With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, September 28, 2012

ACF1639: HEADSHOT reviewed; limited theatrical release begins today, release in multiple formats to follow on October 2nd

Tul receives his instructions for his next trrget
Written and directed by Pen-ek Ratanaruang
Based on the novel Fon Tok Kuen Fah by Win Lyovarin
Thailand-France, 2011, 105 minutes
In Thai with English subtitles

In Headshot, writer/director Pen-ek Ratanaruang (Mon-rak Transistor, Ploy) turns the noir crime film upside down -- literally. The film had it's New York premiere at the Tribecca Film Festival earlier this year. Today, Friday, September 28, 2012, it begins a limited theatrical release at New York's Cinema Village and at the The Grand Illusion Cinema in Seattle, Washington. On October 2nd, the film will become available on DVD, iTunes and other online VOD channels.

The film begins with a man typing -- on a typewriter, not a computer! -- what turns out to be information about a politician who is targeted for assassination. That information is then received by Tul (Nopachai "Peter" Jayanama), a talented hitman, or to use the film's preferred term, "assassination expert." Shaving his face and head, Tul disguises himself as a monk and carries out his assignment.

Tul bleeding from the headshot he received

Only he doesn't get away clean but is hit by a bullet -- the headshot of the title. The next thing he knows he's waking up in a clinic where's he's spent three months in a coma. Oh, and while everything else is fine with his body and mind, he now sees the world upside down.

At this point the film shifts back and forth between the seven years and five months (as the film tells us precisely) of Tul's back story prior to his injury and his coming to grips with both it and its implications. We learn what Tul used to do before he became a hitman, how he came to this profession, and what happens to him when he tries to walk away from it.

Joy (Chanokporn "Dream" Sayoungkul), the films most fatale of femmes

Rataanaruang's Thai-noir has all the classic elements of the genre. There's corruption, deception, betrayal, and the requisite femme fatale. There's also enough gun-play and other action to keep even the most jaded fan engrossed. And like any good noir, there is a moral issue at its root. In this case its the issue of karma. Regardless of the why and how Tul came to be an assassin, did his decision to engage in this line of employment ultimately lead to karmic payback?

Headshot reportedly has been chosen as Thailand's submission to the 85th Academy Awards.Check out Wise Kwai's post about that development here. While I think it's unrealistic to expect it to make the list of nominees, it's not too much to hope that just being chosen as Thailand's entry will provide the additional  publicity and box office that the film definitely deserves.

ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; very highly recommended.

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