If life were more like the movies, criminals wouldn’t be committing robberies, they’d be hosting dinner parties. Although it’s doubtful that prison cafeterias are a hotbed of witty banter, crime films always seem to feature crooks who love to chat as much as they break the law. The latest example is writer/director Paul Solet’s new thriller Bullet Head, in which a trio of career criminals are trapped in a warehouse by a vicious attack dog and while away the time by exchanging ironic stories from their past. They’re also eventually pursued by a ruthless but voluble gangster who wields an automatic weapon that seems loaded as much with words as bullets.
The film’s main draw is its cast, all of whom have seen more illustrious career days but nonetheless can still deliver the goods. The trio of unnamed robbers — a grizzled veteran, his soulful partner and a young junkie — are played by John Malkovich, Adrien Brody and Rory Culkin. The ensemble also includes Antonio Banderas, in his most fearsome mode as the gangster, and the dog, who gives the best performance. (Well, three dogs, to be precise. Their names, for the record, are Han Solo, Curly and Ademar.)
When the crooks’ heist goes awry, as heists tend to do in films of this type, they find themselves unable to escape. Unfortunately for them, the warehouse in which they’re stuck is also the site of illegal dog fights whose canine combatants have been given such names as Eastwood, Mitchum and Bronson, presumably because the lowlifes who run dogfights are inevitably movie buffs. When a recent victor, a Presa Canario named De Niro, manages to get away, he terrorizes the hapless criminals who also happen to be animal lovers.
We know that because of the dialogue, of which there is an inordinate amount. Malkovich and Brody (we never learn their characters’ names) engage in a spirited conversation about the relative merits of dog and cat people. They, along with Culkin, also deliver long-winded anecdotes, dramatized in flashbacks, all featuring animals. They include stories about a truffle-sniffing dog, an ill-advised attempt at stealing a bowl of fish for a little girl’s Christmas present and a heartrending episode in which a father shoots his young son’s dog.
To their credit, the actors deliver the stories with the sort of relish displayed by young thespians auditioning for the Actors Studio. And while Banderas doesn’t have a flashback of his own, he gets to deliver a folksy monologue nonetheless, one made all the more impressive by the fact that he’s firing a gun as he’s doing it.