What? Didn’t I just talk about this movie last week? Nope, this is another movie called Headshot.
A police officer, accompanied by four prison guards, goes to taunt a prisoner, who had been very difficult to catch. Is this officer a detective, and inspector, a chief, an agent from a larger…oh, well, I guess that it doesn’t matter anymore, as another inmate manages to ambush the four guards and the big baddie kills the policeman after breaking out of his cell. He opens the nearby cells and tells his fellow inmates to grab the guns on the floor. In a sequence that is reminiscent of the “deleted” Gang War scene from The Raid 2, the inmates get in a gunfight with another group of guards and everyone dies except for the big baddie, who, of course, escapes.
Far away from the prison, a man washes up on the shores of a beach by a small city. He is in a coma and spends two months in a hospital, monitored by young doctor from Jakarta named Ailin. Dreams of a gunshot suddenly force him awake. He appears to have no memory of who he is, calling himself Ishmael only because Ailin had been reading Moby Dick and Ishmael was the first word that he saw…and totally not because he emerged from the sea.
Ailin gives him a mirror to look at and leaves him alone in the hopes that he might remember more about himself. But he remembers only brief images, like being in a well and a woman pointing a gun at him. Ailin takes him back to the beach where Romli the fisherman had discovered him, but all he remembers are shadows. To show gratitude for saving his life, the man now called Ishmael spends his time helping out Romli.
The big baddie, Lee, meets with a group of gangsters in a warehouse. He is accompanied by Rika, the woman from Ishmael’s memories. The leader of the gangsters says that he is breaking off his deal with Lee, citing dissatisfaction with the quality of both the guns and drugs that Lee has provided. He claims that it was only Lee’s reputation in the criminal world that made him enter the agreement in the first place, and that killing Lee would transfer that reputation onto him. Of course, Lee had come prepared, and his smaller group of goons kill the other gangsters with ease. He is about to kill the guy who had arranged this meeting in the first place, but the man tells him about the man found by the beach, who is rumored to have ties to Lee. Lee spares the man’s life, but shoots the man in the ear in order to give him a reason to go to the hospital.
The man with the wounded ear meets with Doctor Ailin and asks for information about the man found by the beach. Ailin tries to brush up the questions, and make him leave before he asks more questions, but refuses to leave, even after she threatens to call security. Suddenly, Ishmael appears and the two men get into a fight. Well, more like the man pulls a gun on Ishmael, but Ishmael manages to take the clip out of the gun and almost jams it into the man’s eye. How did he do that? How did he know how to do that? Did he know that guy? Ailin has the same thoughts.
Later, Ailin tells Ishmael that she is going back to Jakarta. She asks Ishmael if he would like to go with her, since it would be safer for him there and because they have facilities there that could properly remove some things that are still lodged in his head. Ishmael is worried too. Maybe he was a bad person in the past and he might still be a bad person now, but he will not really be able to find out if he runs away. Ailin kind of brushes off his concerns, but is okay with him staying, giving him a cell phone with her number on it for when he finds himself.
The next day, Ishmael accompanies Ailin to the bus that is headed towards the ferry that will take her to…whatever will eventually bring her to Jakarta; Indonesia has a lot of islands. They don’t notice that the man with the injured ear and a few other gangsters have been spying on them. The gangsters, however, follow the bus into the jungle having failed to notice that only Ailin gotten on. They ambush the bus and get on, calling for someone named Abdi. Ailin is able to quietly call Ishmael, but the gangsters hear it, and begin shooting randomly into the passengers. Ailin and a little girl are the only survivors of this massacre. They are almost about to kill the girl, when a very shaken Ailin stops them. They ask her about Abdi, who is, of course, her friend Ishmael.
Ishmael and Romli arrive at the bus, only to find it full of corpses. Ailin (and the little girl) are gone. But different group of gangsters show up to set fire to the bus. They notice Ishmael and, with no idea who he is, they try to kill him. He manages to escape the bus and fight off the gangsters, but Romli dies in the fight. And when the police arrive, they knock out Ishmael before placing him under arrest.
Meanwhile, Ailin and the little girl are taken to Lee’s lair.
Aside from cameos in a Keanu Reeves movie and a Star Wars movie, Headshot is the first movie that Iko Uwais starred in that was not directed by Gareth Evans. It was directed by a duo called the Mo Brothers, who were more known for horror movies. However, there is a sense that they are continuation in spirit, given that they used several other actors from the second Raid movie, most notably Julie “Hammer Girl” Estelle as Rika. The “brothers” would work with these two again in The Night Comes For Us, along with Joe Taslim from the first Raid movie. That was a good one too. The style and feel of Headshot are a little different from the Raid movies in ways that others can probably articulate better than I can, but the movie still has the dark tone, brutal violence, and methodically kinetic camera movements that the other movies are known for. That the opening reminded me of the Gang War “deleted” scene could not be a coincidence. The gunfights in this movie do come across as rather darkly comical, to the point of being somewhat goofy.
The main mystery of the movie–who is Ishmael–is pretty obvious and well-worn. Apparently, it did not take a long time to write the story and…it shows. It does, however, allow for a few interesting things. The first is more of a meta-thing, as Ishmael’s worry that he is a bad guy could arguably apply to almost all of the major roles that Iko Uwais had before and since: a person who wants to be good and maybe thinks that he is good, but whose attempts to navigate the world around him inevitably results in him leaving a trail of death and destruction in his wake, and he has to choose between redemption (hehe) and rage. Come on, Keanu Reeves, you already cast him once; surely he can get a role in John Wick Chapter 4 so he doesn’t feel left out. The other involves the story itself.
The reveal of what Lee is really doing, other than drugs and guns, is…half-based on a thing that unfortunately happens in real life (though, I am not sure if it happens in Indonesia) and half-something that seems like way too much effort to be worth the outcome. Look, you don’t into these movies for the story, do you? In any case, it means that Lee’s underlings are rather skilled at martial arts, and are not so easy to take down. It is the ones who are not under Lee who are the hapless mooks and they are mostly gone in the early stages of the movie. That leads to quite a bit of one-on-one fighting and the necessity to resort to non-hand-to-hand measures when outnumbered.
One note: Lee speaks in English a lot. I was not sure why, and initially wondered whether it was meant to add a level of foreign evil to his character. Of course, that would not be very nice to the actor who plays Ailin, given that she was born in the United States and her mother is American. It is more likely that, while the Singaporean actor/stuntman playing Lee had done work in Indonesia prior to this movie, he may be more comfortable speaking English than speaking Indonesian or any of the other Indonesian languages. But, just keep in mind that a noticeable portion of the movie is in English so that you do not automatically try to adjust the audio.
So, this is a good one. Yeah.
WTF ASIA 78: English Vinglish (India: 2012, approx. 134 minutes)
WTF ASIA 79: Osama (Afghanistan: 2003, approx. 83 minutes)