A scrap of human flotsam with a skull full of shrapnel washes up on the shore of an Indonesian beach. Warmhearted doctor Ailin puts down her copy of Moby Dick to nurse him through a two-month trauma coma. Unfortunately, the man she dubs Ishmael emerges from his neurological sabbatical with a severe case of memory loss and a multi-level airport carousel of explosive baggage.
Before anyone can start wafting away the smoggy plumes of amnesia his past surfs in on a towering whitecap of mega-violence. Ishmael is forced to fight back and it soon becomes painfully apparent that he’s a lethal expert in the ancient silat system of martial arts and is, in fact, harder than boron nitride coated nails.
It’s relatively early days for the new wave of ultra-frenetic fuck-em-up flicks but already the axiom of a sub-genre is being greased. A lexicon of frenzied agony where spectacular rumbles rage behind prison walls and set pieces are sequined with swollen, shimmering globules of ultra-slow motion rain. All everyday inanimate objects are deployable assets in the quest to redefine the parameters of the harm scale, and under no circumstances can anyone be punched, shot, stabbed or slashed in anything resembling single figures.
Headshot takes this boorish blueprint and uses it as kindling to ignite a breath-stealing pyre of brutality. Under the anarchic dictum of The Mo Brothers, telephones, chopsticks, typewriter keys and industrial paper guillotines become the batons of gleeful choice with which to conduct an implacable symphony of mortal vandalism.
The gore is superbly realised, betraying the horror movie heritage of the architects of the film. The versatile skills of the quietly charismatic Iko Uwais allow for a cavalcade of inventive carnage that even manages the odd pivot into the fire-extinguisher face-caving territory of Gaspar Noé.
As you might suspect with a film so hellbent on mayhem the plot is nothing more than a shadowboxing silhouette. It would be fair to say that Headshot is far more concerned with nasty beatings than narrative beats. However, the way the film evolves organically from ballistic based eradication to intense hand-to-hand ruination is poetically fluid. The stylish photography and sleek fight choreography more than atone for any compositional malnutrition as we gorge upon the gluttonous ribbons of bloody chaos.
Co-director Timo Tjahjanto worked with action pioneer Gareth Evans on the brilliant Safe Haven segment of V/H/S/2 and it was Evans who also unearthed the magnetic talent of Headshot star Iko Uwais. As a consequence, there was always going to be a rogue Raid sized Pachyderm in the room. That said, Headshot pampers the screen with so much stylishly gratifying bloodshed and so many intelligently deployed splatter-horror tropes that it remorselessly maims its way to individualistic redemption.
Yes the movie is overlong, the budget slightly challenged and the female lead underused but when the homicide is this entertaining you won’t care.
Timo Tjahjanto threatens to concuss the genre into even more excruciating contortions as he doubles down on Iko Uwais for his upcoming thriller The Night Comes for Us. The director assured me on twitter that if “…Headshot was my Agents of Shield. The Night Comes For Us is my Netflix’s The Punisher….”.The mind truly boggles.
But for now, this jaw cracking, knuckle busting shotgun blast to the eyeballs will cleanse the palate of even the most hardcore devotee of destruction.
Once again, Hollywood is left carbonised in the hyper-kinetic after-burners of extreme independent action cinema.
Action, Drama, Thriller | Indonesia, 2016 | 118 mins | |Arrow Films| UK DVD & BluRay 5 June. 2017 | Dirs. Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto| Cast. Iko Uwais, Chelsea Islan, Sunny Pang | BUY