I stumbled upon this strange movie featuring three criminals being stalked and harassed by a psychotic Presa Canario dog, starring Academy Award quality actors Adrien Brody, John Malkovich, and Antonio Banderas. The presence of Macauley Culkin’s look-alike younger brother, Rory, doesn’t help the feeling that we’re watching a redo of Home Alone but with a Terminator Hellhound. Yep, we need to check this out.
Bullet Head (2017)
We start off with a POV shot from a Presa Canario fighting dog named De Niro but who I will continue to call Bullet Head. He’s led into a dogfighting ring by scummy criminal Banderas. Banderas apparently runs a dog fighting syndicate, so you know he’s evil. Thankfully we don’t see any dogfighting because that’s some loathsome stuff. The filmmakers do their best to show this seedy world without glorifying it.
Then along comes bumbling criminals Brody, Malkovich, and Culkin. We are introduced to them as their bullet-riddled heist car crashes into an abandoned warehouse with their driver dead. They decide to hole up for a while, waiting for their safe-cracker friend to arrive, to break open the safe they’ve stolen. My main question throughout the movie is, where are the police? If these guys got into a gunfight that killed their driver, then the police should be looking for them. And since they don’t even bother hiding their wrecked car, they really don’t have that long until they’re all cornered and arrested. But I guess we’re not supposed to think about that.
The three hoodlums explore this warehouse as they bicker and we quickly learn Culkin is a completely unreliable drug addict. It’s pretty entertaining watching these great actors chew the scenery in their meaty roles. Brody is terrific as a bumbling criminal with a greasy ponytail. This basically is a one set movie, so they flashback to earlier events and happier times through actorly monologues which are pretty well done. If you’re going to have a bunch of monologues, you better hire good actors. It seems like an obvious rule of thumb, right? But so many of these low-budget movies always cast pretty, but vacuous models over talented actors. So bonus points for the great cast.
Then, pretty quickly, Culkin stumbles upon Bullet Head, the battle-hardened Presa Canario pitfighter who’s survived execution by electrocution. Bullet Head is a terrific actor: menacing, clumsy, and completely unstoppable. Bullet Head chases them around the empty warehouse and forces them to barricade themselves in an office. The constant threat of dog attack isn’t as overwhelmingly thrilling as in Cujo as this movie has more on its mind. It’s also sluggishly paced, as I’m never sure why these guys decide to sit around this warehouse waiting for something to happen when they could go anywhere else, preferably somewhere without a bloodthirsty 120 pound killing machine. At one point, they find the dogfighting brackets where Bullet Head was the last dog standing. Good boy, Bullet Head. He’s a total bad-ass.
There’s not really much to the movie beyond the basic premise. Pretty soon, Bullet Head gets after them again, busting through doors and climbing up ladders to continually harass the bumbling thieves. There’s also an extended and humorous sequence where Brody matches wits with the Terminator Dog. It features a hilarious scene where Brody hides in an empty bus. He monitors the progress of Bullet Head through the various mirrors. And at one point the dog does one of those Jason Voorhees double-takes where he looks at where Brody is hiding, but then decides he doesn’t see anything and keeps walking. But then Brody remembers he stupidly forgot to shut the back door of the bus. Before you can say “Lassie Come Home,” Bullet Head is chasing Brody through and over buses, and finally Brody winds up hiding in an incongruously placed piano. Is this a not so subtle Pianist reference?
Then after that chase goes on for a while, Banderas shows up with a machinegun and chases Brody around some more. That is equally ridiculous but no less entertaining, as Banderas carries on a one-sided conversation as he slowly chases Brody all over the warehouse. “Did you think you could take my stuff? It’s mine,” taunts Banderas.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I quite enjoyed this movie. I love Psycho Dog movies featuring massive canines. The actors are well suited for this over-the-top potboiler material. Brody strikes a nice tone between grizzled criminal and clumsy oaf who keeps getting outsmarted by the Hellhound. The lurid subject matter is treated well, as we’re more or less rooting for Bullet Head the whole time. I can see a bright future for this pooch (yeah, I know he was played by three different dogs). This movie has some good ideas, it’s shot with some visual flair, and it features high-quality acting, making it stand out from the other dreck available on streaming. It’s definitely worth seeking out.