Netflix UK film review: Headshot
Punching and kicking9
Matthew Turner | On 03, Mar 2017
Directors: Timo Tjahjanto, Kimo Stamboel
Cast: Iko Uwais, Chelsea Islan, Sunny Pang, Julie Estelle, Very Tri Yulisman, David Hendrawan
Watch Headshot online in the UK: Netflix UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
The Raid star/action choreographer Iko Uwais teams with directing duo Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel (also known as The Mo Brothers) for this exciting Indonesian martial arts thriller. The plot is a little on the flimsy side, but fans of the genre are unlikely to care, as it more than compensates with plenty of old-fashioned punching and kicking.
After a short prologue in which sadistic, ultra-violent gangster Mr. Lee (Pang) stages a brutal escape from prison, the film centres on an unknown man (Uwais), who’s comatose in hospital after washing up on a beach. Awakening from his coma, the man discovers he’s suffering from temporary amnesia and is unable to remember his name, so his smitten nurse, Ailin (Islan), names him Ishmael, as she’s been reading Moby Dick.
As Ailin attempts to help Ishmael recover his lost memories, he discovers that he has hitherto unsuspected fighting abilities. Meanwhile, Mr. Lee knows only too well who he his, and when he finds out the man is alive, he kidnaps Ailin to lure Ishmael into a deadly trap that involves lots and lots of fighting.
Uwais (who also had a hand in the action choreography) is on tip top form, generating likeable chemistry with Islan and displaying phenomenal stamina in the fight sequences – he also has some charming throwaway moments, such as being taught how to fish in an amusing beachside montage. Similarly, Pang makes a suitably vicious villain and there’s memorable support from the likes of Very Tri Yulisman and Raid co-star Julie Estelle as Mr. Lee’s ass-kicking goons.
The paper-thin plot doesn’t get quite as much mileage out of the amnesia idea as it could have done, serving largely as an excuse to delay the final showdown for as long as possible. That said, there are some impressively nasty set-pieces (befitting Tjahjanto and Stamboel’s horror background), most notably an attack on a bus full of innocent by-standers, or a moment when a bullet is pushed into someone’s eye.
Fortunately, the fight scenes don’t disappoint, thanks to inventive prop-work (chopsticks and typewriters are both put to good use), striking physicality from the leads and some dizzyingly kinetic camerawork, with the Mo Brothers’ largely handheld shooting keeping pace with Uwais and occasionally flying across rooms, in the wake of explosions and the like.
While it’s unlikely to achieve the same success as The Raid, Headshot is a thoroughly enjoyable action flick that delivers plenty of bang for your buck.
Headshot is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.