WTF ASIA 75: Headshot (2011)

Now, this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down.

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Available in AustraliaCanadathe United States, and maybe a few other countries. Approximately 106 minutes.

 

Meet Tul. Tul is an assassin. I call him partly because wears his trousers slightly too low, but mostly because he kills people.

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Important, powerful people in Bangkok. One day, he is tasked with killing a politician. So, he cuts off all of his hair, disguises himself as a monk, and goes over to the guy’s mansion with an associate to pretend to ask for alms. They kill the politician and his nearby underlings, but one of them shoots Tul in the head. He wakes up in Dr. Suang’s clinic nearly three months later and…well, he sees everything upside down.

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Secret flashback to a time when Tul was a cop and saw everything regularly. His partner shows him a manifesto from someone calling himself Dr. Demon, who says that evil will win over good unless if natural evolution has its way, so the evil genes within us must be controlled. Tul thinks little of it as he and his partner raid a warehouse for drugs. It turns violent pretty quickly, and his partner gets shot.

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Tul kills almost all of the criminals and, thanks to his practicing walking around in the dark, he gets the drop on the last criminal. Back at the station, the lawyer for the factory owner comes to see him. The owner’s brother is a prominent politician, and has sent the lawyer to bribe Tul with over $140,000. Tul refuses, even when the offer is doubled, but he warns Tul that there will be consequences.

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Later on, he picks up a pair of keys that a woman named Joy drops and she thanks him by buying him a drink. And then by going to a hotel for sex. Quite a bit of sex, actually. When Tul wakes up, he finds Joy’s body in his bathtub…there is blood everywhere. He..uh…leaves. The next day, he gets an envelope with photographs of him with Joy and Joy’s corpse.

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Yeah…he probably should have seen this coming. The lawyer visits him again at the station and tries to blackmail him this time. After hearing his terms, Tul assaults the lawyer…pretty badly, actually. This assault, of course, gets him sent to prison.

While in prison, Tul writes to Dr. Demon, saying that he may be coming around to the idea of evil genes threatening to take over. After sending a letter, he gets a visit from…Joy…yeah, he should have seen this coming as well. Apparently, a couple of guys paid her $1,400 to take part in what they told her was a bachelor party prank. She apologizes, but that won’t help him.

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Later on, he gets a visit from man called Dr. Suang…Demon. He says that he knows that the politician’s brother got Tul thrown in prison for standing up to him. Demon promises to get Tul out of prison if he agrees to join an assassination squad that goes after rich and politically connected criminals. Tul refuses.

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Joy is there when Tul is finally done with his three-year sentence. She takes him back to her apartment and tells him that her name is actually Tiwa. She wants to start a relationship, but a proper one. Eventually, Tul proposes to her. Things seem to be good…until she dies from a drug overdose.

Back to the present, and Tul is finally recovered…well, sort of. Things are still upside down, but he is back to assassin’s work. This time, the target is a slaughterhouse owner who is also a booze smuggler and a supplier of prostitutes for politicians. His political connections helped get him acquitted for murder three times. So, Tul has no qualms about killing him, though he is a bit more upset at his associate killing the guy’s employee. After that, Tul realizes that his heart is not in it, so he tells Demon that he wants to resign. What will he do? Maybe go see his mother? Well…destiny has other plans.

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This movie goes through many of the standard hired gun tropes, but it does have a fairly noticeable difference. And, no, it is not the upside-down thing. In fact, the movie does not lean hard on that at all. Aside from him no longer driving or using his motorcycle, he is shown to be fairly capable in everything. He turns over pictures and text for convenience more than anything. And his ability to navigate in the dark kind of tempers his not being able to see normally. The difference, while related, is not that at all.

While many movies in this genre may use religious imagery, symbolism, and subplots in their movies, this one goes hard. It may not seem obvious until the actual monk shows up over halfway through, but the movie was building up to that point. There is the theme of rebirth and reincarnation. Joy dies, but is reborn as Tiwa. Tul loses his life as a cop and becomes an assassin, only to sort of die. And throughout the segments of his life, certain events happen over and over. Like, how failing to notice one criminal in the warehouse got his cop partner killed and how forgetting one of the politician’s guards got him shot in the head. What may initially seem like a repetitive series of plot twists or coincidences eventually start looking more like cycles of events in life. The somewhat scattered timeline gives the movie a sense of someone remembering a life full of repeating moments where the exact order is less important than meaning behind the moments.

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This is not just using the hitman movie to show the story of a violent man trying to find redemption, but of a man looking for a way to escape the cycle of violence and anger that have plagued him for a long time. The demon is not merely the man who calls himself that, but the demon inside himself. He may have started to believe that it was genetic, but it deeper than that. And he starts to realize that only after getting shot. Instead of leading to comedic pratfalls, seeing things upside down causes him to slow down. As he says towards the end of the movie, his condition forced him to stop taking what he sees for granted and really pay attention.

The rather slow and contemplative nature of the movie may be divisive; I have heard people call it boring. So, I fully understand if this movie is not people’s cup of tea. However, I would give it a chance. It is definitely not the movie I was expecting when I read the synopsis, but I really enjoyed it.

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WTF ASIA 76: Headshot (Indonesia: 2016, approx. 119 minutes)

Wikipedia

Available in AustraliaCanadathe United Kingdomthe United States, and maybe a few other countries

 

WTF ASIA 77: English Vinglish (India: 2012, approx. 134 minutes)

Wikipedia

Available in AustraliaCanadathe United Kingdomthe United States, and maybe a few other countries