During a short, albeit relaxing getaway from work sometime November last year, I chanced upon Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s “Headshot” in
Ben Murillo (Cesar Montano) is sidetracked for years after miraculously surviving a gun shot in the head. Left for dead, Ben was comatose for 7 years, but he is gradually recovering. His memory has been spotty since then. One day, he meets Gina (Sam Pinto), a popular model who, unknown to Ben, is the daughter of Amando (Ricky Davao), a casuistic character who runs an illegal ring of activities that range from white slavery and drugs to gambling. At the very heart of this business is Tomas (Phillip Salvador), the head assassin. Tomas is tasked to eradicate any impediment, including Ben, a promising assassin under Tomas’ care. When Ben tells his superiors of his intention to retire and leave the group, the big boss decides to obliterate Ben.
Meanwhile, there is much internal strife within Amando’s “kingdom”. Tomas is demanding P10 million from Amando for an earlier deal they’ve supposedly agreed upon. But Amando is defiant. Moreover, the web of deceit reaches Alvin (Mark Herras), Amando’s much abused adopted son. When Amando’s other son Mike (Joko Diaz) gets killed in the crossfire, another set of henchmen have been tasked to take Gina who’s estranged from her father. But Gina fortuitously harbors an indecent stash of dirty money hidden somewhere so she conveniently becomes a target.
When Ben hooks up with flirty Gina, he gets thrown back into the same quagmire he once escaped from; the same people who had him assassinated. And this time, he has to protect her to his death. He once lost his pregnant wife to the same people. Never again!
Sam Pinto looks immaculately beautiful all throughout. Her early scenes look relaxed. She is, after all, portraying the role of a model - so how hard can that be? This is promising since in her past movies, she has always delivered mind-bogglingly flat characterizations. It's clear she needs to do something about her thespic acumen - or the lack of it. As the movie unravels to its hundred-and-one twists, we realize that Pinto is in dire need of help. In a scene where gun men break into her place, as Ben fights the hooded henchmen, Gina (Pinto) comes out of the bathroom looking awkward, not to mention oblivious to the gun shots heard all over the place. She tentatively calls: "Ben? Nasaan ka?" Yet all we witness is a blunt affect, an emotion-wanting facial expression if you will. She didn't look perturbed of the bullets flying around - or her appliances breaking and crashing down the floor. Yeah, forget those bullets! She needed Ben to dry her wet hot bod! Her stark cluelessness was a spectacle in itself. She personified blank emotionality where there should be fear, concern, and even histrionic demeanor!
Phillip Salvador does better as the head hitman Tomas who trained Ben. It was inevitable that the "teacher" and "student" would eventually dive into a scuffle. This was cinematic conjecture. After all, Salvador's mano-a-mano with Montano would convey gravitas - in an action showdown between the two formidable action-drama actors, each one as competent and iconic as the other! Unfortunately, the artistic choices for the staging of the climactic shootout comes off with an uneven and misguided strategem. Suddenly, Montano decides to infuse ill-advised humor, one-sided and flat as his leading lady's expression:
"Hitman" underlines a few of the reason why the action genre died a natural death. Like its predecessors, Director Montano's film is recklessly written, even incoherent in narrative structure. The story is derivative; the skill in film making unimpressive. Montano's action hero is an amalgam of characters that contradict with his past and present. In fact, you don't understand how he became as he has become. There's a palpable disproportion to the way he's depicted, making it easy not to empathize with him. Heck, I never even found myself sympathizing with Ben from start to finish. All I kept thinking was how he was able to enveigle Sam Pinto to do bath tub scenes and half a dozen of lip service with him! Inspiring eh?
Tul, a hitman, sustains a bullet wound in the head in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's "Headshot".
Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Headshot