“You’re a good boy.”
Paul Solet’s Bullet Head is a perfect example of a title being completely wrong for a movie. Judging from the title and trailer alone, Bullet Head is a dirty Tarantino-lite thriller about three criminals being hunted by a super dog. Which it kinda is, but it’s so much more.
The film starts with a dog’s POV shot. Already you know this is going to be a bit different to your standard B-Movie fare. The title ‘BULLET HEAD’ appears in a cool font in an effort to up the grindhouse factor – but the movie doesn’t need it. After getting a glimpse at a very dapper Antonio Banderas’ underground dog fighting operation, we meet our protagonists.
In the wake of a heist gone wrong, and a dead getaway driver, our three criminals hole up in an empty warehouse to await their ride. They are played with gusto by Adrien Brody, John Malkovich, and Rory Culkin. These are the sort of movie criminals who also have a heart of gold – and a penchant for adorable animals. We find out about their puppy love and altruistic backgrounds through a series of well constructed flashbacks. These are surprisingly effective, as the criminals reveal thematically relevant tidbits about their lives. Through these flashbacks we learn that these guys are more than just b-movie dirtbags. The movie is clearly aspiring to greater heights. And hell, even the dog gets a flashback!
It’s not all flashbacks though, after all there is a very angry dog after our protagonists. There is one stand-out scene in the second half of the film that sees Adrien Brody escaping from the dog. He parkours his way around this warehouse, jumping over things, running away. The chase scene is very well done, and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. It builds to Brody hiding in an old piano (a nod to The Pianist perhaps?) from the dog. But even that doesn’t go the way you’d think, with Brody and the dog forming a begrudging respect for one another. After all the real villian isn’t the dog, but Antonio Banderas.
And Banderas is on excellent form as the villain. He machine guns our heroes whilst also delivering a very over the top speech about his own history with dogs. It’s silly stuff, but it’s well-made silly stuff which makes a world of difference. And can we please have more villainous Antonio Banderas?
This is a film for dog lovers, or more specifically for fans of dogs in film. If you’re the sort of person who is affected more by a dog’s death in a film than a person, then you will go on a real roller coaster with Bullet Head. It’s a love letter to everyone’s favourite canine compadres, wrapped up in a bloody b-movie.
Years ago there would have been an audience for this film. There would have been a home for it in a theatre somewhere. But it’s been relegated to obscurity on Netflix, which is a great shame. It’s not the best film of all time, and I’m sure low expectations help, but it was a huge surprise.
Reviewed by Jack