TIFF 2016: Iko 'Raids' Audience Appeal In Mo Bros' Killer Romp, HEADSHOT
If you need your Indonesian action film fix (complete with The Raid and The Raid 2 star Iko Uwais beating enemies silly) then look no further than his latest, Headshot. Directed by Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto (Killers, Macabre), this is a film that will no doubt be compared to The Raid films. They do share the sweet combination of ultra-violence and martial arts, not surprising since it's the Uwais Team choreographing the mayhem. But first, the story...
Iko stars as a man who washes ashore and can't remember who he is due to a nasty head injury. As his memories return via jarring headaches, so do his deadly skills of dispatching enemies. While it does sound like The Bourne Identity, martial arts movie fans will have more to look forward to as our hero regains his abilities. Chelsea Islan plays a doctor who nurses him back to health but is put in danger when his past catches up to him. That's where the ass kicking begins, although you are treated to a couple of brutal introductory set pieces earlier on. The plot is nothing new and even the action doesn't break new ground, but if you're a fan of other Iko Uwais actioners, you will enjoy this one as well. The movie does benefit from being straightforward, and the action is plentiful. And brutal.
I won't go too much into detail about the fights as they are better left for you to watch unfold. All I will say is... police station. What a scene. Generally, there are some lengthy takes displaying unbroken choreography with some frenetic handheld work without going overboard. There's also great use of props and the environment which adds to some creative brutality. One character in particular makes the most memorable use of a police baton since S.P.L. (a.k.a. Kill Zone).
Among the villains are Lee (played by Sunny Pang) and Rika (played by Julie Estelle who you might remember as Hammer Girl from The Raid 2). Mr. Pang does a wonderful job being the big baddie and doing so with delicious charm. Fans of 70s Hong Kong kung fu films will be very pleased with his chosen fighting style. Julie Estelle, sans hammers, wields a different weapon here and proves impressive with the hand to hand sequences.
Some post-Raid audiences may feel this is more of the same or not as impactful, but it delivers what it promises. The narrative moves in a straight line and never sidetracks, smoothly moving from one action scene to the next. And the final act gives no shortage of fights and bloodshed. There is the melodrama you find in most Asian action flicks but it never detracts from the rest of the film. Chelsea Islan brings charm and humanity to this bloody affair, providing much needed heart in an otherwise senseless display of cinematic violence.
If you like a little more blood spurting and bone crunching in your martial arts flick and less misplaced wirework (present in many HK films today), then this will be a good time. Once the movie gets going, it's as hard-hitting as any of the top fight films today.