Bang. Bang. Bang. In a January onslaught of bullets and brawn, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham and Sylvester Stallone have hit the theaters with good old fashioned shoot-’em-ups, doing what they do best — putting the hurt on their adversaries.
The audience response has been ho-hum, however. Arnold’s “The Last Stand” already is being phased out of the theaters after a paltry $10 million box-office take. Statham as the title character in “Parker” has fared a little better with a $12.4 million haul in two weeks. But Stallone and “Bullet to the Head” found itself buried at 6th place in its debut weekend at $4.5 million, not drawing as well as Oscar contenders that have been out a while, “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”
This does not bode well for another aging action star, Bruce Willis, who has a new “Die Hard” adventure coming out. This guilty pleasure franchise has had some staying power, but we’ll see.
Meanwhile, Stallone has collaborated with director Walter Hill on “Bullet.” Hill, back in the 1970-80s, was renowned for his testosterone-driven thrillers such as “The Warriors,” “The Long Riders” — with its unprecedented casting of real-life brothers the Carradines, the Quaids, the Keaches and the Guests — “Hard Times,” “Southern Comfort” and one of the great cop-buddy films that propelled Ed Murphy from Saturday Night Live to movie stardom, “48 Hrs.”
As with his appearance in “The Expendables” movies, Stallone is still looking fit for a person eligible for Social Security benefits. In “Bullet” he is like his action-star peer Statham in “Parker.” He is not a role model. His James Bonomo is a professional killer. OK, he had a tough life on the streets and in prison, and in a voice-over he justifies his chosen line of work by saying he is hired by bad guys to kill other bad guys. Those of us who abide by the rules should not worry.
“Bullet” begins with James saving a police detective, Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) from an execution. Since James hates cops and just saved the life of this one, the hook is set up. Why would he do this?
Flashback time. James and his partner Louis (Jon Seda) carry out a contract, ending the life of a corrupt ex-cop. A bit later, while unwinding in a bar, James and Louis are attacked by a huge hit man, Keegan (Jason Momoa, real-life husband of Lisa Bonet). Louis is killed and James roughed up but irked that Keegan has escaped.
These killings draw the attention of Det. Kwon, who gets injured in an entanglement after which James takes him to his daughter Lisa (Sarah Shahi), a tattoo artist and medical school dropout, for treatment. James and Kwon form an uneasy and testy alliance in an effort to track down who is pulling the strings that are leading to all these killings.
The screenplay by Allesandro Camon clues us in on who the bad guys are and their motives. What a surprise. The villains are rich and connected people (Chrstian Slater and Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje) who want to get richer and more connected and tough luck to anyone getting in their way, as they have the intimidating and focused Keegan under contract, and he clearly enjoys his work. All this leads to the inevitable one-on-one final confrontation between James and Keegan, featuring axes.
The James-Kwon interactions are the highlights of the movie in between the shooting and fighting, even though the best line seen in the trailers never made it to the final cut. Not surprisingly, each man stands firm on his own set of principles. Kwon does give a little bit but makes it clear he will not cut James much slack from here on.
“Bullet” is a paint-by-the-numbers action movie, and Hill shows some of his unique visual style although sadly he too has fallen into the habit of quick editing of the intense scenes, making them murky. Unfortunately, Stallone appears to have drifted off the plain in his ability to carry such movies on his massive shoulders. He should take a look at his work on “The Expendables” and appreciate the advantages of being a team player.
VICE has announced VICE Shorts, a new series dedicated to featuring new directors and their short films on VICE’s YouTube channel. The series will debut with the premiere of Nash Edgerton’s twisted love story, “Bear,” previously featured in competition at Cannes and is a follow-up to the award-winning director’s popular film, “Spider.“
VICE operates the world’s premier original online video destination, vice.com, an international network of digital channels, a television production studio, a magazine, a record label, an in-house creative services agency and a book-publishing division.
Edgerton’s “Bear” can be seen on the VICE YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKeooK0zfeU
Fornaciari to be honored
Italian music icon Zucchero “Sugar” Fornaciari will be presented the “L.A. Italia Excellence Award” at the upcoming 2013 Los Angeles, Italia – Film, Fashion and Art Fest — http://www.losangelesitalia.com — which will take place Feb. 17-23 during the week preceding the Academy Awards. Previous recipients of this award have included Ennio Morricone, Andrea Bocelli and Vasco Rossi.
Fornaciari, a popular singer from the Emilia region of Italy and a 2007 Grammy-nominee in the Traditional R & B Vocal category, will be honored at two festival events – the first on Feb. 21, 7 p.m., at the Grammy Museum’s Clive Davis Theater with the award presentation and screening of Vincenzo Mollica’s Rai 1 news special. The second event takes place on Feb. 22 at the Chinese Theatre, with the screening of a live tour performance in Havana for Zucchero’s new album “La Sesion Cubana,” produced by Don Was, which put him at the top of the iTunes charts at the beginning of the year.
L.A. Italia also will honor Academy Award-winning Italian music composer Dario Marianelli, who is an Oscar contender this year for his original score for “Anna Karenina.” Marianelli won his Oscar in 2008 for his original score for “Atonement,” and also was nominated in that category in 2006 for his “Pride and Prejudice“ score.
Lee Marvin bio book signings, screenings
Dwayne Epstein, author of “Lee Marvin: Point Blank,” will be signing his book before film screenings of Lee Marvin, who won an Academy Award for “Cat Ballou.”
The first event will take place Feb. 8 at the Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave. in Santa Monica at 6:30 p.m.. followed by screenings of “Point Blank” and “The Killers” at 7:30 p.m. Info: http://www.americancinemathequecalendar.com/content/point-blank-the-killers
On Feb. 16, also at 6:30 p.m., Epstein will be signing books at the Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, followed by screenings of “Cat Ballou” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” Info: http://www.americancinemathequecalendar.com/content/cat-ballou-the-man-who-shot-liberty-valance