Review: Crafting their names into Indonesian, even international, cutting-edge film industry with blood and sickfuck, Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel (a.k.a. the Mo Brothers) are synonymous to sick, merciless gorefest. Their fresh-blooded feature Headshot is no different. While it’s not as grotesque as their previous filmography (Rumah Dara/Macabre, Killers), this feel-good action-thriller delivers a rabid, over-stylized violence their way.
Headshot revolves around a mysterious man (Iko Uwais), found ashored half-dead and nurtured back to life by a young med-school intern named Ailin (Chelsea Islan). The man finally awakes from his coma with no memory of who he was and how he’s got there due to trauma he had from bullet to the head. Ailin, currently reading Melville’s Moby Dick, names the man ‘Ishmael’ and they two immediately connects to each other.
News about the man’s survival quickly reaches a ruthless crimelord dubbed as ‘the father from hell,’ Mr. Lee (Singaporean, Sunny Pang). Wrapped with mist about Ishmael’s past, Mr. Lee sends his finest man to hunt for the amnesiac man for a reason which Headshot is about to unravel. In the end, Mr. Lee’s hunt for Ishmael and Ishmael’s quest to seek for his identity collide in the midst of non-stop showdown.
Heavily related to The Raid series—as it shares mutual genre, even actors (Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Very Tri Yulisman, and even Zack Lee) and behind-the-scene teams (Iko Uwais fighting choreography team dubbed as ‘Uwais Team’), Headshot might fill the gap left by The Raid as Gareth Evans is currently on hiatus. However, never in a glance it attempts to take the mantle to be The Raid 3; it’s a different film with different story and trademarks.
What separates Headshot from Gareth Evans’ hit is the background story. While it’s never fully set as more than a pseudo-story, Mo Brothers’ full-frontal carnage has never been story-driven. The story is only an excuse for the whole pandemonium to kickstart. As soon as it is started, Headshot becomes an exclusively jaw-crushing, bone-crunching, skull-smashing, neck-breaking, teeth-bursting, brain-damaging, blood-splattering gorefest endorsed by Mo Brothers.
When I mentioned “endorsed by Mo Brothers,” that means a tendency to visually torture audiences with excessive depiction of pain & overkill. Timo and Kimo would ensure you that they don’t just serve a non-stop chaotic action; but they want audiences to feel every crunched bone, smashed head, sliced limb, or amputation steals for detailed portrayal you can hardly stomach. With clever camera works and sound designs, those scenes come in hyperrealistic form as they leave you jaw-dropping imagining an unimaginable pain.
Visual spectacles in Headshot are top-notch; the fighting choreography is brutal and fresh; the body-counts are massive; and most importantly, insecurity is always placed around the corner although you know that in such kind of film, you don’t need to worry about the main character. An as a reward for surviving the level of brutality in this film, The Mo Brothers grant audiences little fragments of Ishmael’s past for every check point. The sense of accomplishment is built with consistent pace and rewards to ensure audiences craving for more; and it works.
While the director duet effectively presents intensity in its 2-hour duration; they put more threats to suffocate audiences’ lungs with anxiety (the way they psychologically torture the audiences in their prior works). In doing so without making the solid action set-piece cramped, the directors send a damsel-in-distress, Chelsea Islan, into the cataclysm. While her existence might initially seem like miscast, but her presence creates tension perfectly. Just imagine a cute, innocent girl is thrown into a gorefest?
Headshot also has a spot of black comedy to create some random distraction before continuing the rampage. Those scenes simply aren’t some comic reliefs; they’re deliberately put into some most intense moments to create the atmosphere that something hazardous can also be ironically funny. When you see those scenes, you might burst into laugh, but once you thought how those things could happen or what those things could cause, you’ll never think it’s funny anymore.
Despite of its ‘unessential’ narrative leads and one-dimensional characters, Headshot is a fascinating treat for action aficionados. The Mo Brothers are cleaning their palette with this feel-good film, but cleaning it doesn’t mean that it’s gory-less. Headshot is brutal as hell.