Film Review: Headshot

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Originally published on The National Student on 01/03/17. 

4-stars

The Raid star Iko Uwais jabs, kicks and choke-slams his way to another well deserved Bruce Lee comparison in this seriously brutal Asian actioner.

Gareth Evans’ The Raid pretty much blew the door open on the Indonesian film industry. The Welsh-born director kickstarted the careers of not just the ridiculously talented Uwais, but several of his other highly-trained friends too, queueing them up for roles in everything from Keanu Reeves’s Man of Tai Chi to JJ Abrams’ Star Wars reboot. 

Headshot is more of a direct nod back to his Raid days though, casting Uwais as a Bourne-like amnesiac who washes up on a beach with a serious head wound and a seemingly unstoppable army of gun-toting mafiosos hot on his tail. Violence very obviously ensues, and when his only friend, a young female doctor, ends up kidnapped, Uwais turns the tables and starts blazing a trail of neck-breaking destruction all the way back to the gang’s leader, a mysterious figure from his past. 

It’s fairly cut-and-dry action stuff; a flimsy plot hung together by fight scene after fight scene, but let’s be honest, what else were you expecting from a movie called Headshot? Famed genre-geniuses the Mo Brothers (Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto) deliver exactly what an Uwais star-vehicle needs at heart: beautifully choreographed and insanely well shot fight sequences, bare-bones dialogue and a fun-fuelled, but still decidedly brutal tone. 

The plot itself isn’t awful, and whilst it is something we’ve seen a million times before, the cast (also featuring former Raid alumni Julie Estelle and Zack Lee) hit all the necessary emotional beats believably and provide just enough set-up for the violence in question. The Mo Brothers have really mastered the art of balance here and as a martial-arts driven action movie, there’s not a lot wrong with Headshot

Sure it’s noticeably cheap and many corners have very clearly been cut; the cinematography is fairly pedestrian and some dodgy muzzle flare effects stand in for decent prop guns (pretty much nothing recoils) but it’s all easily forgettable stuff. The real star here is the fight choreography, and thanks to plenty of long takes, clever cuts and some very, very talented performers, it really is given its time to shine. 

Fans of The Raid, its sequel, or even just martial arts in general will find a lot to like here, and it seems fairly safe to say that in Uwais, we might well have found this generation’s Bruce Lee. All the technical mastery and dramatic skills of the legends before him, and without even so much as an inch of pomposity; keep an eye on this one, folks. 

Headshot hits UK cinemas and VOD on 3rd March. 

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