A Thai-concept noir thriller.
Shot in the head during a job, a killer spends few months in a coma. When he wakes up, he sees the world upside down, and enters into an existential crisis.
Here’s an original take on the thriller genre from Thai director Pen-ek Ratanaruang, who usually mixes contemplative moments with violence & spirituality – like Last Life in the Universe or Invisibles Waves.
Unlike other directors, who make extreme violent & graphic thrillers – remember Slice, Pen-ek is choosing a more intimate approach. Entering into the mind of a killer who sees the world like no one else, causing him to rethink his life. An interesting way for the director to tell a violent story about moral decadence.
THROUGH THE EYES OF A KILLER
So, Headshot is mostly made of first-person upside-down shots? Nope. In fact, Pen-ek uses the “upside down” idea on different levels; visually – with the type of shots aforementioned, narratively & thematically/symbolically.
It’s the main character, who is on his path of spiritual awakening. Forced to reconsider his habits, his place & his interaction with the world. While being confronted with his fears, and his past.
Which gives the fragmented narrative structure, reflecting the confused mind of a man, lost between past & present without making the clear distinction between the two. Besides losing sight of time, the character is also experiencing a change of senses, forcing him to develop other senses than sight if he wants to survive in this chaotic jungle.
PAINT IT BLACK
The notion of good and evil is at the core of the story. The film is set in a violent & morally ambiguous world. In Headshot, you can see the police pressured by politicians to drop some cases, or just closing other cases without any investigation. Here, the bad guys aren’t living in the slums, they’re socially accepted and live in big houses. With enough influence to get what they want, whether it’s illegal or not.
To fight this corrupt state, there’s a group of vigilante killers trying to get rid of these white-collar criminals. A morally accepted way to kill more people. The great idea of the film is to confront these different sides, to question their motives… in order to portray the utterly violent & hateful state of humanity.
When everything can be brought – love, respect -, or manipulated – ideals, what’s left? Lonely & afraid people?
The film is weakened by some ideas. For example, the story starts losing its way when the film is trying to make the connection/gap between the first & the second part of the story – right when the main character wants to escape.
At that moment, the tone of the film changes suddenly, it becomes (temporally) more calm and contemplative, taking the story in a completely different direction. It’s quite confusing, and it affects the reste of the story, with the revenge plot poorly introduced…
Also, questionable narrative choices: a cop who doesn’t know if someone is dead or alive, when characters are brought together by “luck”… And more importantly, Pen-ek is using over-explicative dialogues & voice-over to express his ideas, instead of creating an emotional/visually understable way. Yet, he’s contemplative as hell, creating (empty) gorgeous shots…
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Headshot is an existential, slow-paced & incredibly dark tale. Exploring the “upside down” idea without too much excess, even though the film doesn’t totally reflect the power of this idea. Too focused on being contemplative, confused, symbolic to depict the wandering of a lost soul. Nice female cast though — 5/10.