Noir has long been a go-to for fashionable filmmakers who dig insouciant posing, high-contrast cinematography and ever-stylish cynicism. But rare is the movie that successfully grows these elements from the ground up—which makes this Thai variation on the genre that much more impressive. Tul (Nopachai Chaiyanam) is a cop who becomes a hit man after his second-chance-at-happiness lover is brutally butchered and a filthy politician has him framed for murder. But when a bullet grazes his brain during a hit gone awry, he’s left with permanently inverted vision, forced to fight his way through a world turned upside down.
The action is artfully choreographed, and the movie convincingly, if questionably, posits vigilantism as a logical response to systemic corruption. But filmmaker Pen-Ek Ratanaruang (Last Life in the Universe) is more concerned with the calm between storms. He specializes in moments of brief but exquisite harmony before chaos reigns—faces in impeccably framed profile, dialogic duets between lost souls destined to betray one another. In terms of genre expectations, Headshot delivers not one but two femme fatales (Sirin Horwang and Chanokporn Sayoungkul), a hardboiled voiceover and a scrambled chronology cleverly organized around Tul’s skewed POV. But the most Naked City–worthy aspect is the film’s temperature, fixed precisely between cool posturing and broiling anomie. Its vision of contemporary Thailand is recognizable as another society undeserving of redemption, but worthy of poetry.
Follow Eric Hynes on Twitter: @eshynes