Headshot, the latest film from Indonesian exports Timo Tjanto and Kimo Stamboel, is a rip-roaring action extravaganza and the true culmination of the directors’ passion for farce, black comedy, and action. Surprisingly the so-called Mo Brothers have remained relatively low-key, even though Headshot marks their third feature film. In their native Indonesia the directors don’t fare much better, with most of their flicks never seeing the light of a cinematic release.
It may prove the price of tonal whiplash.
From their debut Macabre, sophomore feature Killers, and now Headshot, Tjanto and Stamboel prove that they aren’t particularly invested in the horror genre. A good comparison might be Ben Wheatley, whose interest in macabre sensibilities (stark realism, gore, madness) doesn’t root him to horror as much as we might like. The Mo Brothers simply tackle whatever stories they like, but don’t shy away from nastiness. Thier rendition of East Asia is a beautiful, colourful, but sweaty and potentially violent place where the troubled go full-crackpot and the good are a heartbeat from savagery.
It appears Killers gave the duo a taste for action and Headshot answers that particular hunger pretty excellently. Its their most action-packed film to date, casually pulling out moments of off-beat cruelty and ferocious moments of violence. For anyone fond of their martial arts films, Headshot will look rough-around the edges. The camera work can be messy as Hell, obscuring the beats of some fight scenes, and sloppy timing gets in the way of mounting tension in some of the bigger fights. Even then, there’s still a lot of fun to be had watching Iko Uwais (Man of Thai Chi, The Raid films) channel Jason Bourne and kick the shit out of sadistic gang-bangers. Though, perhaps star-of-show goes to Sunny Pang, whose turn as the ruthless patriarch of a dirgy crime family marks yet another superb villain for the Mo Brothers and a charismatic break-out for the star.
Due to issues with the action sequences, Headshot falters. If you’ve seen The Bourne Ultimatum or Unleashed then you’ve seen the basic building blocks of this hyper-violent crime thriller. It’s still a thing of intertest though, exhibiting The Mo Brothers’ tastes for gritty violence, brutal gore, and dark moments of comedy. This is fun, but after impressively concise thrillers like Killers and Macabre, Headshot’s deranged action rampage is missing some focus and depth.
Dir. Timo Tjanto and Kimo Stamboel
Stars. Iko Uwais, Chelsea Islan, Sunny Pang, Julie Estelle