Headshot ยิงหัว (2011) – Thailand
Based on a novel by Win Lyovarin, Headshot, directed and adapted by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, is a gritty, thrilling rorschach, testing limits on character existentialism, Terrence Malick color fetishism, and upside-downed vertigo. It is never standing still, tight in its action (devilish in its art), and you’ll soon not forget the details. For cinephiles, its clever use of pov and timeline manipulation is enough to take your breath, even if only for a second, and it’s worthy of all the praise.
Its protagonist is one of the better leads to come of the action genre, conforming, only slightly, to the leader conventions of bosom/bullet films, s tough-guyonly mold. His given details, especially on reason behind seeing the world upside down–a neat, early on revelation–, draws us in, and it elevates the picture’s focus on varying technical achievements, like inverted perspective and complex mise en scene by crafting genuine heart of characters. (For extra referencing, one should examine Frank Tashlin’s The Possum That Didn’t, where another central character has his world flipped.)
Tul, played by Nopachai Chaiyanam, once a cop, now assassin, takes the reigns of delivering a remarkably rich, intoxicating kind of filmic action with his scenes, thus following an intricate slush of steadicam povs. Ratanaruang is careful to chisel only bits of Tul’s past away with each new discovery in sequence, and Chaiyanam’s performances is well fitted for the film’s premise on self-discovery and innocence restitution. We learn to follow the film’s sometimes gruelingly complicated format with relative ease because of his character’s reservedness, and it’s a treat when looking back, a second time, to catch tidbits missed of first observations.
Tul is our strong willed, ballistics-gifted character, a privilege to follow. He is desperate for clear, defining lines on good & evil. Like other dynamic films, his spot behind a badge creates room for necessary questioning on fairness and objectivity in law enforcement, and, with his many different skills for perpetuating troubles from a natural, personal kind of quietness, of wanting to be left alone, his past self mixes with a future one for a radical approach at audience fellowship, us learning of why he’s gone rogue.
When he attempts to put away a powerful criminal tied in with politics, gangs, and their supposed drug dealings, a criminal lawyer provides blackmail enough to put him away, behind bars, a three year prison sentence. In that time, he festers, and is introduced to a popular killing man, known as Demon, assigning hits all across Thailand. That new man, the kill assigner, wants Tul to kill for him, along with others, on assignment, and, out of desperation, though not right away, Tul nods, agreeing to unravel his goodness. That’s where the accident happens, the one that flips his views, figuratively and literally; on assignment.
Think back and let us reminisce a bit on other grittier, darker films revealing a core inspired of art narrative. If Doug Liman’s The Bourne Identity and Christopher Nolan’s Memento met to mate an offspring of a film, bettering approaches on neo-noir, what with shifting camera moves and deliberately handicapped heroes, this would be the result. Its nonlinear manipulation and focus on Tul’s dilemma of grasping a kind of gravity from his inverted sights is remarkable.
His tearing through much dramatic chaos is very clearly and cleverly inspired, the sets moving and meshing to demonstrate shifts in, not only Tul’s, Ratanaruang’s mood; of their (collective) temperament for violence, and then peace–the mixing of contrast!
His eye (Tul’s) for justice is an interesting, thought-provoking one. It’s never a concrete thing, definite, and noticing Ratanaruang’s carefulness for reducing Tul’s character to mold with a deliberate growth, of his newer hatred toward order and compensation, a pavlov experiment, is simple. After every good job, Tul is rewarded. We expect him to crack eventually. His hate feeds him later, seething in despair, despising the ones responsible for altering his agendas; it’s viscerally visual. His wanting freedom complements Ratanaruang’s changing aesthetics, and it’s the last reward he needs, and, by the third act, the one that we (and he) want.
Its middle is sometimes demanding of patience, but its beginning and end reward those who wait, a neat closure to come before its credits. It’s obsession with a topsy-turvy mechanism for plot and place of camera marks an uber innovation in film design here, and something new is struck for future films to advance. I adore the efforts made, and, for those at home looking for new kicks in the thriller camp of genre, you will be pleased after watching. Of pictures coming of our time, those that involve action and mystery, most cannot sate the appetite of snobby filmgoers wanting more, of sophistication and shock-plot. This one does.