Writer/Director Paul Solet (Grace, Mars, Tales of Halloween) pens an unique love letter to dogs in his latest feature Bullet Head. A thrilling ride from start to finish Bullet Head drags the audience down into the underbelly of crime then rolls us around in the muck and grime. Paul has an incredible talent for breaking into the core of our psyches and leaving a mark that slowly burns for days after the end credits roll. Bullet Head is no exception. There are no heroes in this film. No right versus wrong. Just a perception of the past propelling the characters into an inevitable future.
It is rather difficult to review the film without discussing it as a whole so you just have to experience it for yourself. It is a perfect blend of thriller, drama and a crime caper with kernels of humanity woven throughout. Here’s what you need to know: After a botched robbery three thieves hide out in an abandoned warehouse. Unbeknownst to them a savage beast lurks in the shadows watching their every move. And, by “beast” I mean a massive bloodthirsty enraged dog. In the aftermath of a disbanded dog fighting ring the beast, De Niro, has taken refuge in the warehouse. After a lifetime of abuse, De Niro in no way, shape or form trusts humans. After a lifetime of deception the thieves in no way, shape or form trust each other. It is each man (or dog) for himself.
Ironically, I found myself rooting for the beast. Nothing against the human characters, I really enjoyed each of them and didn’t wish their demise. But, I have a thing for dogs. It’s not De Niro’s fault that he was molded into a beast. At one point he was a blank slate just waiting for an imprint. Underneath the monster lies a victim of circumstance. But, then again the same can be said for the thieves. They have each been molded and branded from their past. We all are. The beauty of life is that it is possible to write your own future. We just have to first learn to break free from our past. It is a choice that we each have to make. I love the line the reluctant mentor, Walker, says “There are only three kinds of last scores; the kind where you serve life, the kind where you’re served a bullet and the kind where you walk away.”
Speaking of Walker this cast is phenomenal. John Malkovich (Walker), Adrien Brody, Rory Culkin and Antonio Banderas brought layers of emotion to their roles. Their ability to embrace the subtleties behind each character is worth the price of admission. I mean, realistically I could watch any of them read the phone book and still be entertained. Seeing them bring these characters to life was such a fun experience. In any other hands I think the intricacies of such flawed men would be lost. Especially in the humor and the heart. There is a fine line to walk in a thriller and Paul nailed it. The flashbacks to me were priceless. I loved how the past and the present intertwined.
Don’t get me started on Han Solo (one of the five dog actors portraying De Niro). I have never seen such an incredibly powerful dog in my life. He is massive and beautiful. I want that dog. I am in equal part a dog person and a cat person. I love all animals. So I really was rooting for De Niro. That said, this film truly is a love letter to dogs, because even though De Niro is frightening as all get out we can still sympathize with him. How is that even possible? I didn’t sympathize with JAWS. He instead instilled a life-long fear of sharks in me. Bullet Head somehow does the opposite. You feel for the dog. You feel for the thieves. Although, you don’t feel as much for the man who broke De Niro. He is pure evil. So I guess there is a bad guy after all.
Even the warehouse is somewhat of an antagonist. It is brutal and unforgiving. The cinematography is stunning. It’s amazing how a normally drab setting such as a warehouse can be so haunting, beautiful and fluid. The deeper the characters wander into the shadows the more the warehouse comes alive. Every nook and cranny holds a story. There is an incredible scene involving busses, boxes, desks and a piano that I don’t want to spoil, but it is perfection. I didn’t know that I could hold my breath that long. It felt like a nod to the awesome adventure films we watched as kids in the 80s. It was one of the most insane and intense action sequences that I’ve seen in a very long time.
This film is not for the faint of heart, but if you are willing to venture into the story you will enjoy the ride. It is a dark film with a beautiful message. It’s a messy world in this story so you will get your hands dirty, but hopefully you’ll come out on the other side a better person for it.
Bullet Head is currently available On Demand (releasing on Blu-Ray and DVD January 9th). I would highly recommend getting the viewing package with the film extras. Paul always offers the best behind the scenes look into his films. You get to witness Han Solo become De Niro first hand. Not to mention you get to watch Adrien, John, Antonio and Rory discuss their characters. If you take the time to listen to the filmmakers commentary you can get a sneak peek into the process of these master actors. It is cool to see the collaboration between Paul, the actors and the crew. All of those guys have incredible instincts.
What more could you ask for? How about the fact that Paul along with Millennium Media have partnered with two dog charities who work with bully breeds to bring awareness to the misconception these beautiful dogs often fall victim to. Be sure to check out New York Bully Crew who rescues abused and abandoned bully breeds and finds them safe and loving homes. And, Pawsitive Change a rehabilitation program that saves dogs from kill shelters and matches them with inmates in state prisons who are working toward vocational accreditation as dog trainers.
*Bullet Head is Rated R for violence, bloody images, language, some drug use and nudity.
Follow Paul on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for all of the latest news on Bullet Head and his upcoming much anticipated documentary drama Tread. Tread is based on the true story of Marvin Heemeyer who destroyed a small Colorado town with his hand-built tank in 2004.