Headshot (2012)Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 10/24/12 14:33:47
(Worth A Look)
"Headshot" has a nifty enough visual gimmick at its center that one has to wonder why the filmmakers don't lean on it a bit more. Sure, even without the main character's unique visual impairment, this would be a quite enjoyable thriller, but it's got the chance to be quite the memorable one and only seizes that opportunity intermittently.A few years ago, Tul (Nopporn Chaiyanam) was a rising star on the Bangkok police force; intelligent, fearless, and above reproach. As the film opens, though, he's a vigilante; he and partner Torpong (Apisit Opasaimlikit, aka rapper "JoeyBoy") gun down those that the law can't touch at the direction of the mysterious Dr. Suang (Krerkkiat Punpiputt). The last mission leaves him with a bullet in his head, and he wakes from a three-month coma with his vision inverted (up is down and vice versa). Always a reluctant killer, he soon finds this is the sort of business few retire from, winding up on the run with Rin (Sirin Horwang), the hostage he takes while fleeing for the country.
Screenwriter/director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang made a splash in boutique houses with Last Life in the Universe, a gorgeous picture that takes a simple-sounding crime story and creates something grander, and everything he's done since has been compared to that, fairly or unfairly. Headshot stays much closer to its pulp roots; dishing out bounteous servings of sex, violence, and betrayal without particularly looking to transcend the genre. Sure, Ratanaruang (via Tul) may wax somewhat philosophical toward the end, but that's not completely out of character for a hard-boiled crime story. Still, it's more likely to delight the audience on the basis of suddenly realizing what was going on in the background of a specific earlier scene than what it has to say about the world at large.
Ratanaruang may have a relatively simple story to tell, but he does mix the telling of it up a little, jumping back and forth in time so that the audience gets history when needed and isn't waiting around so much for the other shoe to drop. It could be confusing, but the different periods are laid out pretty clearly - there are titles on-screen the first time a new time period shows up, and the make-up and hair departments make sure that Tul has a distinct look in each period. There may be a few sluggish points, but things mostly move pretty smoothly, with crisp action and good-looking cinematography.
It would be nice if Headshot had the one really great first-person action sequence with Tul, something that last long enough that the audience got past the initial disorientation and perhaps ended with a weirdly symbolic shot of corpses splayed out where the sky should be. The closest we really get is a scene where a normal first-person shot serves as early notice that we're getting the perspective of someone other than Tul and paired scenes that show him thriving using his other senses. They're good scenes, but should be great ones.
Similarly, Nopporn Chaiyanam doesn't really get a big chance to play a disability, but that's arguably a plus; it means a pretty good performance as a man whose ideals and their compromise are both large-scale. Chaiyanam certainly makes Tul a worthy protagonist, and he's got a nice group around him - Chanokporn Sayoungkul and Sirin Horwang are enjoyably distinct as the women who drift in and out of his life in different ways, for instance, and JoeyBoy makes for a good partner. Krerkkiat Punpiputt and Theeradanai Suwannahom each make for entertaining shadowy figures, getting close to the boundaries of larger-than-life pulp characters but not getting too close to the line.Perhaps Pen-Ek Ratanaruang should have crossed the line a little more often; as much as "Headshot" works as a gritty noir-styled picture, it's kind of a shame that the filmmakers occasionally pass up the opportunity to go big. But that's reviewing the movie I want to see rather than the one we've got, and that one is pretty good.
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