Everything old is new again. Remakes, reboots and throwbacks proliferate the pop-culture wasteland with alarming intensity. Every 80s icon you ever loved (even the ones you hated) are back in a big way.
Retreads aren’t anything new. Hollywood has always been notoriously risk-averse, more willing to bank on name-recognition than on an unknown original. Nostalgia careens headlong into cynicism whenever another revival is announced. The Expendables, for example, was simultaneously the best and the worst thing ever mainlined into multiplexes. The easiest thing in the world to sell, but ultimately less than the sum of its parts.
Who wouldn’t be pumped by the prospect of Regan-era action heroes sharing the screen, cracking skulls and one-liners? Problem is, throwbacks like The Expendables are shot through the lens of today. That means hand-held cameras, epileptic editing, shoddy CGI and misplaced pathos. There's just no room for Mickey Rourke's blubbering existentialism in a movie where Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren trade punches.
Stallone’s recent Bullet to the Head, helmed by action-guru Walter Hill, gets it right. It packs simple, testosterone-spiked pleasures. Guns. Blood. Biceps. Explosions. Wise-cracks. Roll credits. Sure, the script is shitty and the performances even shittier. But at least Sly knows how to toss a bon mot the same way Hill knows how to conduct a coherent shoot-out. The bloodshed is copious, the body-count relentless. Clocking in at ninety minutes, Bullet to the Head is refreshingly lean and mean.
And that’s all I’m asking for in an action movie aping the 80s. Lose the pretention. Cut to the chase. Get in, shoot shit, blow shit up, and get out.