The best action movies are being produced in Indonesia right now, and it isn't even really up for debate. It goes beyond the high octane classics The Raid and The Raid 2 from visionary director Gareth Evans. You've also got the duo of Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahanto, who directed the vicious crime thriller Killers a couple of years ago, and now return, with The Raid star Iko Uwais in tow, for the brutal revenge flick Headshot. If you loved The Raid you're gonna flip over this one, too.
Plot is at a minimum here, but basically Headshot is Jason Bourne only about a thousand times better and a million times more brutal. The violence here and the frenetic stunt choreography mirrors Evans' style right down to the crazy neck-twisting angles, and with Uwais delivering the punishment it often looks like The Raid's long-awaited third chapter. Uwais plays an amnesiac who wakes up in a hospital, cared for by lovely, dedicated nurse Ailin (Chelsea Islan). He's got a nasty, badly stitched gunshot wound to the head, and no idea of how he got it. He sees dark visions of people, possibly his attackers, but nothing more. Taking the name "Ishmael", he and Ailin form a quick bond. But soon after, killers under the employ of dangerous criminal Mr. Lee (Sunny Pang) come after Ishmael, and kidnap Ailin after murdering everybody else around her.
So it's up to Ishmael to defeat all of Lee's henchman to rescue Ailin, and in the process learn about his true past. The mystery isn't anything to write home about, but at least it isn't as simple as "he's a former government agent" which is the route these movies usually take. It's novel enough to serve the film's central purpose, which is to give Ishmael plenty of bones to break and faces to punch. There are six or seven brilliantly staged fights here, each increasing in complexity and gore to diffuse any repetition. A particularly inventive one takes place inside of a police headquarters after the entire force has been wiped out; Ishamel battles two foes of equal measure, the camera constantly circling them like a bird of prey. I don't know what it is about Indonesian filmmakers but they are constantly finding new ways to turn ordinary objects into devastating weaponry. A paper slicer becomes a hatchet, an office cabinet a bludgeon.
If there's a drawback to the Indonesian style it's that they work on such a high intensity level that softer emotions are often miscalculated. Ishmael and Ailin's relationship escalates quickly with little rhyme or reason, other than to give him someone to care about enough to risk his life for. But then, the movie's titled Headshot; character nuance probably wasn't high on the priority list. That they try at all to inject some humanity into such a violent escapade is worth giving them some credit.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5