Steve Richards, Stuart Besser
Director of photography: Lloyd Ahern
Production designer: Toby Corbett
Music: Steve Mazzaro
Costume designer: Ha Nguyen
Editor: Timothy Alverson

R rating, 91 minutes