THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
Moviegoers who liked The Raid and its sequel will also like Headshot. It's the same type of high-octane action picture that puts the pedal to the floor and holds it there. The Indonesian film opens with a bloody prison break that has cops and prisoners pumping bullets into each other from opposite ends of a narrow hallway. That sets the tone for everything else that follows.
The Raid's Iko Uwais is the star here. He plays a man who has spent months in a coma, thanks to a gunshot wound. A dedicated young nurse, Ailin (Chelsea Islan), attentively cares for him. When he awakens with no memory of his identity or how he was injured, she dubs him “Ishmael.” The two form a bond, but then the henchmen of a dangerous crime lord, Mr. Lee (Sunny Pang), start coming after Ishmael, kidnapping Ailin in the process. He has to rescue her and figure out what his connection to Mr. Lee is. Many fights break out along the way. Many.
Those fights are amazing. The choreography is as astonishing as it is intricate. Headshot's best scene finds Ishmael fighting an attacker in a police station while handcuffed to a table. From there, the sequence gets even crazier. It moves from the interrogation room into the main area. Desks, filing cabinets, and typewriters become weapons, objects of defense, or both.
The other fights – and there are about five or six more – are equally inventive. They're what Headshot exists for, but thankfully, they don't feel repetitive. Directors Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto ensure that each one is just different enough from the one that preceded it. They also have a really engaging way of filming the mayhem. Their camera circles the action from a distance before moving in tight so that we can study what's happening up close. We almost feel as through we're in between the combatants as they execute their martial arts moves. This approach proves phenomenally effective, ensuring that the fights are continually enthralling.
Headshot has a little more emotion than most pictures of this type. Some time is spent developing the relationship between Ishmael and Ailin. Her devotion when he was at his most vulnerable motivates him to protect her at any cost. The ultimate revelation of who he is and how he's connected to Lee, meanwhile, entails crossing paths with people from his past, which allows for some additional character development. One fight has Ishmael taking on someone who was once an ally, and the way it resolves itself speaks to issues of loyalty and betrayal. To his credit, Iko Uwais has the moves of a great action star, but he's also a good enough actor to make the story work.
Admittedly, the “waking up with amnesia” and “you kidnapped my [important person]” ideas are routine for the genre. No real ground is broken in that respect. Headshot undeniably compensates for that by delivering some of the most exciting fight sequences you're likely to see onscreen this year. For anyone in search of an action extravaganza with a nice touch of humanity on the side, this is a can't-miss movie.
( 1/2 out of four)
Headshot is unrated but contains violence and brief strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 58 minutes.
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