Headshot (2016) Review

"Headshot" Theatrical Poster

“Headshot” Theatrical Poster

Director: The Mo Brothers
Writer: Timo Tjahjanto
Cast: Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Chelsea Islan, David Hendrawan, Epy Kusnandar, Zack Lee, Sunny Pang, Very Tri Yulisman
Running Time: 118 min.

By Martin Sandison

While the world waits with bated breath for the next installment of Gareth Evans’ phenomenally popular Raid franchise, we now have a film that more than whets the appetite from Indonesia: Headshot. Starring Iko Uwais from The Raid, the movie has been labelled by some as Raid-lite. In my opinion, that is complete balls. Headshot delivers visceral, non-stop action thrills from start to finish; and while not as accomplished in ideas or direction as its predessecors, it’s a deliriously entertaining film. Showing in the Glasgow Film Festival, I was lucky enough to see it before it’s official release in the west.

Headshot begins with a wonderfully put together sequence revealing the villain of the piece, Lee (played by Sunny Pang) who breaks out of prison. Then our hero Ishamel (Uwais) washes up on a beach, and is rescued by a Doctor, Ailin (Chelsea Islan). He has amnesia, although he has some flashes of memory. Both plotlines move concurrently, and Ishmael starts to remember his past bit by bit, while Lee is trying to find him. This sets in motion a bunch of weapon, hand to hand fighting and gunplay.

So the first question most are going to ask is: What level is the choreography at? As good as The Raid? The answer, for the most part, is a resounding yes. Choreographed by the “Uwais Team” (sh*t, is he turning into Jackie Chan?), a lot of the techniques in terms of filmmaking and martial arts style are present. Yes, at times it feels like we’ve seen this before, but that doesn’t detract from the quality of action on display. This quality hardly dips at all throughout, although there is one duel that I was looking forward to that wasn’t great: the rematch between Uwais and Julie Estelle (who played Hammer Girl in The Raid 2), which takes place on a beach and has some limp exchanges. In fact at times the conviction in moves is lacking, which is a little frustrating, because the next move is on point. Also, the near constant shaking of the camera in long takes is a little off-putting.

Those looking for the brutal violence in choreography from The Raid will not be disappointed; at times this movie is even more violent, with plenty of disgraceful knife wounds, blood flying and full contact hits. There are also some welcome humurous touches amongst the mayhem, which adds depth to the originality of the action. The performers of the martial arts scenes are undoubtedly up there with Uwais and the cream of modern martial arts cinema, especially Veri Try Yulisman (Baseball Bat Man from The Raid 2) and the truly brilliant Sunny Pang. He seemed to come from nowhere, with a limited filmography that doesn’t include any action films. Pang is from Singapore, and is well-versed in kickboxing and MMA, and more than holds in own in the bone cracking final duel. Some of Uwais best handwork comes in this fight, something he is known for and is sometimes lost in modern martial arts cinema. At times the movie almost pays tribute to the already legendary first Raid, with the final battle taking place in a very similar location, to the 2-on-one final fight. Indonesian action cinema was kickstarted again due to the film, so I think it’s more than acceptable to do this.

The two directors of Headshot, dubbed The Mo Brothers (Macabre), have been making a name for themselves of late. Their last film Killers received a lot of good write ups and was again very violent. Some of the filmmaking on show in Headshot is engaging and stylish, the opening especially. Also the soundtrack is superb, with atmospheric electric guitar flourishes and interesting percussion. Unfortunately some of the sentimentality and hefty doses of cheese in the romantic subplot are complimented by very generic mushy music, which didn’t appeal to my eyes or ears.

I went into this film thinking “If this is half as good as the first Raid I’ll be happy.” I came out with a rush of adrenalin, and a knowledge that it’s close to being as good. Indonesian action films are some of the best in the world right now, and I urge fans to catch this movie in the cinema. You won’t be disappointed.

Martin Sandison’s Rating: 8/10

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12 Responses to Headshot (2016) Review

  1. Mike Leeder says:

    nice review….but i really dont think the next installment of THE RAID series is coming in 2018 unless you mean the remake if it actually moves forward this time

    Gareth’s prepping APOSTLE at the moment

  2. Martin Sandison says:

    Thanks for that Mike! I read a wee while ago that it was coming in 2018, things must have changed.

  3. Martin Sandison says:

    Cheers!

  4. John says:

    Anyone know when this hits VOD in the US? I had heard March 3 originally but can’t find mention of it in iTunes or anywhere else.

  5. Marijan says:

    Donnie Yen for raid remake in the starring role who is with me on this idea?

  6. Craig Nixon says:

    Great review Martin! It’s nice to see we both had similar feelings about the film.
    It really stands on its own.

  7. Martin Sandison says:

    Thanks Craig! I agree

  8. Jeff Bona says:

    Caught this one on Amazon VOD just now and thought it was pretty good! 🙂 Best 6.99 I ever spent.

    Definitely a MUST SEE if you’re a fan of Iko Uwais and company. It doesn’t top The Raid 2, but definitely feels like part of the family. One thing it has over The Raid films is a noticeable presence of emotion.

    And the villains are brutal. 🙂 Sunny Pang, man. These guys are not just bad guys, they’re extremely psychotic… good to see Julie Estelle back, too.

    Martin’s review is spot on!

  9. HKFanatic says:

    I watched the first via Amazon tonight. I’m wondering if the lack of a theatrical experience made a difference: I saw both THE RAID and THE RAID 2 in theaters, and compared to them Iko Uwais’ fight scenes in HEADSHOT felt a bit sloppy and unpolished, or at least less intricately choreographed (I know Gareth Evans and company do a ton of pre-viz work before they even start filming). Perhaps the shaky handheld camerawork, which Martin signals out in his review, had something to do with it.

    I was also a bit disappointed that Iko Uwais’ character took so much punishment – he never seemed like he had the upper hand in a single fight scene. (Sunny Pang was a beast, though).

    Am I crazy? Perhaps my expectations were too high. For what it’s worth, I loved the Mo Brothers’ MACABRE. It remains my favorite film of theirs.

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