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Review: Indonesian fight drama ‘Headshot’s’ story can’t sustain its gratuitous violence

Indonesian action and martial arts films have been on the rise since Welsh director Gareth Evans’ “The Raid” made a splash in the U.S. in 2012. “Headshot” is a natural extension of that trend, written and directed by Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto, known as the Mo Brothers. Evans produced their previous film “Killers,” and “Headshot” stars Evans’ discovery Iko Uwais, a master of the Indonesian martial art silat.

But where “The Raid” films used a thin story to efficiently showcase the rapid-fire lethality of silat, “Headshot” attempts to wrangle an emotional back story into the proceedings, which is a hard combination to stomach when the characters are brutally beating one another senseless.

Ishmael (Uwais) washes ashore with a head wound and amnesia, and as he bonds with the doctor nursing him back to health, his violent past comes crashing back. It’s like an Indonesian “Bourne,” but instead of the CIA, Ishmael honed his skill in a fighting pit filled with children overseen by sadistic mobster Lee (Sunny Pang).

The result is a grisly shoot-em-up mixed with tender moments and unsettling violence. The focus seems to be less on explosive skill and strength and more on the bloody destruction of bodies.

Uwais is a star along the lines of Tony Jaa, and his inherently innocent visage fits the character of the amnesiac assassin. But the story of “Headshot” can’t sustain the bloated running time and the ongoing, gratuitous violence. It’s not the best showcase for his skills when he’s bringing his fists to a gunfight.

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‘Headshot’

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In Indonesian, with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 58 minutes

Playing: AMC Atlantic Times Square, Monterey Park

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