A meh title belies a gripping and resourceful crime-thriller in writer-director Paul Solet's impressive "Bullet Head."
It's the kind of edgy, offbeat, well-executed B-movie that in the past may have found its niche in action houses, drive-ins and the occasional gutsy art venue, but these days could simply get lost in the video-on-demand shuffle (its token day-and-date theatrical run aside.)
Intrepid viewers who seek this one out will discover an often edge-of-your seat ride involving a well-drawn trio of small-time thieves — the resilient Stacy (Adrien Brody, excellent), the philosophical Walker (John Malkovich) and young junkie Gage (Rory Culkin) — who find themselves stuck in a cavernous warehouse after a botched heist.
The twist: The place is also the site of a dog-fighting enterprise run by the dangerous Blue (Antonio Banderas). And, as bad luck would have it, a killer Presa Canario named De Niro is roaming the premises. Think "Cujo" with criminals.
As a perilous dog-and-mouse game ensues, Solet packs his script with tension, dimension and several vivid flashbacks recalling the characters' seminal encounters with dogs. Cool camerawork too.
Although Solet, an ex-animal trainer, is an admitted dog lover, much of the canine-related mayhem — composed of both sound and fury — is tough to experience. Still, De Niro is afforded a climactic moment of redemption that's powerful and brutally poignant.
Rated: R, for violence, bloody images, language, some drug use and nudity.
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Playing: Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood; also on VOD