The Mo Brothers (Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto) are back to give us another over-the-top, bloody Indonesian actioner, Headshot, which taps more directly into the success of friend and collaborator Gareth Evans’ The Raid series. But does this violent martial arts shoot-‘em-up stand on its own or does it lurk in the shadow of the best action films ever made? Unfortunately, it’s mostly the latter, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the hell out of it.
If you’re familiar with The Raid series you’ll find yourself in familiar territory here. Iko Uwais stars as a man who washes ashore a small beach community with a bullet in his head and amnesia. Ailin, a young doctor played by Chelsea Islan, takes a liking to him, names him Ishmael after the Moby Dick character and helps him rehabilitate into the world, but after the gangsters who shot him find out he’s still alive, things take a violent turn.
The script of Headshot is a bit of an afterthought, a necessary element to facilitate the next big action set piece, giving us just enough plot to keep our interest from one scene of blood-letting to the next. It’s not that the story is bad per se, it’s just bare bones and takes an obvious back seat to the action. And it’s the crazy action that we’re all here to see anyway, right?
As you might expect, Uwais once again proves himself as the next martial arts superstar, delivering one incredible fight after the next, seamlessly transitioning from gunplay to visceral knife and hand-to-hand combat. The fights are messy, brutal and successfully managed, making me utter quite a few “ohs!” and “Holy shits!”
While the action may not have the same symphonic resonance that Evans’ The Raid series does, it is at times beautiful in its presentation, with a few unique sequences, such as the close-quarters machete fight on a cramped bus full of dead bodies, which ends in a superb camera shot following Ishmael as he dives out of the back window.
Though the script may be on the weak side, what it does right is introducing an eclectic mix of baddies, each with his or her own style and preferred method of murder. Hammer Girl from The Raid 2, Julie Estelle, returns in another kick-ass role, this time preferring blades over claw hammers and delivering one of the film’s best fight sequences.
In another world where The Raid doesn’t exist, Headshot would be the cream of the crop in martial arts action, but it does, and the films are entirely too similar not to be compared, as much as I try not to. That being said, there’s still enough here to warrant a look and will no doubt satiate audiences who are always jonesing for some high-quality martial arts action.