05th May2017

‘Headshot’ Review

by Joel Harley

Stars: Iko Uwais, Chelsea Islan, Sunny Pang, Very Tri Yulisman, Julie Estelle, Ario Bayu, Yayu A.W. Unru, Zack Lee | Written by Timo Tjahjanto | Directed by Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto

headshot-poster

Following the standard set by a certain punchy tower-block inhabiting modern classic, any Indonesian action movie is going to have their work cut out for them for the next decade or so. Even that film’s own follow-up, The Raid 2 (come on, you knew what we were talking about) paled in comparison to its predecessor, which Judge Dredd himself struggled to live up to.

Taking a jab at the crown is Headshot, an equally violent, no-holds barred action movie which stars none other than The Raid’s Iko Uwais. Shot in the head (hence the title) and left for dead, amnesiac ‘Ishmael’ washes up on an Indonesian shore and, after a short coma, is nursed back to health by lovely nurse Alin (Chelsea Islan). It is, of course, not long before the gangsters responsible for his condition come looking to finish the job. Unfortunately for them, whatever else Ishmael may have forgotten, he still knows how to beat fools up like a veritable Jason Bourne.

Uwais isn’t the only returning cast member of The Raid series though, and Ishmael must also contend with the efficient, terrifying Rika – best known as Hammer Girl from The Raid 2 – among many, many others who want to see him dead. Following a laid-back but cursory bit of set-up, the bad guys come looking for Ishmael, taking lovely Alin as collateral. Which, in turn, leads to violence. A lot of violence. At one point, Ishmael even holds down a defeated enemy and continues to punch him in the head, just for the sake of it. Who’s the real (Moby) dick here?

If it’s a bone, and it can be broken, Headshot probably breaks it. Less a beat ‘em up than a bludgeon ‘em down, limbs are snapped, organs are perforated, eyeballs are punctured and bodies splatter in the most brutal, grimace-inducing collection of fight sequences since either Raid movie (and more so, in places). This isn’t the clean, slick bullet ballet of John Wick (no disrespect); Headshot is a sweaty, messy affair in which the punches reverberate and the people die squirting or smashed, pounded, stabbed or shot to a pulp.

But aside from the Saw level gore and weird greenish visuals, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Headshot doesn’t have much going on upstairs. Uwais is a remarkable fighter – and his puppydog face does a good job of expressing vulnerability – but there simply isn’t much going on to back up his efforts. For all of the sadism, it’s essentially just a faster, more brutal version of Commando or a Jason Bourne movie.

Still, the sheer brilliance of the action covers all of these cracks; any predictable lulls long forgotten once the punches start flying again. A vicious, adrenaline-pumping vehicle for one of our best young martial artists, Headshot strikes its target right between the eyes.

Headshot is out now

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