Julien Temple’s “Bullet,” his first feature since “Earth Girls Are Easy” in 1988, is a grungy, downbeat and uninvolving crime meller with virtually nothing going for it. Shot in 1994, and bearing a 1995 copyright date, this dismal item, already on vid shelves Stateside, is getting a belated and limited theatrical release in Australia prior to what promises to be a desultory life in video bins, although fans of the late, second-billed Tupac Shakur might check it out.
It’s difficult to imagine how an interesting film could have been made from the listless Bruce Rubenstein-Sir Eddie Cook screenplay. In any event, Temple has failed to give any life, cohesion or energy to a numbingly familiar tale of gang warfare in Brooklyn. A tired lead performance from Mickey Rourke is no asset.
Pic opens with the release of Butch (Rourke), a hardened criminal and drug addict, from the slammer. Apparently a Tony Curtis fan, Butch has a pet white rat named after the actor and had a photo of the young Curtis on display in his cell. In no time at all, Butch is involved in the activities that got him imprisoned in the first place and, in a particularly nasty early scene, stabs a rival gangster in the eye.
Butch goes to live with his elderly Jewish parents, the Steins (Suzanne Shepherd, Jerry Grayson), and his kid brother, Ruby (Adrien Brody), who spends his time painting exotic murals on walls. Rarely seen is another brother, Louis (Ted Levine), a deranged Vietnam War vet who also lives in the house.
Little of interest happens during the course of the film. Butch and his pal Lester (John Enos III) frequently shoot heroin or snort coke, and the former falls foul of Tank (Tupac Shakur), a one-eyed gang leader, and gets into a brutal fistfight with one of Tank’s bodyguards. Pic, which is often repulsively violent, ends with the brutal deaths of several of the key characters.
Occasionally it seems as though Butch (who always wears a Star of David badge) is being offered as a tragic figure, a talented sportsman who could have been a contender but wasted himself away on drugs and crime. But Rourke just can’t make his character interesting, and allusions to the Holocaust (via images seen on TV) are in poor taste under the circumstances. Surely unnecessary, too, is a scene in which Louis instructs young boys in the art of warfare and how to cut a man’s throat.
Dialogue is often so mumbled that it’s hard to decipher, but occasional lines like “My hemorrhoids bleed for you” come across loud and clear.
Title apparently refers to Butch’s nickname, though it’s rarely used. Technical credits are average.