Directed by: Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto
Starring: Iko Uwais, Sunny Pang, Chelsea Islan, Julie Estelle, Ganindra Bimo
When an injured and unconscious man is washed up on a beach, he is taken to a nearby hospital and put under the care of a young female doctor called Ailin. While he remains comatose, she dubs this anonymous man Ishmael, as she is currently reading Moby Dick. When Ishmael regains consciousness, he can't remember who he was or why he was injured. However, certain people out there do know, and bring the information to Lee, a powerful crime lord who it turns out has ties to the amnesiac Ishmael…
It's been three years since The Raid 2 and in that time there have been interminable attempts to make an action blockbuster which hits on the same visceral level but have all been found wanting. While John Wick Chapter 2 has been wowing audiences with its balletic gun battles and shiny, shiny violence, it can't hold a candle to Headshot, which engages your gut as much as your eyes.
We've seen this type of story numerous times, most popularly in the Jason Bourne series - an amnesiac killer both trying to discover who he is and distance himself from all the killing, to no avail. This is exactly where we are with Ishmael, which allows the film to take a number of narrative shortcuts.
Before we meet Ishmael, however, we are introduced to his former employer, Lee, currently residing in prison - but not for long. Much like the Joker in the opening scene of The Dark Knight, he manipulates and maneuverspeople to his own desire, giving his fellow inmates a false hope of freedom, when in fact they are just paving the way for his own.
Then we meet Lee's gang, when they attend a meeting with one of their associates who wants to stop dealing with them. Lee walks into the room with only one of his gang, Rika (Julie Estelle, The Raid 2's Hammer Girl). Meanwhile bespectacled Bondi takes care of the guards outside. Both fights are really well put together and are a great showcase to the audience, letting them know how badass the gang is.
The film builds one action showcase on top of the last - a minibus massacre leads to a fight which leads to an attack on a police station, and each is more visceral and violent than the last. Ishmael isn't some invincible superhuman though - he takes a lot of punishment in the film usually one kick or punch away from losing.
We never find out what Ishmael had done to betray Lee, forcing his men to shoot him and leave him for dead. However it is clear that there is some regret - Rika and Bondi were obviously close to Ishmael at one time and there is a tinge of sadness in their demeanor when confronting him.
While possibl missing a couple of narrative beats, HEADSHOT shows that Indonesian action cinema is still alive and well following Gareth Evans' Raid films, and Iko Uwais has cemented his reputation as an action star to keep an eye on.
Highly Recommended. 9 out of 10 (MIkeOutWest)