Robbers hiding out after a heist face a four-legged foe in this Bulgaria-shot, English-language thriller.
Good intentions sometimes come in odd packages, and while one doesn’t doubt writer-director Paul Solet’s sincerity, “Bullet Head” makes his judgment questionable — a vaguely “Reservoir Dogs”-esque crime thriller is not, it turns out, the ideal vehicle in which to plead for humane treatment of actual dogs. Even without that earnest underlying agenda, this slick but ungainly opus would be a curious animal, with its mix of present-tense suspense and (too many) comedic or sentimental flashbacks, as robbers Adrien Brody, John Malkovich and Rory Culkin kill time in a warehouse after a bungled heist.
None of the actors is at his best in the Bulgaria-shot feature, with Antonio Banderas especially thanklessly deployed as a nemesis. Add in dialogue that often labors for wit or profundity; doggy-POV shots and flashbacks; plus the fact that this appeal to canine lovers involves critters that are bloody and torn from illegal fighting matches — a sure turnoff to much of its intended audience. The result is a film that somehow manages to be fairly watchable, yet nonetheless really needed intervention from the conceptual stage onward. Even the title doesn’t make sense: Bullets do fly, but whose head are we talking about? Not the principal four-legged figure, whom we eventually learn is called De Niro in yet another of the film’s dubious hat-tips to prior, better genre movies.
Owing to the impulsiveness of twitchy young Gage (Culkin), a raid on a big-box store has already gone wrong when first we meet him and the pissed-off older men he’d recruited for the job — longtime associates Stacy (Brody) and Walker (Malkovich). For good measure, they crash their getaway vehicle in an abandoned industrial complex, where they must now cool their heels waiting for a colleague to pick them up.
But it turns out they are not alone: Left behind for dead after winning a long series of eliminating matchups with other fighting dogs is De Niro, a gore-streaked Canary Mastiff — an imposing hulk trained for violence by the owner-bettor (Banderas) who abandoned it, and the handler (Ori Pfeffer) whose corpse it guards. The latter was supremely unlucky to be around when the abused hound snapped its tether. A day or two later, our protagonists narrowly escape De Niro’s…