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Headshot Review

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Emerging from a coma after being washed up on an Indonesian beach with a bullet in his skull, amnesiac Ishmael (Iko Uwais) bids to rescue kidnapped medical student Ailin (Chelsea Islan), while struggling to recall his connection to vicious criminal cult mastermind, Lee (Sunny Pang).

★★★★★

Known as The Mo Brothers, Indonesian directors Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel have forged a reputation for gruesome horror with Macabre and Killers. But they venture into the silat action genre with this combustible collaboration with Iko Uwais, the iconic star of Gareth Evans's The Raid and its 2014 sequel. Doing little to disguise its debts, this would be a formulaic meld of martial arts and Heroic Bloodshed were the fight sequences not choreographed by Uwais and Tjahjanto with such pugnacious panache.

As thrilling as it is preposterous.

Following Sunny Pang's murderous jailbreak, the plot veers off to the hospital where junior doctor Chelsea Islan is caring for the comatose Iko Uwais, unaware that he is a member of the ruthless gang that Pang has assembled from abducted children. Despite the odd fractured flashback, Uwais is none the wiser and it's only when Islan is snatched from a bus to Jakarta that he rediscovers his fearsome fighting skills.

Martial arts aficionados know to suspend disbelief the moment the fists start flying, but they will also have to contend with some of the most inaccurate shooting in screen history in the riotous bullet ballet sequences that would make John Woo wince. However, Uwais is a compelling presence and his duels with sneering henchmen David Hendrawan and Zack Lee in a police station, with the truncheon-wielding Very Tri Yulisman in a woodland clearing and with blade-flashing femme fatale Julie Estelle on an idyllic beach pave the way for the pitiless showdown in Pang's secret bunker. For the most part, subtlety is at a premium. But Yunus Pasolang's dizzying camerawork makes Uwais's intrepid indestructibility as thrilling as it is preposterous.

The plot pieces might slot into place with a resounding clang, but what it lacks in finesse, this brutal actioner more than makes up for in bullish bravura and technical slickness.

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