Walter Hill's Bullet to the Head may be a middling feature, but it offers a thrilling glimpse at how a great talent can elevate even mediocre material. In his hands, an inconsistent script and an empty Sly Stallone vehicle becomes a collision of incompatible codes, a pit of violence with a nastiness that cannot be enjoyed mindlessly. Stallone's severe performance, in keeping with his 'roid-hardened physique, bests the winking referential humor of Arnold's return to star roles in Kim Jee-woon's underwhelming The Last Stand. Likewise, Hill's direction, which adheres to modern action filmmaking tics but finds ways to genuinely communicate their visceral intent, actually confronts the violence rather than playing it for wan satire. A few too many bad one-liners and thinly sketched characters leave the film frustratingly weighed down by some conventions, but if Hill is well past his glory years, Bullet to the Head shows he still has a spark within him most cannot replicate at their best.