By this time, I think it’s pretty clear that I have a weak spot for well-choreographed, bone-crunching, and blood-splattering action scenes. Naturally, that means I really looked forward to Headshot. It’s an action movie from my favorite pair of Indonesian director, with some well-known names in Indonesian martial arts movie scene, and it debuted to rave reviews in Toronto International Film Festival. Not even Chelsea Islan’s involvement dampened my enthusiasm.
Dying after a serious head injury, a mysterious man (Iko Uwais) washed ashore and was nursed back to health by a young doctor called Ailin (Chelsea Islan). She decided to call him Ishmael.
But just when things seems to be looking up for them, Ishmael’s past come back to haunt him…
From the very first moment I laid eyes on Headshot’s trailer, I knew two things for sure: the action will be delicious, and the drama will be such a bore. Turns out, Headshot exceeded my expectations in both counts. The action scene were fine as hell, emotionally charged and beautiful and bloody, but the drama scenes and dialogues are as cringe-worthy as any random fanfiction I accidentally stumbled into. Yet this movie still managed to blow my mind, and even got me tearing up at one point. All thanks to Uwais Team’s splendid fighting choreography, Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel’s direction, and the casts’ charisma.
One of the things that I like about Headshot is its honesty. See, it’s quite apparent that Ishmael’s amnesia and his bond with Ailin were just plot devices, excuse to have Iko Uwais fought his way through Lee’s children with sprinkles of emotional baggage. But Timo and Kimo embraced that, and Timo opted for a very simple – if not to say predictable – story as a robust set-up for the delicious excitement. His story made sense without trying too hard to looks smart, and it feels like he was having fun with it. To the point where I kind of suspect Timo purposely wrote cringe-worthy dialogues to poke fun at the trope. Seriously, this movie was armed with dialogues so cheesy you could make a fondue with it. It made me wish he wrote this movie in English instead because the subtitle actually made more sense than the words said. And the flow was more natural during the rare moments where they conversed in English.
Then again, Headshot’s true strength lies on the action and adrenaline rush. Its opening scene set up the mood wonderfully with a badass character establishment for Sunny Pang’s Lee, and it kept me sated enough as I went through the dramatized first half. Then the action kicked back in full force and that, ladies and gentlemen, is where the fun truly began. To be really honest, Headshot wasn’t as bloody as The Raid 2: Berandal (yes, a comparison is inevitable, considering the crew and stars). Which was a surprise, since I was pretty sure that Mo Brothers had a fetish for blood splattering gore. But they showed that you don’t necessarily need blood for a brutal fighting scene. Armed with top notch camera works, Headshot presented its fighting scenes as nothing less than brutally beautiful carnage. Every shots were taken in such cautiously selected angle, amplifying both the pain and pleasure from those broken bones and smashed skulls.
What made them truly exquisite, though, was how each match told a story. Iko’s fighting style continuously change as Ishmael slowly regained more memories about himself and his opponents. From frantic attempts of self-defense to fluid altercation of resolves, each exchanged blows and hits said something. They were emotionally charged, and the intensity fluctuates along with Iko’s relation and feelings for his opponents. The fight that really stood out for me was the one between Iko’s Ishmael and Very Tri Yulisman’s Besi because it was swift, elegant, and you can see just how much they respect and care for each other. This wasn’t a mere scuffle for one’s life, or a combat to see who had more talent. This was a battle of will, to see who had more faith and determination in what he believed in. Which is why I really love that duel. Although maybe I’m a bit biased because the combination of Very Tri Yulisman with a metal rod always do something to me. Then again, the fight against Julie Estelle’s Rika was also heartfelt and, admittedly, very sweet and romantic. Truly, Headshot was the manifestations of “action speaks louder than words”.
And the casts played no small part in making that happened. Given their background in martial arts, Iko Uwais and Very Tri Yulisman was adept in conveying emotions through movements and body language. Julie Estelle was stellar, giving Rika depth not only through her actions and words but also through her eyes and facial expressions. David Hendrawan left a lasting impression and stole the scene as the subtly crazy Tejo, and Zack Lee’s annoying brutish presence as Tano complement him nicely. Chelsea Islan, for once, was bearable. She was still aggravating at times, but for the most part she played Ailin’s bubbly personality well. One of her emotional burst even warrant an awed nod from me, though she quickly revert back to that eye-roll inducing bubbly persona once the danger passed. Sunny Pang, however, was the true star of the show. He commanded my attention from the very first moment he appeared on screen. He was affably evil but chillingly dangerous with a little token of humanity, making Lee a worthy adversary for Ishmael. Though they mostly failed in saving the awkward dialogues and fell short in drama department, they made up for it through their fights. Except for Epy Kusnandar’s Romli. Mo Brothers’ favorite collaborator always managed to stole the scene, bringing elements of humor to the movie.
Headshot is a perfect blend of a talented fighting choreographer team, a pair of superb director, and hand-picked casts who delivered. Add superb camera works and eargasmic soundtrack to the mix, and the result was a movie that exceeded my expectations on all counts. Even in the drama department, because I never thought I’d find fanfiction-esque dialogue in a Mo Brothers’ movie. Then again, I didn’t went there for the drama, so I was more than satisfied by those orgasmic fighting scenes. Each of their movements told a story and conveyed feelings better than words, while still were very very eye pleasing. Timo was right when he said Headshot is a feel-good movie. It really is, if you’re looking for a full blown entertainment like I did. Plus, it proved that bloodied and battered in a fight, a guy is as delicious as when he’s all dressed up in a dapper suit. Or that they could double the appeal by doing both at once, like Sunny Pang and Very Tri Yulisman did.
Directors: Timo Tjahjanto & Kimo Stamboel (Mo Brothers). Writer: Timo Tjahjanto. Released on: 8 December 2016 (Indonesia). Casts: Iko Uwais, Sunny Pang, Chelsea Islan, Julie Estelle, Very Tri Yulisman.