"Bullet in the Face" Takes a Genre Study Too Far Review

Admittedly, the first time I sat down to watch Bullet in the Face when it made its TV debut, I didn’t make it all the way through. In fact, I shut it off 10 minutes into the pilot. Besides a few well-delivered lines by Eddie Izzard, the sense of humor didn’t appeal to me. For the most part, it still doesn’t, but it is easier to appreciate when you go in knowing it was made by Alan Spencer, the same guy who brought us the mock cop series Sledge Hammer, and thus know to expect the show to be a very broad satirical look at whatever genre it’s playing about in. With that in mind, Bullet in the Face becomes amusing for those who enjoy genre studies taken to an extreme, but outside of that very small niche audience, Bullet in the Face is likely to be lost on just about everybody else. It doesn’t help that the show doesn’t have especially brilliant writing behind its intentionally hokey one-liners, so the comedic edge on the gangster noir parody isn’t as sharp as it could or needs to be to hook in a larger audience.

The preface of Bullet in the Face runs like an inverse of the Nicolas Cage and John Travolta action flick Face/Off, with gangster Gunther (Max Williams) getting shot in the face during a heist and receiving a facial transplant of the police officer he killed in the process. A condition of the life-saving operation is that he must work with the police to bring down his former crime boss (Eddie Izzard) and his major competition (Eric Roberts). He does this alongside the former officer’s partner, horrifying him and everyone else with his sadistic cavalier take on justice that still manages to get the job done. Oh, and he may or may not be the father of the unborn child of his former crime boss’s wife (Kate Kelton), or the father could just as easily be the rival crime boss. It’s hard to say (though less so by the end of the series’ six-episode run).

It’s not hard at all to understand why Bullet in the Face didn’t get a second season: it’s incredibly niche television. Not only does the intended audience need to passionately love film-noir detective stories, but they also need to have a particular sense of humor that loves occasionally witty wordplay (usually just clever observations or twists on the nonsensical idioms the English language employs) and absurd mutations of classic police procedural tropes. Without those two things, Bullet in the Face is unbearable. With those two things (and perhaps aided by a love of Eddie Izzard’s comedic delivery), Bullet in the Face is amusing but rarely, if ever, laugh out loud funny.

DVD Bonus Features

An audio commentary is the sole extra.

"Bullet in the Face: The Complete Series" is on sale January 21, 2014 and is not rated. Action, Crime, Drama. Directed by Erik Canuel. Written by Alan Spencer. Starring Eddie Izzard, Eric Roberts, Max E Williams, Neil Napier, Jessica Steen, Kate Kelton.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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