Two months ago, a dangerous criminal had been locked away in a prison cell with no hope of getting out, but the authorities wished to know what he knew about his enterprises, and one day went down there to question him. That was their big mistake, for the man's influence has been insidious and as the questioning begins through his cell door, another prisoner takes a makeshift knife from his bucket and stabs a guard with it, then grabs his gun. In the mayhem that follows, the criminal is released and so are the other inmates in his block, with a massacre on both sides as a result - but he does get away. Now, in the present, what does he have to do with the unconscious body washed up on an Indonesian beach?
And the identity of that zonked out chap? Well, he was played by Indonesia's brightest action star of the moment Iko Uwais, who had made a name for himself in The Raid movies and was branching out into the work of two of the brightest directors from that part of the world, Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto, who were making their impression with their own brand of violent thrillers. This was the furthest they had ventured into the action genre, as far as the fighting flicks were concerned, marrying their star's physicality to their own over the top stylings where characters were not simply shot and fell over, they had to be absolutely pulverised by punches, kicks or even at the barrel of a loaded gun.
As with those Raid movies, the plot hardly mattered, and indeed it developed into a series of excuses for Uwais to get into massive hand to hand combat setpieces - with a spot of gunplay to mix things up - which naturally was the sole reason for anyone to want to see one of his efforts. He did not disappoint, and the directors did not entirely give into the temptation that many a filmmaker had to implement fast cutting to speed up the action and make it more exciting (or incomprehensible) to experience, though they did not linger on too many shots of Uwais in full flow, so you could regard this as a compromise between the styles of old and new. Their star was assuredly modern, however.
Even so, he harked back to the loner persona of many of those martial arts heroes who had gone before him, though here he was offered the love of a good woman to reform him from his life of violence that at the beginning he has completely forgotten. Yes, it was amnesiac man of action once again, leading you to surmise the creators had been very impressed with how Matt Damon had carried himself in the Bourne movies and therefore lifted that premise lock, stock and barrel for their endeavours. Granted, this spiralled off in its own direction, but it remained suspiciously similar in its character arc for the forgetful hospital patient newly named Ishmael who realises he can seriously kick ass when the need arises. And the woman? She was his doctor, Ailin (Chelsea Islan) who unsurprisingly begins to harbour feelings for him.
Unprofessional as that is, but this was the movies and that's what happens there. But what of the criminal who escaped at the beginning? We are told he is only known by the name Lee (Sunny Pang), and he further demonstrates his hardman status by having his team of crack commandos execute another gang to take over his territory. These assassins are important, for they have been breed from childhood to destroy anything in their path, or more pertinently Lee's path - do you think Ishmael could have anything to do with them? There you go, totally different from the Bourne series, it's not an official body that have trained our confused protagonist, it is some rogue element instead, so please don't take legal action. Besides, by the finale this was borrowing from The Empire Strikes Back of all places. It should be noted Headshot was incredibly brutal, far more than your average Hollywood action entry, so much so that it might take the shine off the achievements of the performers as far as escapism went. But for its back to basics approach, it was impressive. Music by Aria Prayogi and Fajar Yuskemal.