Let’s face it; if you choose to watch Headshot then you’re not here for the strength of narrative or thoughtful, earnest interactions between characters on the very edge of their emotional stability. No, you’re here for the violence; the bone-crunching, flinch-inducing, choreographed brutality that is promised from a film made by The Mo Brothers and starring Iko Uwais. And good Lord, you certainly won’t be disappointed.
With more than a throwaway nod to Jason Bourne (our man is even found by a fisherman), the unnamed “hero” (Uwais) is washed up on a beach after being shot in the head. Nursed back to health by the extremely attentive Ailin (Islan) the newly monikered Ismael sets out to discover who he really is, and how he ended up where he did.
A genuine attempt has been made at constructing a story around which to set Ismael’s journey to the truth, but it really is just padding, as if including a few “talking” scenes was compulsory in giving the audience time to grab their breath in between the numerous fights. And that proves entirely necessary as the sheer physicality of the battles is draining to watch. Guns are available, but they are entirely secondary as Uwais and his opponents eschew the obvious weaponry in favour of knives, batons and, in one particularly painful looking moment, a typewriter. Bones break, wounds gush and bruises swell as goodies and baddies literally go head-to-head in a feast of unrelenting aggression.
Directors and producers The Mo Brothers (Kimo Stramboel and Timo Tjahjanto) are known for their depiction of the bloody and the macabre, but here they bring a balletic beauty to proceedings. The camera swoops and spins around the combatants, often careering directly into the middle of a melee before halting abruptly as the action takes a breather of its own. Comparisons to Gareth Evans’ The Raid films are inevitable, and in many ways invited, and those long, lightly edited takes are clearly an influence. But Headshot is a far more visceral affair. Uwais cuts a more vulnerable figure, less skilled than some of his competitors and reliant on anything he has to hand to aid him in his quest, with bloody consequences.
There is also familiarity in those competitors, with Hammer Girl from The Raid 2 (Julie Estelle) a dangerous, marginally different foe once again. Head baddie Lee (Pang) is impressively evil, as a kind of malevolent Fagan, but this is Uwais’ film and he works hard to convince as both victim and possible protagonist.
Headshot is undoubtedly not for the fainthearted, and offers little compromise in its goal to shock and surprise as much and as frequently as possible, and this is the films major weakness. The Raid and its successor have redefined this type of martial arts based action cinema, and while Headshot is an impressive film in its own right, it ultimately doesn’t live up to its peers. Absolutely worth watching, and a ringing endorsement of the talents of all those involved, but it’s unlikely you’ll watch it more than once. You’ll watch The Raid again, though, just to be sure.
HEADSHOT / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: KIMO STRAMBOEL AND TIMO TJAHJANTO / SCREENPLAY: TIMO TJAHJANTO / STARRING: IKO UWAIS, JULIE ESTELLE, SUNNY PANG, CHELSEA ISLAN / RELEASE DATE: 5TH JUNE