« Denver Film Festival: Old Stone | Main | Denver Film Festival: Actor Martinez »

November 12, 2016

Denver Film Festival: Headshot

Headshot poster.jpg

Timo Tjahjanto & Kimo Stamboel - 2016
Vertical Entertainment/XYZ Films

Hammer Girl is back! Anyone who has seen The Raid 2 will know what I'm talking about, and why she was my favorite character in that film. Actually, it's Indonesian actress Julie Estelle who appears here as the lone bad girl in Headshot.

And if you're thinking, didn't they show this a few years ago at the Denver Film Festival, the answer is: same title, different film. The film shown in 2012 was a terrific Thai neo-noir by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. Original titles aren't the Mo Brothers strong suit, what with Macabre, The Killer and now Headshot. And honestly, if you've seen enough Asian action films, you should recognize more than enough familiar elements at work here, beginning with the premise of the amnesiac gangster who's unaware of his identity or why people are after him.

Iko Uwais, familiar to those who've seen The Raid films, plays the amnesiac, cared for by young doctor, Ailin. Discovered washed on a beach, and in a coma for two months, the unknown patient is called Ishmael by Ailin, who just happens to be reading Moby Dick. I maybe be reading too much into this, but I think that literary reference was a Mo Brothers joke. In the meantime, a vicious criminal, Lee, has escaped from prison, and takes over the operations of another thug with his deadly use of chopsticks. Lee spares the life of a henchman who has heard rumor of a gang member, presumed dead, found in a hospital, alive in spite of being shot in the head.

In the pursuit of Ishmael, Lee kidnaps Ailin. What follows is a series of martial arts set pieces with Ishmael fighting off Lee's gang with guns, knives, and Indonesian martial arts, in-between flashbacks of people and events that eventually make sense to Ishmael.

The martial arts scenes are intelligently filmed, with a mobile camera pulling in and out of the action, with editing done that logically follows one movement to the next. As with the Mo Brothers' previous film, The Killers, the violence gets excessively bloody. Unlike that film, there is no sense of exhilaration here. There are no unexpected plot twists once we know Ishmael's true identity. The two hour running time is also part of the excess here. There are quiet moments, not enough of them, and they are also beautifully photographed. The Mo Brothers need to have story that's as well thought out as their visuals.

Posted by peter at November 12, 2016 07:09 AM