Thai New Wave director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s Headshot is a solid genre exercise brimming with style, laced with moody atmosphere and filled with classic noir tropes – hardboiled anti-hero who refuses to budge, “hooker with a heart of gold”, an enigmatic femme fatale who gives him a fortuitous lift, and enough double crosses to keep one busy. The film, however, also had distinctive arthouse sensibilities – be it in its stylized set-pieces or fine usage of silence or the protagonist’s existential uncertainties that manifested both viscerally and allegorically. Hence, even if the plotting was contrived at places or the slickness felt tad overdone, it still managed to be a taut and assured piece of filmmaking. It began on a compelling note as the taciturn Tul (Nopporn Chaiyanam), a contract killer, carefully shaves his head upon receiving his latest assignment in an envelope, and then dresses as a monk in order to assassinate a politician. Unfortunately, he also gets hit in the head by a bullet during the shootout, and wakes up from a coma three months later realizing that his vision has turned upside down and that, perhaps ironically, he’s seeing things clearer now. The fractured, non-linear narrative created a sense of disorientation as it kept jumping back and forth in establishing his background – he was an honest cop who got framed by a drug-dealer, which had landed him in the jail – and, what proceeded thereafter as he’s pursued by the dead man’s brutal son who arrives at torture scenes on a bicycle, and a mysterious lady who he keeps bumping into, apparently coincidentally. The spare storytelling and stunning cinematography added to the hardboiled existential cool of this “Buddhist neo-noir”.
Director: Pan-Ek Ratanaruang
Genre: Action/Thriller/Crime Thriller