A tough, Jewish ex-con just released from prison crosses a powerful drug dealer and former prison rival in his return to a life of crime.
Bullet is a shot in the dark; a stray bullet that almost hits its mark. Almost. It's hard to screw up a film with Mickey Rourke, Tupac Shakur, Adrien Brody, and Ted Levine – hard, but not impossible. One of the most disappointing aspects of Bullet is that Shakur, the rare musician with a truly solid screen presence, only appears in a handful of scenes – which is still more than enough for him to steal the movie –, and only shares a couple of them with Rourke. One can only wonder if his death that same year had something to do with this. Butch 'Bullet' Stein (Rourke) is out on parole after serving an eight-year sentence. On his first day out, Bullet stabs Flaco (Manny Perez), who works for drug dealer Tank (Shakur), in the eye. Apparently, stabbing people in the eye is Bullet's trademark, and Tank is one of his previous victims. So why is his nickname Bullet, then? And why does Tank wear an eye patch? Under it, he either has a glass eye, or a glassy eye, but an eye nonetheless. It’s symptomatic of this script, in which Rourke had a hand, that the consequences fall very short of the magnitude of the actions that provoke them. In addition to Tank's eye, we have Butch's younger brother Ruby’s (Brody) hand. Ruby is an aspiring graffiti artist whose “drawing hand” is impaled with a knife, for which Butch is indirectly to blame. This incident not only does not result in friction between the brothers, but it doesn’t prevent Ruby from painting a huge mural of his hand with a blade going through it, of all things. Basically, this event belongs in a first draft, not in the finished movie. All things considered, I have mixed feelings about this film. Tupac is easily the best thing in it; when he's not there we expect him to show up, and when he shows up, all eyes are on him (you’ll excuse the obvious reference). The filmmakers should have given us a lot more of Shakur, or a lot less. Rourke, on the other hand, gives a deliberately lethargic and morose performance, befitting the unmotivated Butch – who is only jolted out of his drug-induced stupor to commit petty crimes to get money to buy more drugs –, and in keeping with the scattered, disjointed, and episodic nature of much of the film. The highlight of Rourke's performance is a great scene in which Butch warns two young men he mugged earlier in the story of the dangers of ending up like him. This Butch material, which could have been the American answer to Trainspotting, is set against the more straightforward Tank subplot, so that we are left with two different stories running perpendicular, rather than parallel, to each other, and when they intersect is more of a train wreck than a junction.