Bullet Head Review
Bullet Head is a 2017 crime thriller about three career criminals who find themselves trapped in a warehouse with the law closing in and an even worse threat waiting inside.
There’s a crucial visual … I’m not sure what … misdirection maybe, right at the beginning of Paul Solet‘s latest thriller Bullet Head that works hard to establish a kind of false thematic aesthetic that in part sets a standard for the whole film, one that creates a couple of expectations that get tripped up along the way. It’s a movie of absolutes with a very clear message and a smart style. It’s a small film with a small cast and a single setting, but manages to cull much from it, creating a fast-paced, unnerving thriller.
After a brief start, where we see from a well-trained fighting dog’s eyes – it being led to a pit of two other combatants – we cut to four criminals fleeing a heist in a car. Almost immediately, it is reduced to three as the driver is filled with bullet holes and drives the car into a wall. The remaining men, all nameless, are within earshot of circling police sirens, and so take refuge in a nearby abandoned postal warehouse. They are an old-timer (John Malkovich), whose done this for a living and has plenty of experience and stories, his partner (Adrien Brody), a wiry low-level crook who’s spent his years barely making it on a host of odd crime jobs, and the youngest of the lot, (Rory Culkin), a strungout kid who brought them the tip. They decide to lay low but they learn they aren’t alone in the building. Combing the joint is the dog from the start, and it’s already offed one of its two highly abusive trainers. The other is Antonio Banderas and he brings a whole other level of problems.
You might think this to be the makings of a high-action shoot ’em-up as it certainly has all the ingredients for such, but it’s actually much more a talky thriller, with most of the film centered on conversations between the trapped men. Now before you skip down to the bottom here with your mind made up, it’s worth it to know that despite this, there is no lack of tension and some very clever filmmaking, even with a limited budget. Solet clearly believes in animal-rights and positions the film as such, keeping the story centered around the abominable cruelty that is dog fighting, the beast patrolling the halls a victim of such that has turned on the hands that barely fed it.
The dog’s name, we eventually learn is De Niro, a brutal killer of dogs that has switched sides of sort, and is seen surprisingly rarely, more like a phantom throughout. This film is really about the three men and the things that bind them rather than the things that separate them. Each has a story to tell, told in smart flashbacks that see their haunts retold with they themselves watching it roll out in the memory, à la Scrooge and the ghosts. Each involves an animal that had impact on their lives, and it’s not long before we realize that De Niro itself is a sort of metaphorical spectre of all their pasts stalking ever closer.
So Bullet Head, with its generic action title is really nothing that it portends itself to be, instead a more character driven film with a lot more depth than it even seems to deserve. Solet, who wrote the screenplay, keeps the dialogue smart but almost poetic, full of prophetic twirls and loops. Both Malkovich and Brody, who have long had a tendency to get big on screen, are remarkably subdued, and though it has a lot of conversations, stays pretty taunt. Banderas is also great, having one of the best roles he’s had in a long time. Well directed and more clever than it looks, Bullet Head is a smart alternative to the genre that deserves a watch.
Bullet Head Review
Movie description: Bullet Head is a 2017 crime thriller about three career criminals who find themselves trapped in a warehouse with the law closing in and an even worse threat waiting inside.
Director(s): Paul Solet
Actor(s): Adrien Brody, Rory Culkin, John Malkovich, Antonio Banderas