Back in 2011, a lot of us were encouraged by news that Sung Kang of “Better Luck Tomorrow,” “Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift,” and “Fast Five” fame was going to co-star opposite Sylvester Stallone in a film called “Bullet to the Head.”

It was scheduled to be released on April 13, 2012.  But later, it was pushed back to Feb. 1, 2013. Oh oh, a bad sign that Warner Brothers was perhaps dumping this movie because it didn’t have much faith in it.

Well, in its first weekend, “Bullet” only brought in $4.5 million, placing sixth and becoming Stallone’s lowest-grossing opener since 1981. Ironically, it was filmed in New Orleans, the site of that weekend’s Super Bowl. Some industry experts believe the primary audience for this violent movie was instead too busy watching the game.

This weekend, the film fell another 54% to $2 million for 10th place and a total of $8.2 million. Since it cost $55 million to make, this one’s already going down as one of the biggest flops of the year.

Despite the presence of the sexy Sarah Shahi and Kang, a whopping 81% of the audience was over the age of 25.  In other words, the younger audience, which sees films they like more than once, stayed away from this one. Probably because Stallone’s face was so big on the movie poster, it didn’t look like a cop buddy film where two men shared equal screen time but rather something that focused more on the former “Rocky” and “Rambo” star.

Therein lies the saving grace for Sung Kang:  He won’t be blamed for the movie’s failure.

Sung Kang and Sylvester Stallone team up in the action pic “Bullet to the Head.”

When the opening credits roll, Stallone’s name gets a screen to itself, but Kang has to share his screen with Shahi.

Kang plays Detective Taylor Kwon from Washington, D.C. As expected, he gets a few racial jokes tossed his way. At one point, Stallone says something about a samurai. Kwon retorts: “Samurai is Japanese. I’m Korean. That’s like saying your favorite Italian food is tacos!”

In another positive scene, when a bad guy later tells Kwon, “Don’t condescend to me, Kato!” Stallone reacts, “Oh oh!…”

Unfortunately, the fact that Kwon is an American was lost on noted Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips, who wrote that Kwon “hails from Korea.” In a previous trailer, when Jimmy Bobo (Stallone) asks Kwon if he was “gonna bring us some kung fu from the homeland,” he responds, “I was born in Florida!” Unfortunately, that scene was cut from the movie itself and would’ve made the character’s nationality clearer.

A lot about the film doesn’t make sense: Kwon figures out pretty quickly that his former police partner was killed by hitman Bobo and his (now murdered) partner. Yet when he finds Bobo in a bar, Kwon doesn’t show any anger for the crime or even ask why he did it. I at least expected a line like, “He was a good man, Bobo! Sure, not perfect, but he deserved better than to be hunted down like a dog!”

Sung Kang and Sarah Shahi in a scene from “Bullet to the Head.”

Kwon already proposes that they team up to take down the guy who paid Bobo to do it but double-crossed him by sending someone (Jason Momoa, playing a non-Asian Pacific character) to kill him and his partner.

It’s only later on that Kwon tells Bobo if he ever catches him breaking the law again, he’ll come after him.

Some of the acting in ‘Bullet” is particularly bad. The double-crossing assassin who’s getting a massage when Bobo confronts him really stood out. And when Stallone forces Christian Slater to tell him what he knew about the man they’re after, his long, expository dialogue’s laughable.

Co-writer and director Walter Hill co-wrote and/or produced all six “Alien” movies and directed “48 Hours,” which teamed Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy as a bickering cop and hood who (like Stallone and Kang in “Bullet”) begrudgingly work together. It was credited as being the first “cop buddy film.”

Like Nolte, Stallone is the curmudgeon who acts as if he knows it all, but whereas Murphy got his scenes to shine, Kwon’s are more subtle. He doesn’t get a chance to go toe-to-toe with Bobo enough or to assert himself enough.

SPOILER ALERT! But in the end, Kwon gets the last laugh when he smugly tells Stallone that he and his daughter (Shahi) are now romantically involved.

Thomas Jane was originally hired to play Kwon, but when producer Joel Silver got involved, he fired him. According to Jane, Silver told him he had a “formula” for these buddy films and one of the two actors has to be ethnic. That’s when Sung Kang got the part. Kinda refreshing that an Asian American won a job for once and the white guy lost out. How many times do we even get to audition to play such a visible role? Often, even parts written for Asians are ultimately given to white actors instead.

Silver has a history of using Asian men in his films. In 1998, he helped introduce Jet Li to American audiences by casting him as the baddie in the fourth “Lethal Weapon” movie. Two years later, Silver gave Li the romantic lead (who infamously never got to kiss his co-star Aaliyah) in 2000’s “Romeo Must Die,” which also featured Russell Wong.

What Did You Expect? Department: Speaking of the Super Bowl, one of the many commercials promoted CBS’s “2 Broke Girls” with its two stars dancing around in provocative ways. Han Lee (Matthew Moy) made a short appearance toward the end, which encouraged Phil Hardy, a staff member of Idaho Republican Congressman Raul Labrador, to tweet “Me likey Broke Girls.” Just goes to show the kind of reactions the stereotyped character encourages. The idiot lost his job. Bachi ga ataru!

Inter-Species Romance Department: On ABC’s Wednesday night comedy “The Neighbors,” the alien teenage son Reggie Jackson (Tim Jo) has been slowly getting closer to Amber (Clara Mamet), the teenage daughter of the main family, the Weavers. Before the school dance, when Reggie tried to tell Amber he’s always liked her, she said she was so glad he was finally going to come out and say it… that he’s gay. Huh?!

Reggie Jackson (Tim Jo) proposes to Giselle (Lora Plattner) on ABC’s “The Neighbors.”

Reggie told her he liked her. Oh. She said (what all guys hate to hear) she never thought of him as anything more than a friend.

Depressed, Reggie asked Giselle (Lora Plattner), an outcast with no friends (one of those girls who’s actually cute but who’s made to look nerdy by wearing oversized glasses), to the dance. He openly told her he was trying to make Amber jealous, but Giselle was so happy for the attention, she readily agreed to be his date.

At the dance, Reggie finally started paying attention to Giselle, while we got the feeling Amber was getting second thoughts about her friend. In last week’s episode, we saw Reggie and Giselle having a ball, studying together every day for almost three weeks. She asked Reggie if she’s his girlfriend and revealed that she really liked him. Reggie wasn’t sure.

Later, in a private conversation, Amber’s Mom (Jami Gertz) suggested Reggie really commit to someone if he liked her, so he publicly (in front of all the other aliens in the neighborhood) proposed marriage to Giselle, who quickly accepted.

In the meantime, Amber was getting tired of her boyfriend, who constantly bored her with intricate talk about his car. She began to gaze longingly up at Reggie’s window. At school, she looked at photo booth pictures of her and Reggie goofing off. At the end of the episode, Reggie finally realized it’s dumb to get married just because he doesn’t think anyone else will return feelings for him.

In the meantime, Amber, who’d always resisted getting close to her mom, finally started confiding in her — 1. She wanted to break up with her boyfriend. 2. “I’m kinda freaking out about this because it’s ridiculous. I don’t know if it’s a real thing or just — I think I may be starting to have some feelings for the weird alien kid that lives next door. I think maybe I like Reggie Jackson. Like like like.”

Her Mom started laughing, “realizing” her daughter was trying to pull a fast one on her: “Oh God! That’s all I need — a teenager falling in love with the alien next door!”

To cover up her embarrassment, Amber laughed along, but we knew how she really felt. Can’t wait to see what happens next. “The Neighbors” is a cute, light-hearted show and airs Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. PST.

Not So Super Ratings Department: As mentioned last time out, CBS gave the choice post-Super Bowl slot to “Elementary” starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as, respectively, Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson. 108 million people watched the game, only 3 million short of last year’s all-time record, and it got an amazingly high 46.3 rating in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 age range. But partly because of the half-hour black-out, the game ran an hour longer than usual, so “Elementary” didn’t start until 11:11 East Coast time.

Only 20.8 million people stuck around for the show (by comparison, last year, NBC broadcast the game and followed it with “The Voice,” which got 37.6 million viewers). Still, it was the most watched episode in its history and got a 7.8 rating in the 18-49 demo.

Another however: It was the lowest-rated post-Super Bowl series in 10 years since ABC’s “Alias” attracted only 17.4 million people. In order to get the heavily male-skewed audience to stay tuned for that show, the producers opened it with star Jennifer Garner dressed in a red negligee. Likewise, for the start of “Elementary,” Holmes was being enticed by two strippers.

When the show ran in its regular Thursday night slot, it only moved up from a 2.2 to a 2.3 in the 18-49 demo. In other words, like “Hawaii Five-O,” which got the post-AFC Championship game slot, those who sampled the show for the first time weren’t encouraged to start watching it in its regular time slot. Let’s face it: “Elementary” is just not that sexy a show.

Till next time, keep your eyes and ears open.


Guy Aoki, co-founder of Media Action Network for Asian Americans, can be reached at Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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