Fantastic Fest 2016: The Mo Brothers' Insane and Badass 'Headshot'
by Jeremy Kirk
September 28, 2016
The Mo Brothers from Indonesia always deliver. Whether it's a disturbing slasher movie like Macabre or an intense thriller such as Killers, the directing team comprised of Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto have become a force for genre filmmaking. Their latest film, Headshot, is no exception. A balls-to-the-wall actioner with plenty of insane choreography and even crazier effects on the execution, the film proves once again that, when it comes to daring works of cinema that keeps your nerves firmly in grip and your thirst for excitement quenched, this is a filmmaking team worthy of your attention. It helps that the presence of star Iko Uwais reminds you of The Raid, as well, as the action found within is every bit as intense and heart-stopping as that action classic.
Uwais stars as a man who washes up on shore without any memory of who he is or what he has done. He names himself Ishmael after the character in the copy of "Moby Dick" his doctor, Ailin (Chealsea Islan), is reading, and the two strike up a relationship that goes beyond doctor and patient. Things seem to be getting back on track for Ishmael, but a team of criminals who come calling may prove that life has other plans for the amnesiac. Soon he finds himself fighting wave after wave of vicious killers all led by the crime boss known only as Lee (Simon Pang), a sadistic criminal who has certainly earned his monikers of "The Sea Devil" and "Father From Hell". After the criminals kidnap Ailin it's up to Ishmael to work his way up the bad-guy ladder to Lee and finally uncover the truth behind his own, violent past.
Headshot is an action extravaganza of incredible stunts and remarkable staging, The Mo Brothers proving themselves in the high-speed action world as well as they did previously in the darker world of horror. The film's pace is on track with the very best action has to offer never allowing you too much downtime between bouts of ridiculous action. Some of the camera work blends the shaky style in too much, but it's never to a point you aren't aware of Ishmael's surroundings or what exactly he's doing to the bad guys he's battling.
Sure, the story found in Headshot is thin, and the emotions within are often played up to a hokey extent. It's nothing that hasn't been worked up before in this type of Asian actioner, and you may be reminded of some of John Woo's earlier works as you're watching. Much of this can be forgiven, though, for the absolutely stupendous way The Mo Brothers keep the intensity going as well as the actual execution of it.
Thank Iko Uwais for much of that, as well. The actor has become a leading candidate for best action star working today after The Raid and The Raid: Redemption, and he's allowed to play on an emotional core in Headshot that he hasn't previously been able to tackle. This works wonders for his character here, and it makes the action set pieces he's thrown into all the more suspenseful.
With rip-roaring fists and incredibly loud gunshots bursting across the screen, Headshot quickly becomes a strong candidate for action movie of the year. It's the kind of actioner that has the crowd screaming with excitement and holding its collective breath with anticipation with each, progressive scene. The Mo Brothers haven't blasted into the filmmaking world quite like they should, but here's hoping Headshot proves to the world that they're a filmmaking team worth taking note of. At the very least Headshot will satisfy action junkies who have been craving more of this style of hardcore, bad-ass cinema.
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