Bullet to the Head: Making of Stallone Actioner

The story opens as Jimmy and his partner, Louis, are on what appears to be a routine hit. Their target is Hank Greely, an ex-cop who was kicked off the force in Washington D.C. in disgrace. They don’t know why someone wants him dead, and they don’t ask questions.

Despite Jimmy Bobo’s profession, Stallone remarks, “He’s at peace with himself. He plays by his own set of rules that are blunt but simple to follow. Jimmy believes he takes out the trash, removing those hard-to-get-out stains in society. He doesn’t go after people who, in his mind, don’t deserve it.”

Hill says, “Sly is a terrific film actor. He has great eyes, he has that instantly recognizable voice, and he’s a physical marvel. But, to me, the main thing is, he’s got a great heart, and the audience feels that when they experience the story through him. It’s a rare gift.”

Once the job is done, Jimmy and Louis head to a local bar to get paid, but instead of cash they are met with a double-cross that leaves Louis lying in a pool of his own blood.

Arriving in New Orleans to investigate Greely’s killing, Washington D.C. detective Taylor Kwon learns of the close proximity of Louis’s murder and immediately makes a correlation. However, with no jurisdiction in New Orleans, he can’t go through the usual channels to investigate. Instead, he seeks out the dead hit man’s only known associate: Jimmy Bobo.

Sung Kang, who stars as Taylor Kwon, offers, “My character figures out that there’s a connection between the deaths of our former partners. Taylor lives by this real rigid code of honor and a moral integrity that’s been ingrained in him. He wants the entity behind the hits, so he’s willing to team up with Jimmy to chase down the bad guys, even though he knows Jimmy is a criminal himself.”

Taylor is willing to compromise on his values for the sake of the greater good, but there’s still a limit to how far he’ll bend.

Stallone adds, “Jimmy is confronted with something he’s never been confronted with before—a betrayal from within and a complete reliance upon a detective who hates his guts. Not exactly a strong support system.”

Kang asserts, “Generationally, they’re completely different; morally, they’re completely different; and ethnically, they’re completely different. Jimmy Bobo comes from a time where there was no political correctness, so he’s the type of guy that just says what’s on his mind.”

King-Templeton offers, “There’s just a great juxtaposition between the two characters. Jimmy is bombastic and like a bull in a china shop; he’s tough as nails but, at the same time, wears his heart on his sleeve. Taylor Kwon is more reserved, although once he teams up with Jimmy he does begin to adopt more of the hit man mentality. He’s always been a by-the-book cop, but Jimmy’s underworld approach begins to rub off on him.”

Adding to the discord between Jimmy Bobo and his new “partner” is the fact that the hit man is a bit of an anachronism. “He doesn’t even know how to use a smart phone,” says Stallone, “and that makes him a great foil for Taylor.”

Coming into the project, Kang says that he was excited about the opportunity to work with both Stallone and Hill. “I pretty much grew up watching Sylvester Stallone movies. One of the first movies my father took me to was ‘Rocky.’ So getting to work with him was a pretty amazing experience, definitely one of those things on my bucket list,” he smiles. “And from the get-go, Walter Hill was so open to ideas; he was such an ally for me as an actor in that respect.”

“All of the actors had such respect for Walter,” King-Templeton says. “He was always well prepared and knew what he wanted, and he trusted his cast to give him what he was looking for.”

Initially, Jimmy is understandably reticent to join forces with a cop, given his own line of work. Fortunately, however, he comes around just in time to save Taylor from an ambush by someone who obviously doesn’t like the fact that the detective is sniffing around where he doesn’t belong.

Though Taylor is wounded in the attack, Jimmy can’t take him to a hospital, where doctors would have to report the shooting. Instead, he takes Taylor to the one person he knows they can trust. Sara Shahi was cast as Jimmy’s tough and independent-minded daughter, Lisa, a tattoo artist, whose relationship with her father is very complex.

Shahi elaborates, “Lisa doesn’t have a mother, so Jimmy is the only family she has in the world. Still, there’s been a lot of hurt and a lot of betrayal because Jimmy has been in and out of her life, probably out of a need to shield her. He’s provided for Lisa financially, but other than that he really hasn’t been there for her. But there’s definitely love there, so Sly and I worked to find a balance between the fact that they genuinely care for each other and letting that sort of bruised heart come across.”

Shahi had no such reservations about Stallone, stating, “I love him; I pinched myself every day coming to work. He’s just amazing.”

The actress continues that working with Hill was “a dream,” but admits, “I really had to fight for this part. I think he imagined someone much grungier looking than me, so I had to really show him I could play Lisa’s gritty side. She is pretty rough and raw but with a fragile heart. That’s what I love about her.”

As Jimmy and Taylor unravel the conspiracy behind the deaths of both Louis and Greely, they come up against some dangerous adversaries. But none are more ruthless than the relentless gun-for-hire named Keegan, played by Jason Momoa. Describing his character as “a shark,” Momoa offers, “He’s former Special Forces who is now a mercenary. But he doesn’t do what he does for the money; he definitely enjoys his job…maybe a little more than he should.”

Momoa says that the chance to work with Stallone was one of the main reasons he wanted to do this film. “I respect him so much as an actor, and just to know him is a true honor. He is really down to earth and a fantastic human being.”

His character, however, did not share his regard for Jimmy Bobo. Momoa attests, “Jimmy is the only one who has ever gotten the upper hand on Keegan, and that’s ticking him off. Keegan was hired to kill him, but now it’s personal. He really wants to kill him just as much as Jimmy wants revenge, so they have a true vendetta against each other.”

Christian Slater portrays another link in the chain, a lawyer named Baptiste. Slater relates, “Baptiste is certainly in over his head. He’s a guy who, probably through circumstances and through greed, has wound up in the company of men who are not necessarily on the up and up. I don’t think he started out with that kind of intention, but he got sucked into this world, and as a result, bad things happen.”

At the top of the ladder is Robert Nkomo Morel, a local real estate mogul who is as ruthless as he is wealthy. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who plays the role, comments, “He is a highly intelligent and sophisticated businessman, behind whom lurks a manipulative and dark criminal. He is a wealthy immigrant who secured his fortunes from notoriously corrupt deals in Africa, the consequences of which left him a permanent cripple. Nevertheless, he is a formidable figure, with both government and police officials in his wallet. He will stop at nothing to achieve his ends. When Jimmy and Taylor interfere with his plans, it unleashes his wrath and he exerts all his power to take them down.”

Jon Seda and Holt McCallany appear, respectively, as Louis Blanchard and Hank Greely, the two men whose deaths are the catalyst for the story. Rounding out the cast are Brian Van Holt as Ronnie Earl, who double-crosses Jimmy and Louis; Weronika Rosati as Lola, a hooker in the wrong place at the wrong time; Dane Rhodes as police Lt. Lebreton; and Marcus Lyle Brown as Detective Towne.

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