Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Second Annual Fauxscar Awards

From milking cash cows to ludicrous PR stunts, across unashamed digital IMAX thievery to complete disregard for the audience's well being, the land of Hollywood brings many-a-joys.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the deux edition of the Fauxscar Awards - Hit it John Williams!


WINNER: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Why make one movie when you can split a book into two? No three! That's two whole more billion dollars right there! Kaching! 

Runners up: 
  • Titanic 3D
  • Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2
  • American Reunion
  • Taken 2


WINNER: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. 

Apart from being the worst superhero film since 'Fantastic Four', the 3D in 'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance' was beyond any acceptable or known levels of terrible. The only advantage of it was that it significantly reduced the details on Nicolas Cage's face.

Runners up:
  • Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
  • John Carter
  • Wrath of the Titans


WINNER: Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2

After four years of back to back movies, each more unbearably painful than the previous, the finale proved to be a big rollicking glob of awfulness. Teens got what they wanted - an ethereal hero with shaved chest and glowing nipples, Maybelline eyeliner wearing Volturi, Revlon lipstick wearing werewolves and the Dabur Amla Kesh Tel vampires at war with each other.

Runners up:
  • The Apparition 
  • For a Good Time Call
  • The Lucky One



Regarded by esteemed critics as a moving, emotionally charged masterpiece that transcends love and togetherness, Amour was actually found footage drama captured through a camera outside a Help Age India hospice.

Runners up:
  • Cosmopolis
  • Farewell My Queen
  • Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
  • On The Road


WINNER: That's My Boy

With a script that exudes the charm of a used diaper, 'That's my Boy' brought us the two most unlikable characters of 2012 in the form of Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg. The funniest 'jokes' in the film were a scene involving a brother and sister having sex and a reference to pedophilia.

Runners up:
  • The Watch
  • Friends With Kids
  • Tower Block


WINNER: Piranha 3DD

This was not only the worst movie of 2012 but also one of the worst, most misogynist movies to ever have graced cinema screens. Choice scenes included a Piranha getting stuck in the anus of a fat man, the removal of which results in 3D views of the man’s feces.

Runners up: 
  • Battleship
  • The Divide
  • Gone
  • The Three Stooges


WINNER: Killer Joe

The most innovative use of conjugated genitalia involved a scene that had a woman unzipping and going down on Matthew Mcconaughey's ... piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken. 


WINNER: Anna Karenina

BEST Movie Based on a Video Game that is Based on Movies

WINNER: Act of Valor

The Katherine Heigl Award for the Shittiest Katherine Heigl Rom Com of the Year

WINNER: Katherine Heigl for One for the Money


WINNER: Skyfall

Runner up: The Avengers


WINNER: Rihanna in 'Battleship'.


WINNER: Channing Tatum's crotch in 'Magic Mike'


WINNER: Kristen Stewart in Snow White and the Huntsman


WINNER: Nipples in Magic Mike


WINNER: Liam Hemsworth as the Pussy in The Expendables 2


WINNER: The Amazing Spider-Man. With great power comes great bullshit.


WINNER: Man on a Ledge


Runners up:


WINNER: Misogynist fuckface Bret Easton Ellis, for his nuanced and heartfelt thoughts on Katherine Bigelow.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Beautiful and moving, Silver Linings Playbook boasts powerful performances and a bizarre narrative that makes you laugh your entrails out during the funny moments and reach for the Kleenex during the others. It also makes you wish for every guy with a broken heart to find a Jennifer Lawrence to fix him and dance with.

Director David O Russell combines the zany elements of his Flirting with Disaster and the suburban dramatic themes of his The Fighter to great effect. Bradley Cooper, in an Oscar nominated turn stars as a bipolar man who has thrashed his wife’s lover and has arrived home after a stint at the psychiatric ward. He still believes he can get his estranged wife back, but his family and his therapist believe some pills would be better suited instead.

Typical of O Russell films, the characters surrounding him exhibit eccentric energy as well; his father (De Niro in top form) is a thoroughly superstitious, semi violent football addict who likes his TV remote placed only at a particular angle. His neighbor who is a super-hot but certified lunatic widow (Lawrence) develops an interest in him. In one scene our hero paces his room in the wee hours of the night because he cannot agree with the nihilist overtones of Ernest Hemmingway. Later when the attractive crazy widow from next door throws herself at him he blames her for her poor social skills, following which she literally chases him down the streets in every morning. These are not just eccentricities in the characters, they’re marvelously detailed quirks that manage to be relatable rather than forced thanks to the terrific cast.

O Russell gloriously demonstrates his knack of directing scenes of family conflict, all of which are so superbly staged one begins to wonder if they’re hilarious or heartbreaking. The banter between DeNiro and Cooper is in particular incredibly intense as a hint of mental illness running in the family is superbly established. The loud back and forth between the characters is bipolar as well, constantly veering from laugh out loud to crushing drama. The film somehow manages to walk the tightrope between the themes of mental instability, dysfunctional families, new love and closure while still being an entertaining, crowd pleasing bit of cinema, complete with a dance contest as the finale. The timing is impeccable as there’s a flicker of light whenever things get too dark, and every single bit of humor has a tinge of darkness to it.

O Russell manages to make the dance contest rise above the contrived plot device, making it a metaphor for moving on instead of moping around with a broken heart. Both leads play wounded characters scrabbling their way to wellness, and no one else but Jennifer Lawrence could’ve pulled her role off – she is one of the very few Hollywood actresses who doesn’t confuse vulnerability with weakness. When she’s not smiling, her snarling dialogue delivery is an unremitting Gatling Gun of words. Towards the end of the film Lawrence takes on the football crazy family and delivers a rapid fire monologue that pretty much annihilates everyone else in the room. By the end of the monologue I found myself standing up and clapping, having fallen completely in love with Miss Lawrence. I’d be surprised if you don’t experience something similar. 

(First published in MiD Day)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Movie Review: A Good Day to Die Hard

Hollywood has milked the cash cow to the very last drop. Bruce Willis’ famed franchise is now sagging as badly as his face. Prepare for the pounding pain of Under Siege 3, a film that is being released in theaters as A Good Day To Die Hard. The fact that the presence of Steven Segal could have improved the movie makes one want to throw screenwriter Skip Woods out of a high rise window in slow motion.

Coming off the dumb yet surprisingly fun Die Hard 4.0 five years ago, A Good Day to Die Hard undoes all the feverish fanboy style hard work put in the previous installment. While parts two, three and four satisfied even the die hardest of fans the new movie directed by John Moore is awful in every possible way. Moore previously directed the horrendous Flight of the Phoenix, the Omen remake and the terrible Max Payne, the mystery of how the studios were convinced to give Moore the keys to the Die Hard franchise will probably be the plot of Die Hard 6. Incidentally, all the previous installments were intended to be other films (Die Hard 1 was supposed to be Predator 2), and it is possible that the movies turned out to be entertaining quite by accident. So when a filmmaker deliberately went about making a Die Hard movie, he somehow failed spectacularly.

Even Abbas-Mustan could have come up with a more imaginative plot – John McClane’s estranged son deliberately gets himself imprisoned in Russia for a mass breakout, has his mission jeopardized when John himself shows up in Moscow in front of his car and uncovers a conspiracy that connects with the Chernobyl incident. It boggles the mind that this story comes from the 43-year-old writer Skip Woods instead of a 10-year-old with a bunch of action figures in his playroom. One can smell the moldy lack of creativity oozing through the screen every time the film focuses on McClaine’s son, knowing that the previous movie was about his daughter. Woods has previously been responsible for such gems as Swordfish, Hitman and Wolverine and one is convinced that he has already penned the next Die Hard movie, which sends John McClaine to space to rescue his astronaut nephew from interplanetary terrorists who want to burn NYC with a laser beam.

The least one expects in an action movie are enjoyable action scenes, and not only does the film refuse to offer those, but John Moore’s direction gives the impression of someone who endlessly bores you just because he can. Woods and Moore even fail at paying homage to the previous films – there are numerous one liners that hark back to the first three movies, and someone even falls off a window in slow motion. Unfortunately all of these scenes involve Jai Courtney, who plays Jr McClaine with the subtlety and charm of an iron table being dragged against marble floors. The man is hopelessly uncharismatic not just as an actor but as a living organism in general. The original Die Hard owes its cult fame not to Bruce Willis but to the sophisticated, charismatic Alan Rickman whose Hans Gruber still consistently appears at the top of the Best Villains of All Time lists on the internet. In A Good Day to Die Hard the villains are as threatening as Crime Master Gogo – one of the bad guys constantly eats a carrot and even dances a jig for five whole minutes – it seems like the whole movie was a sadistic experiment to destroy a lucrative franchise as shamelessly as possible. As for Bruce Willis, he has obviously lost interest in the series, and one hopes the sequel to Red turns out to be as fun as the original.

(First published in MiD Day)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Movie Review: Murder 3

Less a movie and more a sustained assault on your patience levels, Murder 3 is so unrelentingly terrible to endure it feels like being beaten with a brick for two hours.

You don’t watch the Murder movies to experience the script’s exploration of the frailty of human nature across the social divide and cherish its provocative urban authenticity. You watch them to see smoochie boochies and sensual tushies. Sadly, a tax form is more sensual and a documentary about gardening is more thrilling than Murder 3.

Other than showing off the Bhatt camp’s Hollywood and World Cinema DVD collection, Murder 3 is a failed attempt at making an erotica thriller featuring a morose Randeep Hooda, newcomer Sara Loren who in 4 kilos of makeup can best be described as a Slumdog Barbie, and Aditi Rao Hydari who continually has the expression of a 12-year-old boy upset about his stolen candy. Debutant director Vishesh Bhatt tries to keep the sex quotient up and the audience engaged by incorporating stylistic touches from D-grade Sylvia Kristel's films. Mahesh Bhatt's English-To-Hindi script translator plays clumsily as do the directorial flourishes: the shots of satin, smooching, perverse mirrors, and gratingly uninteresting songs that make the film radiate the charm of a Bhojpuri version of The Hidden Face. Aditi Rao Hydari and Sara Loren do their best to simulate ‘sexiness’ on a human level, but the former kisses Randeep Hooda as if he tastes like a bowl of unrefrigerated 14-day-old milk, and the latter tries to overcompensate so hard one begins to wonder if she needs a trip to the emergency room and treated for full body tourettes. 

The story is directly lifted adapted from The Hidden Face, so apart from the Bollywoodized ending, there's nothing new for those who have already seen the film. The hardest work the filmmakers put in this film was by blocking the trailers of the original movie before release. Just like in the original, Murder 3 consists of a mélange of horror movie gimmicks and twists that are more amusing than engaging. The thrills are so packed with clichés and nonsensicalities that they’re impossible to act out, so the trio of actors, when they are not bursting into melodrama, smile mysteriously. Hooda gives a bored performance exuding the sleepy-eyed faux-macho posture of snooty disaffection. Sara Loren is a high quality bad actress, rubbery and plasticky enough to remain non-biodegradable in the centuries to come, whose lack of range makes Eesha Gupta seem nuanced by comparison. The Mickey Mouse-voiced Hydari is an incredible actress to watch, because the fact that she outdoes Sara Loren at being terrible in the film is quite a stunning feat. Mahesh Bhatt had claimed that this film would be to Hydari what Arth was to Shabhana Azmi, sadly Murder 3 is to Hydari what collagen was to Lil Kim’s face. Even Rajesh Shringarpure, well known in the Marvel universe as The Thing cannot elevate the film to a watchable level. The Bhatts even borrow the aesthetics of the original film, but somehow manage to make Goa look tedious, and ten minutes into the second half the film ends up making a powerful argument for staying home instead of paying money to watch it.

Murder 3 may be an ‘official remake’ but it is a rotting puddle of regurgitated bile, a solid case of classless direction that is better suited for 90’s school kids who had no access to Emmanuelle on the internet.

Movie Review: Zero Dark Thirty

There are more than three hundred different ways a film based on the killing of Osama Bin Laden could have slipped up factually, narratively and aesthetically. It is a testament to the exceptional directing prowess of Katherine Bigelow that Zero Dark Thirty stands as such a gripping and thoroughly detailed chronicle of the events surrounding the hunt for OBL. It’s not just a storytelling triumph but also a major research and cinematic achievement.

This is not an action movie as much as it is a stunning exercise in character and plot development. Bigelow and her writer Mark Boal spin a dizzying array of names, informants, spies, anonymous tips, dead ends to pummel you with information, virtually making you part of the investigative team and trusting you to be part of the procedural rather than spoonfeeding you the way most Hollywood thrillers do. It's not often that a film manages to make you as morally confused as the characters on  the screen. The only other American film in recent history to be smart enough to utilize this technique is 2005's Syriana. 

Much has been written about the depiction of ‘inaccurate’ torture scenes in the film. The argument is silly because firstly, depiction is not endorsement, and secondly, it is ridiculous to assume that the CIA lovingly offered candy to folks while asking about the whereabouts of Bin Laden. Bigelow depicts the scenes in brutal and gruesome realism without veering towards tacky torture porn territory. The biggest strength of Zero Dark Thirty, in fact, is how unglamorous it is. Bigelow de-glamorises and de-Hollywoodizes the story with a crankshaft. Neither is there any chest thumping American sloganeering (unlike most Hollywood war movies) nor is the film an Army recruiting commercial (unlike most Hollywood war movies). And unlike most Hollywood movies, Bigelow’s film is written around a strong female character, one that is played to searing detail and strength by the lovely Jessica Chastain.

Nitpicking in Zero Dark Thirty would be nothing but moaning just because one can. One apparent nadir of the film is the underdeveloped SEAL characters. That couldn’t be helped because the SEAL Team Six personnel are nameless and faceless ghosts and developing those characters would have felt needlessly tacked on. Another issue in Zero Dark Thirty is the lack of focus on the SEALS’ training before the mission, something that is covered extensively in this New Yorker article. Naturally it is impossible to squeeze in all the details of the aforementioned piece in one movie, only a full blown miniseries would accomplish that feat. The actors (Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt) who play the SEALS manage to leave a mark despite having very brief roles and spending majority of their screen time under helmets in the dark of the night. The supporting cast of CIA operatives including Jason Clarke, Edgar Ramirez, Kyle Chandler, Stephan Dillane and Jennifer Ehle are written to perfection. And as a result of the insane amount of data crammed in those two and a half hours, Zero Dark Thirty whizzes by like a bullet. You know how the film is going to end, yet nothing can prepare you for the blistering final twenty minutes at the Abbotabad compound. Bigelow times the raid to stunning specifics, matching its runtime to the actual raid, superbly detailing the military tactics, without selling out and adding in loud gunfire and Call of Duty style flashbangs. It’s pretty much a masterclass on how to craft heart stopping tension and gritty realism without using lazy techniques like shaky cameras and a cacophony of yelling and screaming.

If Katherine Bigelow and Mark Boal impressed you with The Hurt Locker, prepare to have your expectations challenged – because Zero Dark Thirty will blow you away, right from its unsettling black screen opening to the backdrop of 9/11 audio to the end. And just like The Hurt Locker, it will keep curdling like a tenement fire in your skulls long after you’ve left the theater. 

(First published in MiD Day)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Movie Review: Mama

A girl looks out the window and casually remarks ‘Daddy, there is a woman standing outside, and her feet aren’t touching the ground’. The snarky grin on your face begins to crumble.

Produced by the Sensei of creepy art direction Guillermo Del Toro, Mama is a chef-de-oeuvre of modern horror up until three fourths of its way. It doesn’t even matter if you find the final act a tad undercooked because by then you’ll already have seen one of the best horror movies made since 2007’s El Orfanato.

Mama is exquisitely directed by Andres Muschietti who expands upon his 2008 short film of the same name that he co-directed with his sister. Five minutes in, you begin to realize that Mama isn’t typical Hollywood smut horror but one that challenges the clichés of the genre and the stock set of characters that come attached to it. Muschietti relinquishes the comfort of tried and tested horror tropes and instead serves a whole new set of subtly terrifying set pieces. He also brings in an all-female cast, which, going against the genre, is actually not offensive to women.

The plot is as simple as it is unsettling – four years after the mysterious death of their father, two girls are found in an abandoned cabin in the woods in feral condition. Their uncle decides to take care of them by bringing them home, but a shadowy feminine figure accompanies them to their new house. There are no mirror shots, nor are there any hackneyed false scares, the filmmakers pile on layer upon layer of hair raising dread as the tension becomes almost unbearable for your urinary duct. The mood and atmosphere is quite reminiscent of Orfanato, the best scene of the film is one that doesn’t feature the shadowy Mama on camera but shows the kids playing with ‘someone’ in their bedroom. It’s subtle yet powerful enough to decrease the temperature of your nether regions. There is also a nice surprise for those who have seen the short film beforehand as Muschietti makes sure the fans part the theater satisfied and the newcomers part with their gonads.

Jessica Chastain, fresh off the Oscar eyeing turn in Zero Dark Thirty is a sort of a big deal here, she plays a character that was probably never done in Hollywood horror – a punk rock guitarist aunt who is neither sexualized typical of the genre nor is a weak or delicate scream queen. She does scream a couple of times when the title character shows up in her face but so would you. Even the kids are quite unlike the ones found in other thrillers and the actors (8-year-old Megan Charpentier and 4-year-old Isabelle Nelisse) are incredible. Muschuetti superbly argues the burden of choice that the characters make – the uncle is hospitalized and the reluctant aunt is left to deal with the kids, and the children who must choose between a woman who can give them love and a great life and a woman who can give them love even in death.

There are a few contrivances and inconsistencies in the plot, and it’s a bit annoying to see the film harking back to Hollywood snare of illogical characters. At one point the uncle pulls out some strange photograph and wanders away into the jungle for no reason whatsoever and you’re left scratching your head. The biggest gaffe arrives in the CGI-laced finale when we see ‘too much’ of Mama that makes the novelty and terror fade away. The final scene, however, is unexpectedly moving and provocative, one that signals the arrival of a major talent behind the camera.

(First published in MiD Day)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Movie Review: Midnight's Children

It is best not to have read Salman Rushdie’s famous 1981 novel before walking into its film adaptation, because if you’ve read and loved the book, Midnight’s Children would be an excruciating watch.

Rushdie’s screenplay, based on his own book gets some of its ‘essence’ right, but director Deepa Mehta does a mostly appalling hatchet job of realizing the power of the novel on screen. Instead of subtly transitioning the allegories of love, gloom, loss, diversity and redemption to the big screen, Mehta pummels the viewer with incongruous and dreadfully melodramatic computer graphics to heighten the mood. The magic realism of the book could have been better handled by someone who has dipped his beak in the genre before – a Tim Burton perhaps – because Mehta’s handling of the material is agonizingly mawkish and overdone. The ‘conference’ depicted in the book is clumsily directed to say the least, and the lack of artistic skill here is even more apparent post the stunning genius of Ang Lee’s recent movie about a tiger in a boat.

Voiceovers in film, unless done 110% right always reduce the quality and immersive nature of a film. The opening five minutes of Midnight’s Children are enough to make a fan of the book uneasy in his seat – because the narrative is laced with droning, almost lifeless voiceover by Rushdie himself. The story remains faithful to the source material as it chronicles Saleem Sinai’s journey from being born at the stroke of midnight of India’s independence, to switching places at the hospital bed, to inadvertently ending up in a rich family while watching the real heir grow up in poverty. While not exactly unfilmable, condensing the sprawling book into a movie was always going to be a colossal task, sadly Mehta and Rushdie rush through the material like a radio broadcast of the story, making us hear Rushdie’s story instead of letting it unfold on screen. Perhaps a BBC or HBO style miniseries would have done justice to the material and given the characters precious time to develop.

The cast, barring Rajat Kapoor is painfully mediocre – Satya Bhabha, who played one of the super ex-boyfriends in Scott Pilgrim is mostly stiff and out of place as the protagonist, while Darsheel Safary is way too reminiscent of his turn in that Aamir Khan movie. Rushdie and Mehta also do away with some crucial characters like Sinai’s cantankerous grandmother – her role is reduced to two lines of dialogue uttered with a dung-under-the-nose expression by Shabhana Azmi. Shahana Goswami is passable as Sinai’s mother, the standouts, however, are Ronit Roy as Sinai’s father, duplicating his role from Udaan, Siddharth as the grown up nemesis of Sinai and Kharbanda as snake charmer entertainer Pichchar Singh who doles out the most overemotional role since Alok Nath in Pardes. Shriya is lovely to look at but her role is diminished to a makeout scene with Buddha Bar lounge music in the background. The production needed someone who could properly analyse the heart of the book, someone with surgical precision who could carefully and completely take in the fragrance of the book, someone with a much bigger nose like Doctor Aadam Aziz.

(First published in MiD Day)

Movie Review: Parker

Parker is yet another bad Jason Statham movie in the long, sad career of Jason Statham and it pretty much confirms his position as the all new (and bald) Jean Claude Van Damme. 2007’s The Bank Job is a distant memory now and it seems unlikely that he’d ever sign up for a genuinely great movie.

If you’re looking for a movie that even remotely deviates from any other Jason Statham movie formula, you’d be better off steering clear of Parker, because it’s got Mr Statham walking, talking, wisecracking, punching, kicking, grinning the way he does in every single movie of his to date. He even wears the suit from the Transporter series – it’s like he isn’t even trying anymore. Directed by Taylor Hackford, who made An officer and a gentleman and Ray, the film mashes together plots from Statham’s half a dozen earlier films and adds a has been star (Jennifer Lopez) into the mix to form a mostly putrid puree that writer John McLoughlin clumsily markets for five year olds.

The story details remain as minimalistic as possible – Statham owes $200,000 to some baddies or a lot of people would die. But Statham is the Emraan Hashmi of the United States, so is too moralistic to steal from the poor – instead, he decides to pull off a heist that eventually goes wrong as a team member double crosses him and leaves him for the dead. Statham, now pissed, gets into Crank mode and proceeds to exact revenge, hook up with the world’s hottest depressed real estate agent (Lopez) and rescue his kidnapped girlfriend. The action scenes are as usual Statham guaranteed eye candy as the man stretches his muscles and imagination to new levels of incredulity – his superpower still remains keeping the muscles on his face immobile through all the buffoonery going down on screen. To make sure you leave the theater laughing your head off, he even speaks briefly in what is by far the worst fake Texan accent to have ever been captured on camera. That last time Statham evoked laughter of these decibel levels was when he wore a toupee in Guy Ritchie’s Revolver

(First published in MiD Day)

Review: Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is a frustrating movie to watch, because it is neither scary or the least bit frightening horror movie nor an effective parody of the genre. Instead it sits inelegantly on the fence, waiting for the rain of tomatoes to pour, much like 2005’s The Brothers Grimm.

Looking thoroughly disinterested in a clumsy leather costume, Jeremy Renner undoes the star power he gained with his bit role in The Avengers and the lead role in The Bourne Legacy as a terribly miscast one half of a brother sister killing machine. Complimenting him is the equally bland and uncharismatic Gemma Arterton who seems relieved to have bagged a Hollywood movie role. The story takes place years after Hansel and Gretel outsmarted the witch in the gingerbread house – the two are now full on witch hunters, armed to the teeth with revolvers, crossbows and cringe inducing one liners. The problem here is the same one that dogged such crossover graphic novel-eque films like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter ­ - by taking itself too seriously, it just fails to entertain on any level.

Whether it is director Tommy Wirloka’s fault is moot – he made the hilarious Norwegian zombie comedy horror Dead Snow a few years ago and it could very well be possible that studio execs killed this film and ultimately decided to dump it in the January Hollywood garbage bin. The production design is a poorer rendition of the Red Riding Hood movie which itself resembled a stage of a high school play. The CGI witches are moderately fun, Famke Janssen is rather great as the evilest one of them all – she doesn’t need much makeup to seduce or scare the living daylights out of anyone. The action scenes are grotesque, to say the least, with dozens of liters of blood being splashed around the screen in painfully tacky 3D. When an 18th century machine gun fails to ignite any interest in a movie about flying witches, one has a rather serious problem at hand. Add to the overall ineptitude the lack of a coherent or interesting story and one wishes the film had been named Hansel and Gretel: Script Hunters.

(First published in MiD Day)

Movie Review: Bullet to the Head

Bullet to the Head is an outdated movie starring an outdated action hero directed by an outdated filmmaker – yet, the combination oddly works on a strange, nostalgic level. All you’re left with by the end of this movie are a handful of moments of guilty pleasures that made 80’s thrillers trashy and fun.

Sylvester Stallone, pumping half the annual steroid stock of Los Angeles stars as a hitman who partners up with a detective (Sung Kang) to solve a double murder mystery. Director Walter Hill, a veteran of unlikely character pairing (he made 48 Hours and Red Heat) plonks Stallone and Kang in a variety of scenes where deadpan one liners are hurled like lead bullets. The 80’s come crushing down quickly as there are literally no plot twists or surprises in this whodunit – the only guessing game you’ll be left to play with is to figure out whose face of the two heroes would make the first expression. Director Hill doesn’t try to innovate much with his villains either – they’re straight out of an 80’s crummy actioner, one of whom is Christian Slater who now seems like a zombie version of his own self from the 80’s.

When there’s no nostalgia, there are plenty of clichés, like the plot point of Stallone’s daughter being in the movie purely to serve as a hostage to be rescued in the end. Thankfully there is plenty of violence to keep things from getting stale, although the action scenes are mostly video game cutscenes. Naturally, the big fight in the finale between Stallone and the master baddie (Jason Mamoa) isn’t a gunfight but hand-to-hand combat featuring fire axes, complete with the most badass one liner of the movie to boot. It may be a case of genius editing, but Stallone seems like he does most of his own stunts, and at 66 still looks impressive punching someone in the face. Though it doesn’t help that his excessive botox and plastic surgeries have pretty much made him look like the Android from the Alien movies. Unlike last week’s The Last Stand, a failed attempt at bringing an ageing action star back into limelight, Bullet to the Head succeeds in putting its star in his comfort zone and kick copious amounts of ass, rather than forcing him to indulge in sad self-parody.

(First published in MiD Day)