Review Roundup - Near Miss

HEADSHOT (2016)

Despite the tired premise of an amnesiac action hero trying to figure out their past whilst fighting against sinister forces, the idea of an Indonesian Bourne Identity held some appeal for me. Starring Iko Uwais from The Raid series under the direction of  Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto AKA the Mo Brothers, there were certainly a few good elements that could give it enough flair to escape the trite plot ideas at the centre. If anything the mixture of horror and action expertise would be interesting to see. However despite the names involved this doesn't really come together as a solid martial arts adventure, and unfortunately it falls short of the potential for satisfying mayhem they could have brought to this kind of project.


As the title suggests the protagonist suffers a bullet to the brain, and winds up in a rural hospital
after a local man finds him in his fishing nets. Taking on the name Ishmael after seeing his doctor Ailin (Chelsea Islan) reading Moby Dick, together they predictably bond and decide to figure out his identity. Meanwhile crime lord Mr. Lee (Sunny Pang) known as 'the father from hell' by the local underworld escapes from prison. He is very interesting in discovering the whereabouts of the man with the hole in his head, and he soon sends his 'children' out to find him.

They cover a lot of simple plot threads early on, with Ishmael wondering if he's a good person and Ailin going outside her basic duties to help him just because the film needs a romantic lead. Lee and his cohorts clearly have some connection to all of this, so he's probably not a very nice guy. Will he choose to take another path in life? But of course. Predictably the gang soon catches up with him revealing details about his past and his true nature, and there are plenty of action sequences along the way with each of the villains using different fighting styles to try and stop the hero getting revenge for what they think he knows about them.


So, what exactly is the problem here? Well it's difficult to describe, but soon the movie starts to drag for a variety of reasons. The brutality of the opening prison break is a sign of things to come, with a lot of grisly details and an eye for grey, desaturated visuals being employed to convey a nasty and often excessive tone. The goriest moments are a clear sign that the film makers are interested in the horror genre more than the martial arts set pieces. This may not pose a problem by itself but soon it starts to feel over done and causes issues with the pacing.

In one particularly long sequence the good doctor is travelling out of the city after promising to meet Ishmael later, so of course immediately a gang of thugs stops her bus and begins to murder everyone. It goes on for a long time before he arrives to try and save the day, and they linger on machine gun wounds and burning kerosene for quite a while here. Movie violence is something I often cite as being necessary to sell an action scene or to make a set piece hit its mark. But here this kind of thing just makes everything feel longer than necessary, in a film that is already in need of losing a good 30 minutes.

In terms of actual hand to hand combat the stars certainly know what they're doing but the editing and the variety of the different fights really isn't interesting enough to keep things fresh. Despite the way each villain is set up to be a unique combatant it gets pretty stale very early on. The non stop pulse of The Raid 2 is sorely missing, as are its comic book antagonists and their outlandish weapons. When some basic melodrama comes around it relies too much on the suffering of the characters rather than building any actual characterisation. There are a few moments that fit the story in an archetypal kind of way, but the rest of it is lacklustre and ultimately it's just too dull to recommend.

2/5

BONUS REVIEW
CATFIGHT (2016)


Veronica (Sandra Oh) and Ashley (Anne Heche) have a bit a of a troubled past together, after a falling out in their college days some years earlier. Of course they are fated to clash with each other in the present day in this mixture of drama and black comedy. Veronica has everything that she wants with a rich husband and a young son, though she doesn't really understand either of them. Ashley on the other hand is a struggling artist, trying to get by creatively while helping out with functions ran by her partner Lisa (Alicia Silverstone). It's at one of these parties that they meet after many years, and soon they come to blows in the eponymous fight.

It will be one of many violence occurrences in the time that follows, as they proceed to ruin each others lives and brutally punch one another in the face, brawling in stairwells and city streets. Over what is a 4 year period their circumstances dramatically change but their anger frequently reaches high levels. They are both pretty unlikeable characters in their own ways, so there is a certain twisted enjoyability about all this, in a story which is played for laughs that are often pretty dark. It often becomes pretty bleak, so there is sometimes a tonal shift that doesn't quite work. It doesn't help that there is a satirical element that doesn't really fit, in one sense because it's just not sharp enough but mainly because it feels detached from the main grudge match.

The fights themselves are pretty entertaining in a nasty sort of way, with a heightened sense of violence which is boosted by the use of Raiders of the Lost Ark style sound effects, and a wry use of classical music. The three main action beats go on for a long time which works in the films favour as it becomes more and more ridiculous as they go on. But this is mainly a comedy-tragedy, and it certainly has enough awkward and mean jokes along the way to keep things interesting. They don't all land, and the emotionally charged content sometimes feels unearned, but for the most part this is a weird mixture that is worth checking out.

3/5