Saturday, April 20, 2024

Fantaspoa ’24: Harakiri Squad

They are like the Dirty Dozen, except there are only four of them. Perhaps you would compare them to Snake Plissken instead. Of course, filmtwitter hacks would only know the Suicide Squad (whom the title deliberately echoes), as a point of reference. Pocketfish’s team is just a bunch of thieves, whom the Shogun regularly dispatches on suicide missions, because they are expendable (so to speak). However, when they need someone to steal a lock of hair from a demon, it makes sense to send some thieves in Ryosuke Kanesaki’s Harakiri Squad, which screens again today at Fantaspoa in Porto Alegre.

Pocketfish is a pickpocket. Dr. Poison is a questionable sawbones. Suicide Squid is the getaway expert and, when need be, their torturer. Supposedly, Geishafish is an expert in disguise, but the ambiguous genderbender always makes a point of standing out. Mizuno Heima is not part of the Squad, but he teams up with them to fight the demon, who is secretly leading his sister’s religious cult.

It turns out the demon is planning to consume all the souls in the capital, using amulets spread by the cult. Not surprisingly, Pocketfish and his gang are really out of their depth. However, their survival rate is better than that of Fox Team, the Shogun’s varsity squad.

Harakiri Squad
is a very broad spoof, roughly in the tradition of Minoru Kawasaki. It is definitely hit-or-miss, probably at a ratio of 50-50, or maybe even 60-40. The screwball musical numbers are amusing and the slapstick fight scenes are skillfully choreographed. However, the level of shtickiness is absolutely exhausting—to such a degree, a few nyuck-nyuck-nyuck’s would not sound out of place.

Still, it riffs on traditional Japanese lore in clever ways. Kanesaki embraces his low budget B-movie aesthetic for maximum campiness. It is relentlessly goofy, but as a cinematic meal, it is mostly empty calories. Nevertheless, it probably plays better as a midnight screening, for audiences feeding off their own energy. Only recommended for fans in the right frame-of-mind,
Harakiri Squad screens again tonight (4/20, as it happens) as part of this year’s