Headshot is a tale of Ishmael, a man found washed up on a beach after being shot in the head and as he pieces together what has happened to him his violent past catches up.
Released in 2016 Headshot is an Indonesian action thriller directed by Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto who also wrote the piece. After the release of The Raid in 2011 action cinema from Indonesia seems to have come to the fore internationally. This film also shares a few of the cast members from The Raid series with Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle and Very Tri Yulisman.
One of the first things Jamie and I ask ourselves when doing these reviews is does the film have a traditional 3 act structure? In the case of Headshot we feel it does but we had to discuss our thoughts as it is not immediately apparent when watching the film. Because of the way the film is paced, acted and directed you find yourself getting sucked in to the story of these characters and the “acts” flow into each other seamlessly.
Despite this being an action film it feels like a character driven piece. The characters are well developed and with a running time of 2 hours there is a lot in it but it never feels rushed or overstuffed. It is a story that has been done before but with this cast and director it has a fresh feel to it.
The action sequences in this film are reminiscent of The Raid in style and pacing. Iko Uwais, who was the breakout star of those films, has upped his game here. Not only is he the star of Headshot he is the main action choreographer working with his own stunt team to deliver some breathtaking fight scenes. They are certainly not for the squeamish, the results of the violence are not shied away from. This is not done in an over the top way, the film is gory to an extent but it is not done for the shock factor. Another thing Jamie picked up on in this film is innocent bystanders are not immune to the violence, something which is perhaps not portrayed so much these days in western film-making. Fast paced and expertly choreographed these sequences are both brutal and beautiful to watch. As well as the expected hand to hand fights we are treated to some brilliantly executed weapons sequences. The camera work is on point, following the action in a well thought out way without resorting to lots of fast edits to keep up. The main actors all have a background in martial arts with the exception of Julie Estelle who was trained in Silat for The Raid 2.
Both Jamie and I feel the standout for this film is the main antagonist Lee played by Sunny Pang. He has a magnetic charisma which makes you follow him every time he is on screen. We both think Pang’s performance is close to perfection. While perhaps not that physically imposing he has a presence that exudes menace. Played with an understated stillness he is one of the best onscreen villains we have seen in recent years.
Both me and Jamie have watched a lot of martial arts films in our time and for us Headshot is one of the best we have seen. If you want to check it out, at the time we wrote this it is available on Netflix in the UK.