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Headshot - the need-to-be-remixed Penekian
  by Anchalee Chaiworaporn / 4 February 2012


Pen-Ek Ratanaruang Headshot is a glossy noirish piece of arts that suffers from the uneven shake-up between art house and genre film style, as well as the inert reflection between underworld politics and a quest for self-liberation. What we experience then is a not-ready 'Penekian' that needs to be remixed.

Pen-Ek had several earlier works on modern crime noir in Fun Bar Karaoke (1997), Sixtynine (1999), and Invisible Waves (2002) before tuning into his 'self-experimentation' of art house elements in Ploy and Nymph. Despite many references to world directors like Tarantino and the Coen brothers, the Penekian style can still be seen, from the search of happiness by lonely underdog protagonists to the black satire elements. Actually when he decided to experiment cinematically and technically with Ploy and Nymph, the Penekian was hard to be defined. Most of his works were based on his original screenplays. Headshot, on the other hand, is based on the novel Fon Tok Kuen Fah by award-winning writer Win Leuwarin, about a police-turned-hitman Tul who sees the upside-down world after his coma. Tul's victims are all politicians involved with corruption. The film is Pen-Ek's most political so far.

Headshot, instead, is combined with serious-plus-satirical mode of direction. Most scenes in Tul's world might be presented with oppression, but they only offer the boring murmurs of politics. They sometimes remind me of the directors own speaking style, but unfittingly with the rather polite-looking Nopachai Jayanama. Dialogues are not punchy and needed to say 'cut. Pen-Ek might defend himself of political disinterest. But he cannot deny Tul's politically-involved targets. The director conforms to the satirical storytelling - in my words 'the Penekian,' which includes the cartoon-look-alike characters Torpong (Apisit Opasaimlikit). He always shows up in unrealistic images, riding a bicycle or dressing up in a tennis suit in the torture scenes against Tul. Arin (Chris Horwang)'s biting words also remind us the director's sense of humors. A glimpse of the Tul's loneliness sneaks into some scenes, but is not well-spoken.

Production was excellent. Well, any masters with such directing numbers, should not make a film of low production values, if not intended. As ever, Pen-Ek's longtime cinematographer Chankit Chamnivikaipong, stands out the most. In the same way as Tul with the skill of nighttime shooting, Chankit exposed to the dim shots with breaking noirish shades and tones. Light and darkness play well against each other. Charnkit proves himself to be the real master of noir arts. Wittaya Chaimongkol's art direction is respectful with his rag-to-life atmosphere setting. Flashback scenes and cuts are unnecessarily overused, and sometimes disturb the narrative understanding - in which cannot be well-explained through Tul's hairstyles. Music is under-presented, and then highly supports the sheer inertia of the movie. In fact, the sense of exhaustion is seen sometimes, and then we just watch the film with that feeling until the end. The director's weariness seems to be shown out.

Headshot is a film that needs to be a bit remixed with pulses and energy before the Penekian will resume.


Riveting Thriller Headshot :

  By Sorradithep Supachanya / 24 November 2011



Headshot, a riveting but flawed crime noir from veteran director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, can get you thinking long after the film concludes. About a cop-turned-hitman with a head injury that makes him see everything literally upside down, Headshot ponders if we all are living in an upside down world, where corrupt politicians are hailed as heroes and honest men are punished, intimidated, and silenced. Is karma the law of nature that eventually delivers justice, or must we take matter into our own hand and make karma happen?

Tul (Nopachai Jayanama), an honest and diligent cop, is framed, convicted, and jailed after busting a powerful political figurehead. Disillusioned, he joins a shadow network established to eliminate these corrupt politicians. After an injury to the head during one of his assignments, Tul quits the network only to find himself being hunted by those linked to the politicians whom he has killed.

Told with a complex narrative alternating before and after the head injury, the film gradually reveals the protagonists descent into darkness, brilliantly augmented by Pen-Eks signature perpetually dark cinematography and Vichaya Vatanasapts gripping film score. And a short segment on the inherently evil genes reflects the delightfully intriguing science fiction tendency of Win Lyovarin, the author of the original source of this film, a novel cleverly entitled Rain Falling Up to the Sky in reference to the protagonists literal upside-down visual perception.

Though riveting with gun fights in dark cargo bays and chases in the night forest amid rain pour, the plot lingers too long on these hunt and chase scenes, possibly to afford more screen time for popular actress Cris Horwang who plays Rin, a damsel in distress with dark secrets of her own. This consequently steals valuable time away from the important segment about Tuls transformation from a cop to an assassin. The film skips his unfair trial entirely. It introduces Tiwa (newcomer Chanokporn Sayoungkul), Tuls love interest, but omits her life-changing impact on him. And it leaves out the friendship between Tul and Tin (Theeradanai Suwannahom), his longtime partner, which makes the ending altogether anti-climatic.

But the films question remains highly relevant to todays Thai society. Why bother being good when good-doers get punished and wrong-doers triumph? Tuls actionsexposing corrupt politicians and refusing to receive bribesare done for the greater good, yet he is shot, tortured, and forced to run for his life. No one wants to help him. No one cares for him. Is there a hope for the good-doers anymore?

These are tough questions and there are no easy answers. And Headshot deserves applause for asking a thought-provoking question when most other Thai cinema offerings refrain from doing so.


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