A fitfully successful collection of ideas that never fully coheres into a compelling film, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s Headshot is a crime thriller/meditative character study hybrid that falls a little short as both. The Thai filmmaker has enough visual panache to ensure the film looks the part — both bloody, kinetic action sequences and quiet long takes are assured — but this is ultimately a case of the sum being less than the parts.
Nopachai Jayanama stars as Tul, a hit-man who dons the garb of a Buddhist monk to carry out a job in the film’s tense opening minutes. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get away unscathed, a bullet to the head sending him into a three-month coma that results in upside-down vision when he finally awakes. To its credit, Headshot doesn’t formally overplay the upside-down vision thing, only showing us a few key moments from Tul’s flipped point-of-view.
On the other hand, Headshot indulges liberally in an unnecessarily fractured narrative structure, jumping back and forth in time to reveal Tul’s previous profession as a take-no-prisoners cop, frustrated with his inability to rein in corruption, and giving us glimpses into his future, where the Buddhist monk habit might not be just a disguise. Throughout, it’s Tul’s pursuit of inner peace that drives the narrative rather than its genre trappings of murder, betrayal and revenge. For that reason, Headshot is a refreshing change-of-pace from mindless, wannabe-noir shoot-em-ups.
Still, there’s something kind of perfunctory about Tul’s transition to professional murderer and a pair of romances (one explicit; one understated) with two women (Chanokporn Sayoungkul, Sirin Horwang) who both have potentially explosive secrets. And while Jayanama’s coolly low-key performance is suited well to the tone of the film, he makes for a not terribly compelling protagonist.
The Blu-ray Disc
Headshot is granted a 1080p high definition transfer with an aspect ratio that’s labeled as 1.85:1, but is framed a little tighter — closer to 1.95:1 on my display. Overall, this is a very pleasing transfer, with superb detail, a muted but richly saturated color palette and a tack sharp image almost always. There are some issues in low-light scenes with obnoxious haloing and banding, but these moments are rare and brief. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is impeccably clear and wonderfully immersive. An optional English dub is included alongside the default Thai audio.
Just an image gallery and the theatrical trailer, alongside trailers for a couple other Kino films.
The Bottom Line
It may not be entirely successful, but Headshot is a worthy film for fans of the crime genre looking for slightly headier fare.