Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's critically acclaimed film Headshot may be a surprise selection for this year's edition of THIS Buddhist Film Festival, as this crime noir is drenched in murder and blood, revolving around the life of a cop turned hired gun, if not for one of its more obvious themes dealing with karma, where what goes around will eventually come around, and those who live by the sword would know what eventualities lie ahead in a life that's based on vengeance and hatred. It's not difficult to see why Headshot had garnered some major film awards in Thailand, and may just be Pen-Ek's more accessible film in recent years.
Based on a novel written by Win Lyovarin, Headshot has an interesting if not easily overlooked premise that deals with the corruption of society, applicable not only in Thailand, but may be typical of anywhere around the world, where the rich and powerful often find ways to circumvent social and moral norms. Businessmen and politicians find power through their spheres of influence, where money can buy a man's integrity and honesty, and any resistance swiftly met through the destruction of one's credibility, or in an extreme case, the ending of one's life. And this cannot be more pronounced in the life of Tul (Nopporn Chaiyanam), an honest cop framed for a crime he did not commit, and find it almost therapeutic in seeking revenge by crossing the line and becoming a hitman for a shadow organization meting its own vigilante justice on the corrupt.
But things get complicated when a routine hit turned nightmarish where Tul gets shot in the head, become comatose for months, and wakes up with his literal view of the world turned upside down, metaphoric for the topsy turvy spin his life would now take, possibly trapped in the winds of change he cannot avoid, contemplate, or fix for the better. The cogs are in motion for a life most extraordinary in his seeking of the truth, after we slowly learn how his life has become manipulated by parties taking their own selfish interests, and in a way, feel pity for the character who cannot change the fate he had chosen. And in some ways this also had to do with the women in his life, who come so fleetingly, such as the callgirl Joy (Chanokporn Sayoungkul) and Rin (Cris Horwang), who becomes his pseudo-getaway car driver, but is actually more than meets the eye.
Ratanaruang presented the film in a fractured narrative form, as if to mirror the confused state that Tul is in, becoming the hunter then the prey, hunted by those whose lives he had changed from the hits carried out, with his pursuers adamant in wanting to discover the top of his food chain. It's told in a non-chronological order that segregates the significant portions in Tul's life, from his pre-hitman days to his cop moments, and that of the present where his attempts to lead a monk's life gets threatened by his earlier life of violence that come back to haunt him. And credit to the director for being able to hold your attention despite shifts in timeline presented, being probably more effective when told in this fashion, forcing the audience to adapt with change as Tul spirals toward a finale filled with enough gun battle to excite the casual action seeker.
The camera angles and cinematography by Chankit Chamnivikaipong also deserves mention, for its inventiveness, and vivid bringing out of the mood throughout the film, often dark, and drenched in rain, running parallel to Ratanaruang's dialogues and monologues that accentuates the inner thoughts of the various characters here, caught in their bleak world based on choices they have made, good or bad.
Headshot screens at THIS Buddhist Film Festival on Sun 23 Sep 4.30pm and again on Tue 25 Sep 7.15pm. Tickets are on sale and can be bought from here.